Messages from Stockholm – 2012
These messages are a compendium of the plenary sessions held during the EuroDIG 2012 conference.
The over-arching question of the 2012 EuroDIG “Who sets the rules for the Internet?” mainly concerned the balance of (sometimes conflicting) interests in the digital age, where traditional standards, legislation and regulation models meet but which, until now, do not seem to always provide the appropriate solutions. Arguably, conventional regulation systems and actors have lost their hegemony leaving room for the multi-stakeholder model thereby promoting equal-footed forms of discourse to flourish.
Democracy in Europe – participants asserted that the new generation of politicians should acknowledge the Internet as a basic form of communication with society.
Cybercrime / cybersecurity – models of public-private partnerships in the fight against cybercrime should be feasible for both big and small enterprises.
Digital Citizenship – empowerment of individual Internet users and the CoE’s a compendium of existing Internet rights was underlined.
Multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance – any new principles should avoid duplicating existing work; governments have a legitimate governance role but this should not mean having complete control over the Internet.
Children and the Internet – education, privacy and ease of use of the Internet matter. Children have the right to information and the right to protection; however, the means of protecting children changes as the Internet develops.
Data retention – improvements are needed in areas including the applicability of data retention obligations, access to data, reimbursement of costs for operators and the obligation for authorities to reveal what they do with the retained data they access.
Citizens in the digital world – it is necessary to provide end-users with valuable services offered online. There are many initiatives which aim to include the rights of Internet users in a single document. Any instrument on the rights of Internet users should be punchy and effective.
Social media – this has transformed journalistic practices as well as public perception; computing skills in journalism was underlined.
Jurisdiction – international legal systems based on the geographical notion of national territorial sovereignty are too rigid to cope with the crossborder nature of online-activities in cyberspace. The assertion of national jurisdiction over online activities can have strong extra-territorial effects.
- There are doubts whether representative democratic systems can meet the challenges of the digital age. Users need to trust governments’ when they deal with the Internet and this implies a good understanding of the Internet’s open nature and an appreciation of the freedoms that it enables.
- The term “safety” is perceived differently by different actors. This is translated by some as entailing more control and monitoring of the Internet. Top-down approaches to protect people’s safety online should be offset by more efforts educate and empower users.
- Intellectual property (IP) rights and the right to freedom of expression and access to information regardless of frontiers in the digital environment cannot be resolved solely by traditional approaches, laws, rules and regulations nor by single stakeholders such as governments. There is a need to explore new ways to reconcile the interests of users, especially young people, who want to share information and content in a lawful manner. Open access and the public interest are key concerns in this respect.
- The basic principles set by the Council of Europe’s Convention “108” on data protection have stood the test of time and remain valid in a globalized world; proposals to modernize the Convention were welcomed. The Madrid Resolution on International Standards on Privacy and Data Protection provides inspiration in this respect.
- The fragmentation of Europe is a significant problem for the business sector regardless of the size of the organization. Each market in each country is too small for businesses to operate efficiently, especially noting the legal and contractual boundaries correspond to geographical boundaries. Because of this, companies that launch services, or choose to buy services, first look within their own geographical territorities, but then quickly shift to the US or Asian markets which are much larger.
- Business models have changed according to the concept of the ”long tail“ model where few companies dominate the market. Can we envisage “long-tail” effect in politics, where direct participation and democracy improves? Or does this imply new imbalances where smaller groups have proportionately greater recognition and influence? The traditional system of democracy based on political parties and media is being challenged which, in order for it to respond, needs to include new forms and tools of political participation. Public service media can play an important role here in ensuring quality news reporting.
- The sale and export of “dual use” surveillance technologies and equipment are an increasing problem, not only for European countries. Companies that offer and sell them to countries where basic rights are violated and surveillance is used to monitor people should be held to account. Monitoring and stopping the digital arms trade in the same manner as the EU banned sales of conventional arms offers a way forward. Europe can play a pioneering role and become a standard-setter in this respect.
- From the 1990s, with private hotlines used to report child abuse and the involvement of industry players in blocking and removing illegal content, there is now a trend towards engaging more private sector stakeholders in collaborative efforts to prevent, detect and investigate crimes in cyberspace, including to mitigate cyber-security threats. However, this is leading to the concern that companies rather than law enforcement are being used to remove and block Internet content (i.e. the privatisation of law enforcement). Any such action must respect fundamental rights and comply with rule of law principles. Transparency and trust (between public and private parties and users) are major issues for the Internet’s future.
- The terms and conditions of Internet services play an increasing role in digital citizenship and should be drafted in a way which users can understand them and are not in conflict with their rights. Protecting their rights as digital citizens by means of a compendium of rights for Internet users is necessary.
- The capacity building and empowerment of users at all age levelsis a precondition for an inclusive and people-centred information society.
- While there have been many good initiatives to prepare Internet governance principles, it must remain a priority to ensure that Internet governance remains an open, multi-stakeholder process. These principles should maintain focus on complementing existing laws and rules. Recent approaches and projects to combine human rights considerations and principles with Internet governance are fundamental.
- Preserving the Internet’s benefits should be a priority Multi-stakeholder input here is necessary to mitigate related risks. Notwithstanding the “best intentions” of regulators, it is dangerous to over-regulate the Internet. This jeopardises the Internet’s “innovation without permission” premise which has driven Internet growth since its inception.
- A distinction between the governance of infrastructure and the governance of usage should be understood. There is a particular need for new spaces and institutions on governance of usage as well as a shift towards more distributed models of governance.
- As part of its “oversight” role, governments play an important role in promoting and facilitating multi-stakeholder dialogue on Internet governance.
- The development of principles represents an important attempt to move beyond traditional models of law and treaties, towards a model that incorporates new actors and new formats. Finally, the evolving relationship between the two layers, Internet use and Internet infrastructure, needs to be harmonized.