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Beyond NetMundial: The future of Internet governance

Debate continues over who governs the Net and how
Thursday, May 15, 2014
Technology Matters

NETMundial, the global multi-stakeholder meeting on the future of Internet governance, concluded recently in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The non-binding outcome of the meeting stressed on the protection of intermediaries, and called for greater co-operation “among all stakeholders” but fell short of the expectations of some on key issues like net neutrality.


Dubbed the “world cup of Internet governance” a total, 1,480 participants from all stakeholder groups were physically present at NetMundial. There were joined by remote participants in more than 30 hubs from 97 countries around the world. The gathering focused on the elaboration of principles and a roadmap for future development of the complex Internet Governance ecosystem. 


NETmundial had the ambitious goal of bringing together representatives of civil society, private sector, academia and technical community to establish strategic guidelines related to the use and development of the Internet in the world. The meeting took a committees format, each one with representatives of the involved stakeholders; distinguished experts aiming to give guidelines and organise the meeting.


The conference was first proposed by Brazil President Dilma Rousseff, against the backdrop of the revelations by Edward Snowden that the US’s National Security Agency had been spying on its own citizens and other countries alike, including the personal communication of President Rousseff. Documents released by Snowden had alleged that Internet companies like Facebook and Google had given the NSA real-time access to content on their servers.


In a heated statement at the UN General Assembly in September 2013, the Brazilian president called for the UN to oversee a new global legal system to govern the Internet. Rousseff's statements were unequivocal: “In the absence of the right to privacy, there can be no true freedom of expression and opinion, and therefore no effective democracy” and “Tampering in such a manner in the affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and is an affront of the principles that must guide the relations among them, especially among friendly nations. The right to safety of citizens of one country can never be guaranteed by violating fundamental human rights of citizens of another country.”


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