"Free cultures – Free Internet"

By EDRi · July 19, 2006

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

This was the motto of a Swiss symposium on Internet Governance held on 7
July at ETH Zurich. Inspired by the international efforts of convening an
Internet Governance Forum (IGF) the symposium in Zurich was co-organized by
ETH Zurich, a leading Swiss technical university and SWITCH, a Swiss
non-profit ISP which has been established by the Swiss Confederation and
eight university cantons, and which primarily serves academic institutions.
The conference was supported also by many civil liberties organizations
including EDRI-member Swiss Internet User Group (SIUG).

After a welcome address by Professor Bernhard Plattner (who had been in
charge of the Swiss country-code TLD ch. during the pioneer phase of the
Internet in Switzerland, until he passed the responsibility on to SWITCH),
the Executive Coordinator of the IGF Secretariat, Mr Markus Kummer, spoke
about what the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) “is and what it could be”.

Mr Kummer described the beginning of a multistakeholder public-policy
dialogue as a result of WSIS, the World Summit on Information Society. He
said that “WSIS brought together two worlds”, on the one hand the “world of
governments” and on the other hand the Internet community, the private
sector and civil society. There has been “recognition on both sides that
there is merit in talking to each other and discuss public policy issues.”
Consequently, WSIS has invited UN Secretary-General to convene a new forum
for multi-stakeholder policy dialogue – the IGF. There are widely divergent
expectations of what the IGF should be, although it is clear that the IGF is
not a new organization, it is not a decision-making body and there is no
defined membership. For the first IGF Meeting in Autumn in Athens, the
“Internet Governance for Development” has been chosen as overall theme with
four broad topical areas that will be discussed: openness, security,
diversity and access. In closing, Mr Kummer pointed out that international
coordination does not work without coordination at the national level.
Multi-stakeholder dialogue at the national level is therefore one
prerequisite for success of the IGF.

Afterwards Jakob Lindenmeyer of ETH Zurich and Design for All presented an
example of how multistakeholder processes can lead to concrete results in
the area of eInclusion – avoiding barriers in websites that prevent many
elderly people and people with disabilities from accessing website content
and functionality.

Following that, there were three presentations on the perspectives about the
IGF of the three major stakeholder groups. Lynn St. Amour of ISOC spoke
about the perspective of ISOC and the private sector. Thomas Schneider from
BAKOM (the Swiss government office dealing with matters of communication)
represented the perspective of the Swiss government. Wolf Ludwig of
comunica-ch.net represented civil society and emphasized the strong contrast
during the WSIS process between those areas where civil society was
effectively excluded from the discussions (and although civil society
provided inputs, these were ignored and had no impact) and the Working Group
on Internet Governance which was a true multistakeholder process in which
civil society was able to fully participate.

After all these talks about the IGF as a whole, an attempt was made to hold
panel discussions on two issues. The first of these topics was the
regulation of privacy and security concerning RFID, mobile telephones and
wireless communication in general. The second topic was related to the
planned revision of Swiss copyright law; Should copying be freely permitted,
or should there be strict rules and punishments? Unfortunately, after the
various positions had been presented, there was not enough time for a real

However a genuine discussion took place during the last item of the
programme, when a good number of people who were interested in discussing a
possible IGF contribution of Swiss civil society met and decided to work out
a text proposing Internet Quality Labels, e.g. for Website Design which
would satisfies eInclusion standards, or for Internet Service Providers. The
proposal could be an innovative Swiss civil society contribution to the IGF
in Autumn, because it reflects a multistakeholder approach; the proposed
Internet Quality Labels are not just an instrument of self-regulation (under
the control of the private sector) but they should rather be administrated
in a manner which would give equal weight to the perspectives of all three
major stakeholder groups: governments, private sector and civil society.
While the IGF is not a conference that could make decisions about Internet
Quality Labels or any other topics, the IGF brings together a great
diversity of stakeholders, a good number of which might be interested in
working together on this idea.

Slides and video streams from the Conference “Free cultures – Free Internet”
(only in German, 7.07.2006)

Draft “Internet Quality Labels” (only in German)

Internet Governance Forum

(Contribution by Norbert Bollow – EDRi -member Swiss Internet User Group