The past 18 months have seen unprecedented public unrest over proposed new laws and policies for the Internet that would both undermine its functioning as an open, neutral communications medium, and threaten the human rights of its users. At the national level instruments such as the United States’ SOPA and PIPA, and India’s Internet Intermediary Guidelines, are seen as uninformed and/or unduly influenced by industry lobbyists protecting outdated business models. At the global level, agreements such as the secretively-negotiated ACTA, Trans-Pacific Partnership and International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs), are rightly seen as democratically deficient and therefore illegitimate in light of norms of multi-stakeholder participation to which governments pay lip service.
At the same time, civil society has also recently been at the nexus of a flourishing of interest in a positive agenda for Internet governance, such as the development of broad statements of shared principles (including the Declaration of Internet Freedom), ad hocnetworks for engagement on current policy processes (such as the ITU’s World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) at which the ITRs are being renegotiated), and new institutional innovations that could channel public interest inputs into policy development processes either in a reactive (eg. the Internet Defence League) or a proactive (eg. the Enhanced Cooperation Task Force) fashion.
Some of these civil society initiatives are so new that those leading them have not yet had time to adequately allow for the input of other NGOs who may have a long background working on ICT issues in their own countries, with important perspectives to contribute. In fact there is much scope for all of the NGOs working on Internet governance issues, from North and South alike, to gain valuable practical knowledge from each other. In advance of the upcoming meetings of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) and the ITU’s WCIT, we have an important opportunity to share such knowledge, to deliberate on issues of difference, and to produce tangible outputs to further objectives that we share.
We therefore propose an inclusive gathering of key civil society organisations from across the world, at which they would have the opportunity to highlight their various initiatives, and foster mutual learning and broader engagement. The gathering is to be called “Best Bits” because it does not aim to present a single solution for ratification by the assembled groups, but rather to offer an open space where each group can present and advocate for the initiatives that they believe offer the best positive agenda for advancing broadly shared civil society interests in Internet governance.
Katitza Rodriguez, EFF International Rights Director, will be facilitating the last session on "Making an inclusive civil society network on IG issues sustainable". Existing civil society+ networks are: – Internet Defence League, Internet Governance Caucus, Global Network Initiative, CSISAC, OpenMedia network, Internet Progress Administration, Internet Rights and Principle coalition, APC, among others.