New think tank tackles Internet governance

Newly founded Commission for Internet Governance wants to inform the discussion

An international think tank launched at the World Economic Forum on Wednesday with the goal of influencing the future governance of the Internet.

The newly founded Global Commission on Internet Governance has signed up a roster of worthies, headed by chairman Carl Bildt, Sweden's current foreign minister and past prime minister.

The commission plans a two-year process culminating in "a comprehensive stand on the future of multi-stakeholder Internet governance." It said on its website that it will "create and advance a strategic vision for the future of Internet governance that can act as a rallying point for states that are striving for a continued free and open Internet."

The commission pointed to two current threats to the Internet: efforts by authoritarian states to exert more control over the Internet, and the loss of trust engendered by widespread surveillance that was recently disclosed.

It plans to address issues like online rights, including establishing the principle of technological neutrality for human rights, privacy, cybercrime and free expression. It will also provide advice on how best to avoid risks, including establishing norms regarding state conduct, cybercrime cooperation, and proliferation and disarmament issues, they added.

The commission plans to influence the debate on Internet governance mainly through politics and lobbying efforts.

However, while the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ranks near the top of the organizations that the new commission must effectively lobby, its public relations representative in London was unaware of the new effort.

ICANN meanwhile has set up its own initiative to tackle concerns about the Internet's future. In November, it established a panel that will address concerns about Internet governance. People in government, civil society, the private sector, the technical community and international organizations will be part of the group, ICANN said.

Despite a push from some countries for a more government-centric model, ICANN believes that an Internet governance model that includes businesses and civil-society groups in the decision-making process remains the best approach. ICANN is scheduled to discuss this so-called multistakeholder model in further detail during an Internet governance conference in Brazil in April.

The Global Commission on Internet Governance is an initiative of the Centre for International Governance Innovation, a think tank on international governance based in Waterloo, Canada and the Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, in London.

Work of the commission will formally begin at the conclusion of ICANN's high-level panel on Internet cooperation in May 2014. Planning and research however are well underway, they said.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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