There is a need for leadership on the highest political levels to curb a worrying trend towards limiting the open internet, seeking to use internet for intelligence gathering, or for repressing dissent, argues Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake
2015 seems to be a key year for a long-awaited (and long discussed) “reform” of Internet Governance. What are your predictions?
Indeed it will be an important year for internet governance. However, for me internet governance is more than just the scope of responsibilities and procedures in international organizations such as ICANN, WCIT and the IGF.
The broad goals of ensuring the internet remains open and that people´s human rights and fundamental freedoms apply also online, is influenced by decisions made by states and companies every day.
I see a worrying trend towards limiting the open internet, seeking to use internet for intelligence gathering, or for repressing dissent. There is a need for leadership on the highest political levels to curb this trend.
What should be the role of the EU?
This means diplomats from the European External Action Service, and Ministers and diplomats from Member States to better understand technology and how it works, and most importantly to push an ambitious agenda.
Civil society organizations and experts can help ensure there is sufficient knowledge, and connection to the various stakeholders.
Is Europe contributing enough to the global debate on Internet Governance?
I believe the EU can and should do more in showing leadership. After the credibility of the United States was hurt by the NSA revelations, the internet freedom agenda should be adopted by the EU, and given more meaning.
We have a historic sense of protecting people from an over reaching state, and need to show leadership in human rights online globally, as we have done with a human rights agenda in the past.
We should work with the US to restore trust and to work along a shared agenda. There are plenty of developing economies that we may consider as ´swing states´ in terms of seeking to pursue top-down governance, or to choose a forward looking internet governance agenda that puts human rights online in the centre.
What initiatives do you expect from the new European Commission?
I will continue to push for better coordination between different Commissioners, and with Member States, in developing a future proof en ambitious internet governance agenda.
Do you think the way ICANN is adjusting its governance is responding to current concerns about Internet Governance?
We have to give it a fair chance. It would be a real improvement if the multi-stakeholder model actually succeeds and further develops. Dominance of any one significant player should be avoided, and that included the United States.
At the same time, fundamental principles and values must be ensured. I will observe and evaluate the impact with great interest, also as a member of the Global Commission on Internet Governance.
How to reconcile the tension between current IG, led by nongovernmental players, and increasing demands for a stronger role for governments? How big is the risk that governments, notably from non-liberal (or undemocratic) countries, could use the current transition to take over more powers over the Internet?
Actually, governments do not depend on internet governance platforms. They can adopt laws without input from multiple stakeholders, while impacting many of them. We see this happening every day. What some of these governments with repressive agenda´s seek, is legitimacy to do what they are already doing.
The transition to more global governance was needed, and should be considered an opportunity to create a more shared responsibility globally. Given the strong interlinkage between economic interests and the open internet, we must seek…
I also worry about the role of major companies and significant market players, that put commercial interests above all else, and at the expense of the open internet and its users.
We must ensure that as the internet is to a large extent dependent on private actors, that there is sufficient oversight. I would ideally like to see an internet governance system based on democratic values globally.