MIST 7500: Global Trends in Internet Regulation – Executive Summary 5

The internet is the single biggest invention to come in the past 20 years. It has proven to be as powerful as to start revolutions, shutdown companies and topple governments in a blink of an eye. The recent Arab spring, powered by social media, is a prime example of this. It’s no wonder that governments around the world are very interested in global internet regulation.

Global internet regulation is now again in the spotlight because of the ongoing United Nations’ WCIT-12 summit in Dubai. Member governments are meeting behind close doors to essentially come up with standards that will regulate the internet. This has come amidst a lot of criticism especially with those working in the industry. People such as Vint Cerf, who is recognized as one of the “fathers of the internet”, have come out saying that governments solely cannot make decisions about the future of this technology. Google and Facebook have campaigned publicly to bring attention to this summit. Advocacy groups are saying that this summit poses a risk to freedom online.

A big push for the agenda in the summit comes from governments that do not support a free and open internet. They recognize that currently, the United States holds the key to the internet being the origin of the technology. They want a hand on how free speech, security and privacy is being regulated. They want to be able to track user activities and shut down operations they deem inappropriate with ease. The argument is that, without a standard we are at risk to hackers and cyber terrorists.

Internet regulation that is controlled by any government does not seem to be a good solution. We have seen things done today that are contrary to what the internet was built for which is the freedom to communicate. Censorship, denial of services, repression of free speech are just a few. Just a week ago we’ve seen how the Syrian government basically “turned-off” the internet for the whole country because of the ongoing conflict between the government and protesters. These are just examples of what MAY happen on a bigger scale if a restricting regulation is approved by the UN.

In our company, this is very much of utmost concern. The internet is powerful because of the inherent freedom and creativity that comes with. We realize that cyber security is important and the privacy of users should be a concern but a much broader approach to regulation should be adopted. We as workers of the internet will need to monitor developments on global internet regulation closely.

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