A blog on why norms matter online

Friday, November 25, 2011

We're not dummies ... and we don't play in a sandbox

For the last two days, an interesting conference took place in Vienna: "Our Internet - Our Rights, Our Freedoms, Towards the Council of Europe Strategy on Internet Governance, 2012-2015" organised by the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs of Austria and the Council of Europe.

During the discussion of an interesting panel on how best to protect human rights online (through a new charter? a compendium of rights?), I made a brief intervention: 

"I don’t like the image of the Internet as a  sandbox [that a panelist proposed] because it implies that what we do there doesn’t actually matter. 
It does.
The Internet is the new public space of the 21st century and we do play – but we work, vote, think, write, publish, organize, too.
We don’t need a “human rights for dummies” guide to the Internet? We’re not dummies. We’re able, intelligent, interactive human beings. Human beings whose human rights and human security has to be ensured online.
And because of that we need to create normative added value.
I’d echo Wolfgang Benedek and Dixie Hawtin [two of the panelists]: we don’t need a compendium – a compilation of a body of knowledge. We need more than that.
The Internet Rights and Principles Coalition’s Charter and the Council of Europe’s Internet Governance Principles together would form a strong normative basis to build upon and to operationalize.
Because this is what we’re charged with now. 2011 was the “year of principles”, of thinking. 2012 must be the “year of practice”, of setting standards, of doing.
And if you like sand and sunny imagery quite so much, think of the Internet as a beach volleyball court. A fun place, but with interactions based on rules." 

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