By Steven MacMillan/The Analyst Report: 13 June, 2014
January of this year marked the beginning of the new Global Commission on Internet Governance, which was launched by Chatham House in partnership with the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI). The commission will be chaired by the Swedish Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, who will lead a team of 25 members tasked to study the future prospects of internet governance over the next 2 years.
“The issue of internet governance is set to become one of the most pressing global public policy issues of our time. The Commission will work to develop ideas and propose a policy framework that enhances the legitimacy of internet governance whilst preserving innovation. Chatham House is honoured to partner with Foreign Minister Bildt and CIGI in the Global Commission on Internet Governance,” said Dr Robin Niblett, the Director of Chatham House.
A benign, non-threatening looking man, Bildt is the perfect character to be the face of a new initiative which could threaten the internet as we know it. Bildt, who has served on the Board of Trustees of the RAND Corporation, is an individual who is deeply entrenched in shadow organizations. Last weekend, Bildt attended the Bilderberg conference in Copenhagen, where he rubbed shoulders with the former Director of the National Security Agency (NSA), Keith Alexander, and the Executive Chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt. The Swede is also a member of the European branch of Chatham House, the European Council on Foreign Relations.
There is no doubt there are negatives to the internet: the rise in smart phone and iPad addiction, reduced social skills in young people, mass surveillance by intelligence agencies, and a shift away from reading books are all detrimental to society. However, the benefits of the web cannot be overstated. The positives from this liberating technology are incredible, with the improvement of access to information along with the creation of an environment which promotes freedom of speech, defining features. The internet also reduces the authority’s ability to bury sensitive information, and has facilitated the diversification of the media.
Recent attempts have been made to implement internet censorship under the auspices of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), in an attempt to create an “internet police” force to govern the web. The TPP is a treaty currently being negotiated amongst 12 nations which will stretch from the United States to Malaysia, encompassing over 40% of the global economy.
As well as solely benefiting corporations, surreptitious legislation was also introduced under the “intellectual property” chapter of the treaty. This would mean that Internet Service Providers (ISP) would act as censorship agency for the establishment, with the power to censure content and even to remove entire websites. Negotiations are still ongoing regarding the malign treaty, which will have to be closely monitored to ensure that similar legislation is not included if the bill regrettably passes.
Photo: Protestors gather to oppose the introduction of internet censorship legislation in Australia 2008 (Credits: Tarale)