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Mobilizing for Web Policy Activism June 2, 2011

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in News.

Major international decisions are being made about the Internet in the coming weeks – decisions that could affect the Web as we know it forever. Last week, tens of thousands of Web users successfully petitioned the G8 summit in Deauville, France to keep its hands off the Internet.

The show stoppers were activists of Access Now. This global movement is premised on the belief that political participation in the 21st century is increasingly dependent on access to the Web and other forms of technology. Determined to represent the interests of the non-invited, Access Now, staged an ad-hoc counter-forum civil society press conference where a petition, signed by citizen-users from over 100 countries, was presented.

Although it was the first time the Web and its determinant role in the global economy was explicitly discussed, the invitee list highlighted the flawed approach to the forum. Sure, industry and innovation digerati, from Schmidt to Murdoch to Zuckerberg, were at the Tuileries gardens to discuss Internet governance. But the real future of the Web – civil society bloggers and citizen-users – was not invited.

In fact, as Lawrence Lessig noted, this group does not even know how to be invited. Lessig, one of the few civil voices officially invited to this landmark occasion, called on participants to preserve its open architecture, explaining that the most groundbreaking innovations – Google, icq, skype, kazaa, youtube, and so on – were borne by kids, drop-outs and non-Americans.

Giving primacy to corporate interests, forcing intermediaries to police their customers, filter speech, fight terrorism, protect children online and punish copyright infringers is not the ‘future of the internet’. In fact, this approach risks destroying its innovating, democratizing and participatory characteristics.
Access Now

The final G8 communiqué committed to broadening quality access to ICT, recognizing that Internet access is vital to the flourishing of human rights in the 21st century and ensuring the protection of individual privacy online. But almost completely absent from the document was any commitment to uphold principles of net neutrality or the dangers of censorship by ISPs and governments.

This week Access Now steps up again! The United Nations Human Rights Council will receive its first ever official report on freedom of expression online – and this is one report to support. How UN members respond will determine how, and if, countries commit to protecting the rights of their citizens on the Web. And it is one step further toward access to the internet being properly recognised as a fundamental right.

Related read: World Rallies to Save the Internet from G8


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