Monday, May 30, 2011

If the power does not listen to the people of the Internet

You can organize a "historic event" on the Internet without the "people" of the Internet? You can enhance the role of the Internet to make possible the democratic changes and then be silent or reticent on effective protection of fundamental rights on the network? You can define the Internet a "common good" and then say the opposite, his submission to the logic of private property? Yes you can, as it may seem paradoxical or contradictory.

It happened last week between Paris and Deauville, on the occasion of the G8, Nicolas Sarkozy wanted to be preceded by a great gathering dedicated precisely to the problems of the Internet. Put this issue to the center of the world could be quite significant if it were accompanied by admissions, proposals and conclusions really correspond to the innovative dynamics, opportunities, tough challenges every day that the Internet offers billions of people.

Not so. The many words devoted to the Internet in the final communiqué of the G8 are vague when it comes to freedoms and rights, and terribly precise when interest in the field. A predictable outcome and expected. In the opening words of Sarkozy, in fact, the Internet is the largest public space that humanity has ever known.

Instead, it is a continent to "civilize" and therefore a place where they occur primarily negative phenomena that should be removed. This reversal of perspective is not surprising. Sarkozy is the governor who most supported the need to address the problems of copyright only to repressive legislation, proposing in his law Hadopi every opportunity as a model, and which linked with the freedom of expression than the needs of forms generalized control (just released in France a collection of critical analysis of his policies titled Sarkozysme fondamentaux et droits de la personne humaine).

It is the policy that assigns the grandeur of a French advertising agency, which organized the Paris meeting, and the shore is the presence of those masters of the digital world that is called Google, Microsoft, Facebook, but have taken advantage of 'opportunity to claim an untouchable power.

The final communiqué of the G8 largely reflects this spirit. They talk about the role of Internet in fostering democratic processes, but has not even a faint hint of persecution against those who committed the network as an instrument of freedom to the dozens of bloggers in jail in other totalitarian countries, the indirect forms of censorship in countries Democrats.

This makes it the respect of fundamental rights, freedom of expression in the first place, to the logic of security and the market, with a clear step backwards compared to what has long been established, for example, the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural. It extols the presence of all "stakeholders", then all the actors of the processes set in motion by the Internet, but then he makes a drastic reduction of these presences in some French Minister (absent politicians in other countries, particularly the Americans known to be very critical) and representatives of big business.

A choice so shameless and blatant, that led even to the exclusion of representatives of institutions that ensure the functioning of the Internet (ICANN, ISOC), provoked a reaction of the few civil society representatives present there, which made up a long press conference, where leading representatives took the floor and far from extreme, as Lawrence Lessig and Yochai Benkler.

We are seeing a disturbing political and cultural regression. The exclusion of the other actors, the people of the Internet, has led to the cancellation of the most interesting elaboration and proposals of recent years on terms and principles which relate to the operation of the Internet.

We returned to the opposition front between regulators, identified by the network who wants to impose authoritarian controls, and defenders of freedom in the network identified with free enterprise. was ignored dimension "constitutional", the one that gives top priority to a number of basic principles, regulators and companies must comply.

That being the case, are well-founded criticism of those who spoke of a "takeover" of the governments on the Internet, a declared political will to get their hands on the network. It has also revealed the significance of the reference to the right of access by enterprises. When Eric Schmidt, speaking for Google, said that the only role of governments must be to ensure that everyone has access to the Internet, certainly took a key point, as evidenced by the many constitutions and laws around the world are addressing this issue.

But his statement is then in a concrete application in particular, to enable the provision of services that generate increased advertising revenue (last Google Wallet), thus ever more deeply immerse people in the logic of consumption, while another thing is the free access to knowledge in the network.

Of course, companies do their job. But their ability to produce innovation can not result in standing to be the only regulators of the Internet. Why this is so, since they have the information about their users, who are the sole and final decision of much controversy on what to enter or remain in the network, which too often have accepted the charges of governments with the argument that being market means to respect national rules, which have a huge economic power.

The pale and rhetorical references to privacy in the communiqué of the G8, the absence of reference to dominant positions in many companies, they reveal the intent of a policy that wants to protect its authoritarian powers so the industry as an authoritarian power. Restless, then, the failure to analyze the issue of network neutrality, which is essential for freedom and equality garrison.

But this design, this new global distribution of power are not a royal road that can be flown without resistance. You can rely on the same contradictions of the press, trying to overthrow the hierarchy and thereby the first place the references to freedom and rights, the plurality of actors.

Poverty and authoritarianism of that statement may deny the richness of the UN report on freedom of expression that will be presented in the next few days in Geneva. Moreover, it seems that all governments are ready to identify with that line, as already shown some interesting indirect American reservations and declarations of the German foreign minister.

And most of all the subjects and projects cleared by the G8 in a move most vital and they are authoritarian, with the strength of its Internet, we must also take into account. The major political parties of the Internet remains open.

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