[Air-l] BULLETIN: International press release (WPFC releases position paper on Internet governance) (fwd)

robert m. tynes rtynes at u.washington.edu
Thu Apr 1 12:09:12 PST 2004

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 01 Apr 2004 14:50:09 -0500
From: IFEX Action Alert Network <alerts at ifex.org>
Cc: ifexworld at lists.ifex.org
Subject: BULLETIN: International press release (WPFC releases position
    paper on Internet governance)

IFEX - News from the international freedom of expression community


1 April 2004

WPFC releases position paper on Internet governance

SOURCE: World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC), Reston

**Updates IFEX alerts of 30 September, 25 July, 12 June, 27, 24, 13 and 5
February 2003**

(WPFC/IFEX) - The following is a 10 March 2004 WPFC position paper:


It is becoming increasingly clear that so-called "governance," management
and administration of the Internet will be the central issue in preparations
for the second World Summit on the Information Society. UN Secretary General
Kofi Annan was mandated to direct a study incorporating the views of diverse
interests to be produced in time for WSIS II, scheduled for Tunis, Tunisia,
in November 2005.

Civil society caucuses are already exchanging message traffic on how to
determine their positions. Many of those groups have histories of favoring
content controls. Any proposals that threaten press freedom on the Internet,
whatever the source, should be rejected.

It was clear at WSIS I that there was a general feeling among member-states,
including US allies in the European Union, that "Internet governance" should
not be the exclusive preserve of ICANN, the Internet Corporation for
Assigned Names and Numbers, a California-based company under contract to the
US Commerce Dept.

ICANN has allocated Internet domain names on a neutral, technical basis. It
has included industry, NGOs and international representation in its
governing board and committees.

Governments which want to turn responsibility over to an international body,
presumably in the UN system, want to go beyond technical matters to deal
with content questions, like pornography, pedophilia, fraud, hate speech,
etc., in a way that ICANN has refrained from doing. The Council of Europe's
Cybercrime Convention points the way governments seem to be headed. The
United States signed that Convention, but it has a separate protocol on hate
speech that was designed to give the United States the option not to sign
onto an element that would clearly violate the US Constitution's First

Under the US-accepted compromise of a two-year UN study to submit
recommendations to WSIS II, a process has begun that will probably produce a
UN proposal for modifications of the Internet governance system.

A role for ICANN should be preserved as part of any new system that may
emerge under UN auspices. Supporters of a free and open Internet should be
able, with the backing of allies like the UN Department of Information and
Communications and the UNESCO Secretariat, to resist any changes that
threaten the free flow of information and ideas on the Internet.

"Governance" must not be allowed to become a code word for government
regulation of Internet content. The intergovernmental debates over two years
of preparations for WSIS I amply demonstrated that authoritarian
governments, which already censor their own Internet traffic, seek content
controls internationally and/or legitimization of such controls nationally.
The system must not be reorganized to permit this on an international level
or encourage it at the national level.

In fact, the Internet's growth, popularity and integrity are based on its
content not being regulated by governments or international organizations.

Bearing in mind that the Declaration adopted December 12, 2003, at the World
Summit in Geneva provided that "freedom of the press and freedom of
information . . . are essential to the Information Society," the following
principles should guide any changes in the Internet governance system:

1. There should be no controls over content, nor modifications of the
Internet's technical "architecture" that facilitate or permit censorship of
news or editorial opinion. Nor should "self-regulation" be allowed to become
a surrogate for governmental regulation of content on the Internet.

2. The system should explicitly commit itself to respect and to implement
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to the
fundamental principle of press freedom. National or international security
concerns must not be allowed to limit freedom of expression, including news
and editorial comment, in cyberspace.

3. Considerations of "ethics" should not be allowed to become a veiled
approach to introducing or allowing censorship.

4. There are many forms of communication over the Internet, and it is
important not to confuse them. News, for example, is different from such
things as pornography, pedophilia, fraud, conspiracy for terrorism,
incitement to violence, hate speech, etc., although there may be news
stories about such problems. Such matters are normally covered in existing
national general legislation and should, if appropriate and necessary, be
prosecuted on the national level in the country of origin.

5. Any legal actions that may arise should be adjudicated in the
jurisdiction where a disputed message first originated, or in a single
jurisdiction agreed upon by the parties to any given dispute.

The Internet is a major opportunity to improve exchanges of information and
ideas throughout the world. Nothing should be allowed to restrict this
powerful new medium for better communications among people.

For further information, contact the WPFC, 11690-C Sunrise Valley Drive,
Reston, Virginia 20191 U.S.A., tel: +1 703 715 9811, fax: +1 703 620 6790,
e-mail: freepress at wpfc.org, Internet: http://www.wpfc.org

The information contained in this press release/update is the sole
responsibility of WPFC. In citing this material for broadcast or
publication, please credit WPFC.
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