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<nettime> FW: The Internet Social Forum and the "Global Internet Communi
Michael Gurstein on Mon, 20 Apr 2015 02:06:43 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> FW: The Internet Social Forum and the "Global Internet Community?"

A version of the below complete with the many links can be found at 




An initiative towards an Internet Social Forum (ISF) with a close
association to the World Social Forum ?(WSF) was recently launched by a
number of Civil Society (CS) organization at the WSF in Tunis. This specific
initiative comes out of a continuing history of discussions and initiatives
in the area of Global Internet Governance as flowing from the World Summit
of the Information Society.? This World Summit had two major outcomes?one a
continuing if rather ineffectual set of processes concerned overall with the
use of Information and Communications Technologies in support of Economic
and Social Development. This which will reach some sort of culmination at a
global summit (WSIS + 10) later in 2015. 

A second outcome and a rather more consequential set of activities concerns
the way in which the global Internet would or would not be subject to some
form of global ?governance? intervention and particularly in support of the
broad public interest.

I won?t go into the extremely lengthy and somewhat convoluted history of the
?governance? outcome of the WSIS except to say that the formal element of
this outcome by means of what is known as the Internet Governance Forum has
adopted as its (effectively) compulsory mode of operation and as its anchor
framing and normative concept the notion of ?Multistakeholderism? (MSism).

MSism is understood by its proponents as being the necessary mode for the
on-going ?governance? of the Internet in all of its various aspects
including technical areas (where the notion has very considerable validity)
but also including public policy areas where there is a clear attempt to
substitute MSism and the highly determining role of the corporate sector as
partner ?stakeholders? as a substitute for democratic governance.? 

There is also clear evidence to suggest the intention by global elites to
build on the ?success? of MSism in the Internet area as a pilot and model
for imposing this as the preferred institutional mode in in broader areas of
global governance. There has been very considerable discussion and critique
of this approach most particularly pointing to its fundamental basis in
introducing a neo-liberal governance model into the very core of the
Internet and more particularly the only partially disguised attempt to
substitute ?multistakeholder? governance for democratic governance as the
fundamental approach to governance in the Internet age.

A notable and somewhat bizarre feature of the Internet Governance stream of
activities is the degree to which many self-described Civil Society
individuals and organizations are active supporters of the multistakeholder
governance models and the current Internet Governance status quo with its
dominance by the US and its national and corporate allies.? This has been
partially explained (and justified) by pointing to the successes that have
been achieved using the MS model in the inclusion of Human Rights and
particularly rights of free expression and association as elements in
broader Internet Governance activities and norm setting.? While to a degree
this is correct it should also be noted that there is strong support for
these ?Rights? from such well known global defenders of Civil Society values
as the US State Department for whom support for ?Internet Freedom?
(understood as ?Freedom of speech on the Internet?) is both a strategic and
a tactical tool in its quest for geo-political, economic and
security/surveillance global dominance.? 

Equally while there has been considerable success in implanting strong
support for Rights of free expression and association in various Internet
Governance normative documents it is worth pointing out that among the
strongest supporters of these have been various Internet giants such as
Google and Facebook for whom these rights are central elements of their
business model.? Notably there has been no similar CS successes resulting
from ?Multistakeholder collaboration? in areas such as making Intellectual
Property rights or draconian Copyright rules to be more reflective of a
broad public interest. 

What is equally notable is that these Civil Society supporters of the MS
governance model have chosen to ignore or even actively suppress other areas
of Human Rights concerns notably those supportive of Social Equity and
Social Justice ?which of course, and again purely coincidentally are not of
any particular interest to the other partners in the various
Multistakeholder collaborative structures which are being actively pursued.
?The overall consequence of the above is that those from Civil Society who
have a concern for democracy and social justice as constituent elements of
Internet Governance and an Internet Governance global system have had to
struggle initially and directly with those elements of Civil Society (and
their supporters for example, in certain otherwise pro-CS governments) who
have chosen to align themselves with the Multistakeholder governance model
and its corporate and governmental proponents among the currently dominant
actors in Global Internet Governance. 

It is perhaps not again purely coincidental that among those most actively
supportive of the current global Internet Governance status quo are those
most directly benefiting from ubiquitous Internet based surveillance, the
full frontal attack on privacy, the massive schemes for tax avoidance by the
Internet giants and the uncontrolled stampede towards zero hour contracting,
the "sharing" economy, and the Internet enabled acceleration in the
concentration of wealth and power in fewer and fewer hands.

A more recent development in the area of global Internet Governance has been
NetMundial (NM) a global multistakeholder event sponsored by the Government
of Brazil and ICANN, a major global player in the technical aspects of
Internet governance. This was directly precipitated by the Snowden
revelations particularly those concerning surveillance of Pres. Rousseff of
Brazil herself. Strangely the NM event completely avoided addressing even
indirectly, surveillance issues and perhaps even more notably from a CS (and
Brazilian) perspective failed to address or include any issues or matters of
concern for Internet and Social Justice or even ICT for Development.? 

An immediate follow-on from the NM event has been a World Economic Forum
(Davos), ICANN and Brazil (CGI.br) sponsored NetMundial Initiative (NMI)
which, while still in the process of self-definition, is directed towards
carrying on and deepening through practice and research the Multistakeholder
governance legacy of the original NM event.? Among the active partners in
this with the World Economic Forum and ICANN have been the Government of
Brazil and the erstwhile progressive CS advocate, Association for
Progressive Communications (APC) along with a limited number of other ?civil
society? organizations.

The Coordination Committee of the NetMundial Initiative recently met; and
listening remotely, I was moved to write a blogpost concerning what appears
to be the keystone normative concept behind the NMI and ?ultimately that of
Multistakeholderism overall?the notion of a ?Global Internet Community?. 

The blogpost 
asks the question Is there A Global Internet Community? (and what are the
implications of a fundamental belief in the existence of this entity for the
development of the democratic governance of the Internet and as a tool
supportive of social equity and social justice).

Mike Gurstein

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