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Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network Conference, Berlin, part 1

This blog is part 1 of 3 posts devoted to the I&J Network conference.

I recently attended the third conference of the Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network which was held in Berlin 3-5 June. The I&J Network is addressing the issues relating to a cross border internet subject to nation state laws. Almost 300 people from 50 countries participated in the discussions and finalised the development of the Berlin roadmap which will guide the work of the Network over the next 2 years.

The opening session was addressed by representatives of the major institutional members of the network: the German Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy, the Canadian Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, OECD, UNESCO, Wikimedia Foundation and Siemens. A number of themes came through from the different speakers in the opening session including: the open nature of the internet and the importance of maintaining this openness; the need to adopt a multistakeholder approach; that the internet is borderless but the law is not; that regulation can’t solve everything; the impact of artificial intelligence; and the tension between freedom of expression and the risk to democratic societies of an unregulated internet.

Other points raised were:

• the threat of the emergence of a digital iron curtain

• the geopolitical shift that is happening where superpower status has moved to the technical arena

• a fundamental tension between different jurisdictions on who owns the data. Depending on where you come from the answer could be the individual (Europe), the market (US), the government (Russia, China), or the developing world who have no say at all

• the internet needs to be free from censorship and propaganda

• companies need legal certainty

• the amount of data being produced (more since January this year than from dawn of time to 2000)

• that data holds us together

• the question of what will happen to those who cannot adapt to the Internet of Things?

• that we must not lose the original value of the internet - UNESCO’s ROAM principles (R – that the internet is based on human Rights; O – that it is Open; A – that it should be Accessible to all; M – that it is nurtured by Multistakeholder participation)

• there needs to be a higher participation from developing countries in the network.

The representative from Wikipedia reminded us that the content on Wikipedia is not differentiated by country or other characteristic, only by language. Their belief is that restrictions lead to endangering freedom of expression, and regulations should always default to freedom of expression. Because the internet is a human invention it will never achieve perfection.

The Executive Director of the I&J Policy Network, Bertrand de la Chapelle (pictured above) highlighted the challenges of coordinating billions of connected people around the world. He called it the “challenge for civilisation” - and the questions we need to address are:

• what is the digital future we want?

• what are the rules and how will they be enforced?

He said that public and private jurisdictions need to interact; and quoted Vint Cerf (recognised as one of the founders of the Internet) from the 2nd I&J Conference, “Let’s stop complaining and concentrate on solving.”

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