Inside NETmundial

April 25, 2014 | 14:28
Inside NETmundial
Inside NETmundial
NETmundial, the summit on Internet governance took place April 23-24 in Brazil. The two main aims of the conference were to produce universal principles by which the Internet should be governed and creating a road map toward the globalization of Internet governance institutions like ICANN.

Niels ten Oever, head of Digital at Article 19 was present at the summit to take part in the process of drafting the final outcome document. During the proceedings he found the time to do an interview.

Article 19, an organization for the protection of freedom of expression, partnered up with other civil society organizations during NETmundial to represent the interests of civil society. In deliberation with other groups and individuals representing the tech community, governments, academia and the private sector participants tried to find agreement on a final outcome document.

The conclusions and decisions made on the summit were laid down in what is called the outcome document. A draft outcome document has been disseminated prior to the start of the summit. The groups and people gathered at the summit had a chance to propose changes to the document with the aim of creating a final version all can agree on.

Ten Oever did this interview during NETmundial, toward the close of the event he provided status updates about the proceedings on Twitter. The wider context of the questions below is provided in my previous post about the history and aim of NETmundial.

TR: What do you think of the draft outcome document?

NtO: The original, by Wikileaks leaked draft outcome document (written by the Executive Multistakeholder Committee) was stronger than the draft document we could comment on. This later version was adjusted based on comments made by the High Level Multistakeholder Committee (HLMC)). In the first version there were explicit references to Net neutrality and the text was worded stronger concerning the subjects mass surveillance, transparency and the accountability model of ICANN.

The document that was leaked after that, which included the comments of the HLMC members provided insight in the positions of certain governments, especially India and the US. The term Net neutrality was removed and the reference to human rights was weakened.

After the draft outcome document was officially disseminated by the NETmundial organization, 1350 comments on the document were submitted [NETmundial send out an open call for public comments, TR]. And what I think is special about that is we don't only talk about Multistakeholderism, we actually practice it. It means that not only can everybody sit at the table but different groups have actual influence as well. This is a great step forward.

However, we have to put more effort in ensuring better representation of the global South and other underrepresented groups if we truly want this to be a legitimit global process.

TR: What do you think the fact that mass surveillance isn't concretely addressed in the draft outcome document?

NtO: That is unbelievable. NETmundial was organized in reaction to Snowden's revelations. The coalition of civil society organizations proposes this text:

In the Principle section:
Privacy is a fundamental human right, and is central to the maintenance of democratic societies. It is essential to human dignity and it reinforces other rights, such as freedom of expression and information, and freedom of association, and is recognized under international human rights law. Mass Surveillance is a direct and imminent threat to privacy, therefore societies must not be placed under surveillance. Individuals should be protected against collection, storage, use and disclosure of their personal data. Similarly, anonymity and encryption should be protected as a prerequisite for privacy and freedom of expression The International Principles of Application of Human Rights to Communication Surveillance, (Necessary and Proportionate principles) should be the vantage point of this discussion.

In the Roadmap section:

Mass surveillance, which comprises collection, processing and interception of all forms of communication undermines internet security and trust in all personal, business and diplomatic communication. Mass surveillance is fundamental human rights violation.

Targeted interception, and collection of personal data should be conducted in accordance with international human rights law. Critical and intermediate infrastructure must not be tampered with in service of targeted interception. Personal computing devices are the core of our lives - their sanctity must not be violated.

No system, protocol or standard should be weakened to facilitate interception or decryption of communication or data.

Future dialogue requires full disclosure of technical sources and methods for democratic discussion on this topic at the international level using forums like the Human Rights Council and the IGF aiming to develop a common understanding on all the related aspects and their implementation.

The Necessary and Proportionate principles should be the vantage point of this discussion.

TR: What do you think of the absence of the term Net Neutrality in the draft outcome document.

NtO: That too is unbelievable. On the opening day of the summit Brazilian president Rousseff signed the Marco Civil law. This law makes Brazil the third country in the world to enshrine Net neutrality in its legal code. However, in different sections of the text, there is a technical description of Net neutrality.

We, the coalition of civil society organizaties, said the following about this:

Net Neutrality

We would like to see a separate item referring to the principle of Net Neutrality. In addition we suggest this principle should be reinforced in the paragraphs 10 and 23 with the changes as follows:

- Para 10: Internet should be a globally coherent, interconnected, stable, unfragmented, scalable and accessible network-of-networks, based on a common set of unique identifiers and that allows the free, non discriminatory flow of data packets/information [, or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication.]

- Paragraph 23 Accessibility and low barriers
Internet governance should promote universal, equal opportunity, affordable and high quality Internet access, in accordance with the principle of net neutrality, so it can be an effective tool for enabling human development and social inclusion. There should be no barriers to entry for new users.

TR: What is absent in the draft outcome proposal concerning the transition of ICANN? What should be added?

NtO: Here is what we said:

The proposed transition of the IANA functions to the global multistakeholder community is an important step in the globalization of Internet governance. This transition should be discussed and designed with full deliberative participation of all relevant stakeholders, from all regions, in a variety of fora, extending beyond the ICANN community and its meetings.

It is desirable to keep an adequate separation between the policy process and its operational aspects as well as external accountability mechanisms. All stakeholders must be able to meaningfully contribute to the deliberative IANA transition process, whether structural or functional separation is the best way to do this.

The DNS is a global resource so everyone has a stake in its future. To safeguard the stability and security of this resource, transparency and accountability of ICANN in general, and of the board specifically, should be improved.

The discussion on mechanisms for guaranteeing the transparency and accountability of the IANA functions after the US Government role ends, as well as the improvement of the transparency and accountability of ICANN, has to take place through an open process with the participation of all stakeholders extending beyond the ICANN community, striving towards a completed transition and improved transparency and accountability by September 2015.

We suggest to add to paragraph 27: It is desirable to keep an adequate separation between the policy development process and operational aspects as well as external accountability mechanisms.

We suggest to add to paragraph 28: Improved transparency and accountability of ICANN in general, and the board in particular, needs to be fully realized now as the IANA transition takes place.

TR: What do you expect of the outcome of NETmundial. Will it be possible to deliver a strong concrete outcome document?

NtO: We are working hard on it. Tonight, at the close of the summit, we will know what the results will be and what the status of the document will be. Is it going to be a consensus document, a rough consensus or a chair summary. Especially the government delegations of Russia, China, Cuba and Iran seem to block a consensus document.

TR: Anything to add?
NtO: Even though the outcome of the text may not be perfect, we've learned a lot of this process about collaboration between different parties and equal roles between governments, the private sector and users.

Final outcome document
At the close of the summit, the outcome document was adopted by acclamation, the status of the text was determined to be non-binding. The coalition of civil rights organizations was disappointed with the final version of the text.

In a speech to the participants of NETmundial Ten Oever expressed their concerns:

We would like to thank the Brazilian government for organizing the Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance. We, as a diverse group of civil society organizations from around the world, appreciate having been part of the process.

However we are disappointed because that outcome document fails to adequately reflect a number of our key concerns. The lack of acknowledgement of net neutrality at NETmundial is deeply disappointing. Mass surveillance has not been sufficiently denounced as being inconsistent with human rights and the principle of proportionality. And although the addition of language on Internet intermediary liability is welcomed, the final text fails to ensure due process safeguards which could undermine the rights to freedom of expression and privacy.

We feel that this document has not sufficiently moved us beyond the status quo in terms of the protection of fundamental rights, and the balancing of power and influence of different stakeholder groups.

Image: Niels ten Oever addressing NETmundial
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