A blog on why norms matter online

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I'm a Post-Doc Fellow at the Cluster of Excellence "Normative Orders" of the University of Frankfurt and lecturer at the Institute of International Law of the University of Graz, Austria. I've studied international law in Graz, Geneva and at Harvard Law School. I enjoy thinking and writing about Internet Governance and discussing and shaping the future of the Internet

Monday, April 23, 2012

When it comes to human rights and the Internet, it is time to start walking the walk

I wrote a report on the Stockholm Internet Forum for the "In Focus" section of Digital Rights Watch, Mark Boudreau's informative blog tracking the debate on human rights on the Internet. 

If you're interested in current developments in the field of digital rights, you need to check the blog out. 

My article covers my impressions from the Stockholm Internet Forum I went to last week, but also goes beyond it. I conclude with that we're facing a new Tunis 2.0.

"Just like 2005, when international civil society and like-minded states managed to establish human rights as essential to developing information society, 2012 will be a year of political battles. They will not take place in Tunis, but rather in Baku and Doha, at the IGF and at the ITU’s World Conference on International Telecommunications.
If the promoters of Internet freedom, of ensuring  human development as the ultimate goal of the information society, want to win this battle, they need a clear strategy. Events such as the Stockholm Internet Forum provide important food for thought. 
But arguably, the time to act is upon us. 
In light of the quest of some states to establish stronger policy-making authority over the Internet, and reestablish a traditional notion of security, the importance of Internet freedom as an empowering concept cannot be overstated. But talking the talk is not enough. The time of operationalizing human rights commitments has arrived. 
We have to start walking the walk. 
This, too, is a lesson from Stockholm."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Stockholm Internet Forum ends with great insight: “Internet is awesome. Therefore, it needs to remain free.”

Today, the two-day Stockholm Internet Forum ended with calls to better ensure human rights online. 

The Forum was very well organized and drew some of the most important voices in the debate on Internet freedom. The organizers have added panel summaries to the conference program site which are worth reading. 

They have compiled selected quotes from the panels which are both inspiring and give an excellent overview over the diversity of issues we're facing when it comes to implementing human rights on the Internet. 

So here we go: 

  • Poverty is not only a lack of income and material resources. Poverty is also a lack of freedom.” Gunilla Carlsson, Sweden, Minister for International Development Cooperation
  • Where there is water, there is life. And where there is the Internet, there is hope. Let’s make sure everybody has plenty of both.” Gunilla Carlsson, Sweden, Minister for International Development Cooperation
  • Internet freedom cannot be an isolated issue but must be mainstreamed by governments.” Marietje Schaake, Member of the European Parliament
  • Blocking social networking also means blocking prosperity on these markets. Mr Suneet Singh Tuli, President & CEO DataWind Ltd

