[IRPCoalition] EC "Internet Policy and Governance" & UK IGF

Andrea Glorioso andrea at digitalpolicy.it
Fri Feb 28 12:19:56 EET 2014

Dear Marianne,

thank you very much for your email and apologies for the belated reply. I
was busier than usual in the past days, with some annoying health problems
in the family (people with kids will understand).

On Mon, Feb 24, 2014 at 6:05 PM, Marianne Franklin
<m.i.franklin at gold.ac.uk>wrote:

>  Dear Andrea, and all
> Here are some brief, and rather belated thoughts and observations from the
> 2014 UK IGF (http://ukigf.org.uk/events/) and the workshop session in IG
> Principles where the EC "Internet Policy and Governance - Europe's role in
> shaping the future of Internet governance" (COM(2014) 72/4) was on the
> table for responses:
> First, on the plenary session where Ed Vaizey, the Minister for Culture,
> Communications and the Creative Industries, gave a keynote. The Q&A pivoted
> on the implications of Snowden's revelations on UK government's approach to
> Internet Governance, especially the focus on forging a set of universal
> principles and along with that the prospects for multistakeholder
> participatory models. His response to one of the final questions, on how
> "to keep politics out of it" was that this was impossible.

I think this is an important point that is worth discussing. I am, on a
personal level, extremely happy that Minister Vaizey recognises that you
cannot "keep politics" out of the Internet, or of its governance. Politics
is among other things the management of power and there is power on the
Internet (and in its governance). The question is of course to what end is
such power put to use; and here it is understandable that there are
disagreements, some of them of a fundamental nature.

What I find bizarre - and, to be absolutely honest, rather frustrating, but
that's perhaps because of my job and my academic training as a political
scientist... - is when I hear people or organisations claiming that the
Internet, and in particular the decisions underpinning the technical
choices and the day-to-day operations of the Internet, should not be

I never understood what this means in practice. I am quite clear that the
management / operations / coordination of the Internet should not be a
matter for governments or inter-governmental organisations to handle. This
is by the way, and probably more importantly than my personal opinion, also
the official view of the European Commission. But again I do not understand
what the call for "non politicisation" actually entails in practice.

> He went on to note that the West does not have all the answers, and
> moreover (and here I am quoting from my notes) that "it is a myth that
> America runs, or wants to run the internet. ... the US is a benign force in
> Internet Governance".
> The full transcript should be on the UK IGF website, as it was a short
> speech.
> Second, the session on IG Principles; line up was as follows: ·         Matthew
> McDermott, Access Partnership (Moderator);·         Paul Blaker, DCMS;·
> Marianne Franklin, IRPC/ Goldsmiths (University of London);·         Nigel
> Hickson, ICANN;·         Jean-Jacques Sahel, Microsoft;  Matthew Shears, Center
> for Democracy and Technology
> We had a full discussion of the various positions on what sort of IG
> Principles should be agreed upon, by whom, and moreover from what pool of
> already existing principles. IRPC members are well aware of how the
> coalition sees this discussion in terms of the IRP Charter as an
> articulation of human rights and principles of the Internet in the round.
> So I will just note some comments from Paul Blaker representing Ed Vaizey's
> department, Jean-Jacques Sahel from Skype-Microsoft, and Nigel Hickson from
> ICANN. Reason being that this meeting was an opportunity to hear what UK
> government officials and technical community members had to say on these
> points (there were academics and some civil society folk there but it was
> mainly government and business, if I am not mistaken).
> The main distinction was about whether pursuing a single set of
> principles, with the objective of the upcoming Net Mundial in mind, or
> whether it is preferable to work with the  "open, competitive market in
> principles" (Blakey) that already exists. Blakey noted some concern from
> the UK governmental view that pursuing one single set of principles "could
> be dangerous". Mr Sahel concurred in that from an industry view, the
> question was whether there is a need for one single set of principles;
> would not several sets be more practicable.

Does the IRP Dynamic Coalition have a view on this point?

> The panel then considered definitional issues around internet governance
> and where all stakeholders have or can play a formative rather than a
> nominal role; here the notion or rather lack of trust was a theme that we
> all concurred on. Mathew Shears (CDT) stressed how the principles
> discussion converges on shared points around IG as a process, whilst we all
> differed on the more substantive matters e.g. which principles and/as human
> rights count for the exercise. The panel ended with a round of participants
> considering what makes a good principle (definitional matters
> notwithstanding): The outcome of this brainstorm was the following: a "good
> IG Principle" whatever it is needs to be
> - future proof
> - respecting all human rights
> - aware of provenance and diversity (i.e. the need for cultural
> sensitivity and openness)
> - agreed by all across geographies and by governments
> - agree to key concepts as baselines.
> So, here we see that this panel moved up a level of abstraction from the
> level aspired to by the Net Mundial meeting. Which led to a question from
> the moderator about whether a truly global set of principles is possible.
> Nigel Hickson (ICANN) noted that his preference would be to start top down,
> and then "go down to details"; I argued that the Charter has already gone a
> long way, and includes a number of rights and principles that are being
> overlooked in the current post-Snowden climate (e.g. development, women's
> rights, children, disability, education, cultural diversity). Our
> moderator, Matthew McDermott, summed it all up by noting that the sum total
> of these deliberations was the "IG principles should enable better IG
> Principles". I then took the opportunity to present copies (the last as it
> happens of the first print run) of the Charter Booklet to Messrs Blaney and
> Sahel who have yet to get their own copy.
> Third, turning to the EC Communication. We all welcomed it in principle.

That's good, although I've been working enough in Brussels to be afraid of
the notion of "agreement in principle". ;)

> But there is one section that would be good to have some elucidation on. I
> paste it in below from Page 8 where mention is made of "Mutual interactions
> between technical and public policy considerations". It would be
> interesting to hear more about what this would entail in practice
> particularly with debates around the extent of governmental input into IG
> an area for quite divergent positions within and across those groups
> heading to Brazil:  (FYI press release, at
> http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-14-142_en.htm and full text at
> http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/newsroom/cf/dae/document.cfm?doc_id=4453
> )
> Andrea, if you want to comment please feel free. Also if I have
> inadvertently misquoted or misrepresented participants' views please feel
> free to correct. A report of the panel will be online at some point in the
> future

Section 6 of the Communication on Internet Policy and Governance has
garnered quite a lot of interest from many different parties. I must say
that when I (and, clearly but let's be clear, other colleagues) wrote that
part of the Communication, the basic notion seemed quite obvious and
harmless to us. It is also important to notice that the actions proposed in
the Communication are in my view rather non-prescriptive on the "how" and
very open even to discussions on the "what".

Having said this, it would be easier for me to have a discussion in which
people came up with specific points on which they have questions, concerns,
doubts, criticisms (praises are also welcome, but I don't get paid to
expect them ;) on this section of the Communication (or others as the case
might be).

This is simply because, since I am having a discussion on this section
within different mailing lists / constituencies, it has become quite
apparent to me that what *I* find absolutely obvious in terms of
background, rationale, objectives etc of this section (and of the
Communication) might not be for others. This has generated quite a lot of
extra traffic and work (for me and others) to clarify misunderstandings
that would have been more usefully clarified at the beginning and not in
the middle of the conversation. I learned that asking for specific
questions, concerns, doubts, criticisms etc is a rather more efficient way
to make sure the misunderstandings are, to the extent possible, clarified
early in the process.

So, I'm all ears. ;)

Again thanks,


I speak only for myself. Sometimes I do not even agree with myself. Keep it
in mind.
Twitter: @andreaglorioso
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/andrea.glorioso
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=1749288&trk=tab_pro
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