The 21st century is a bad time to be a control freak. The control you might have had is gone and it’s not coming back. How they respond to this is the ultimate test of the values of that hierarchy. Alec Ross, Senior Advisor for Innovation, Office of Secretary of State Hilary Clinton
The price of access must decrease. I would love to see a developed country giva a free sim-card to every citizen born. That would be beautiful!” Måns Adler, Bambuser
At the end of the day it is not the social media that go down to the square, but the users of the social media.” Rasha A. Abdulla, Egypt
When Internet was shut down in Egypt, people died. When Internet was shut down in Syria, people died. Rasha A. Abdulla, Egypt
You can’t shut down the internet. That’s shutting down the society!” Carl Bildt, Sweden, Minister for Foreign Affairs
  • What is working and what lessons are to be learned? There is clearly a role for academia to respond to such questions.” Ms Dorothy Okello, Doctor at Makere University and Director of WOUGNET
  • We need to search for the most effective and sustainable way to achieve change. Development aid will never save the world, but it can be a catalyst. So can the Internet.
    Ms Hanna Hellquist, State Secretary to the Minister for International Development Cooperation
  • When a government is depriving its citizens’ access to the Internet the whole world is affected in that nobody gets access to those citizens’ stories and perspectives.
    Mr Guy Berger, director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development, UNESCO
  • Access is still a major challenge. A number of marginalised groups still do not have access or use mobile phones in ways that could empower them.
    Ms Alice Munyua, Board of the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) & KICTANET
  • Language is a challenge. Most people in Egypt don’t know how to read and write in English.
    Ms Noha El Shishtawy, Egyptian entrepreneur
“Old rights and new technology go together.”
Dan Bear
, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, US Department of State.
“Companies should not act as enforcers. This would raise a whole range of tricky questions regarding the rule of law, the individual’s right to appeal, etc.”
Niklas Lundblad, Sweden, Director of Public Policy Google Inc.
“If governments curtail freedom of expression offline, I don’t expect governments to respect users rights online.”
Rosebell Kagumire, Uganda, Journalist and Blogger.
“We probably need legislative mechanisms to control export of surveillance technology.”
David Kramer, United States, President Freedom House.
“Internet is awesome. Therefore, it needs to remain free.”
Niklas Lundblad, Sweden, Director of Public Policy Google Inc.
  • We need to acknowledge that telecoms are, in a sense, freedom providers. We need to ensure that they are not also the partners of dictators.
    Mr Brett Solomon, Executive Director Access
  • “State owned companies should be a shining example in this field. If that is not the case, something needs to be done, quickly.
    Mr Gunnar Oom, State Secretary to Minister for Trade
  • The isolated entity should not be the company, but the government that behaves badly.
    Mr Salil Tripathi, Policy Director at Institute for Human Rights and Business
  • “There is no point in separating the CSR-strategy from the business strategy.
    Mr Enrique Aznar, Chief Integrity Officer, Millicom International Cellular
  • ’’We have come far, but not nearly far enough. Much more work needs to be done, especially in the ICT-sector’
    Mr Bennett Freeman, Senior Vice President for Sustainability Research and Policy, Calvert Investments
  • ’’If good technology is misused by a state – who is responsible?’’
    Question from the floor from Mohammad Al abdallah,@Mohammad_Syria
    • Cyber security is a society issue, not a Government issue. Baronesse Neville-Jones
    • We should not exaggerate the threat. I don’t believe in Cybergeddon, but cyber attacks is a significant problem  Dr.Jamie Shea
    • Safe and functioning communication enables freedom. Patrik Fältström

The organizers have also made some fantastic interviews with people Rebecca MacKinnon, Carl Bildt, Alec Ross - go have a look here

On the first day of the conference, civil society representatives published new principles for Transparency Reporting by states. Echoing Google's Transparency Reports, these principles are meant to ensure more accountability of state policies that impact Internet Freedom.

Key principle 2 of the Stockholm Principles  for Governmental Transparency Reporting on Net Freedom (still in beta), provides that states must inform what content the government limits access to, what rules and regulations limit access to content and how  those rules and laws can be changed and when government can deviate from them. The group is still looking for comments on the principles, so go have a look. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Human Rights and the Internet: State of the Art

I'll be in Sweden next week at the Stockholm Internet Forum. The programme is exciting with panels dedicated to social media, online threats to human rights, and responsible business practices. 
On 19 April, I'm organizing a side event with an exciting panel posted below. I'm collecting questions that I'll ask the panelists to reflect on, so if you have any, please let me know.

Human Rights and the Internet: State of the Art

  • 19 April, 13.30–15.00
  • Organized by: Internet & Society Co:llaboratory, Internet Rights & Principles Coalition and Institute of International Law and International Relations, University of Graz, Austria.
Against the background of the Internet principle hype of 2011, the panel will discuss the state of the art of research on human rights and the Internet with special reference to the 10 Internet Rights and Principles developed by the Internet Rights & Principles Coalition and the 10 main theses on the role of human rights online that were established by a three-months collaborative endeavour of 30 experts in the framework of the 5th initiative of the Internet & Society Co:llaboratory. The 10 Theses can guide the operationalization of the rights and principles and can provide important signposts for the development of a global commitment to human rights.


Mr Matthias C. Kettemann, Internet&Society Co:llaboratory/Internet Rights and Principles Coalition/University of Graz
Mr Wolfgang Kleinwächter, University of Aarhus
Mr Martin Fleischer, Foreign Ministry, Germany
Mr Ben Wagner, European University Institute, Florence
Ms Anriette Esterhuysen, Association for Progressive Communications, APC
Mr Jérémie Zimmermann, La Quadrature du Net