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Preserving Free Speech and Free Commerce on the Internet

The Future of Internet Governance

Speakers: Lynn St. Amour, President and CEO, Internet Matters; Former President and CEO, Internet Society
Adam Segal, Maurice R. Greenberg Senior Fellow for China Studies and Project Directer of CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force, Defending an Open, Global, Secure, and Resilient Internet, Council on Foreign Relations
Daniel Sepulveda, Deputy Assistant Secretary and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Presider: Catherine Lotrionte, Associate Director, Institute for International Law & Politics, Georgetown University
May 15, 2014

Event Description

Lynn St. Amour of Internet Matters, CFR's Adam Segal, and Daniel Sepulveda from the State Department join Georgetown University's Catherine Lotrionte to discuss the future of internet governance. The panelists describe the current decentralized, bottom-up governance regime and explain why it is the best way to prevent government censorship and ensure free speech and free trade on the internet. They also stress that outreach efforts are needed to include more voices from the developing world in the internet governance process.

Event Highlights

Adam Segal on the efforts by some governments to control internet traffic:

"Every government around the world now is reasserting its sovereignty over the internet. That is a trend almost across the board no matter what type of regime we're talking about, right? It's not just authoritarian states, but as we saw in Turkey over the last several months, even multi-ethnic, multi-party democracies are seeing reasons for intervening into the internet to control flows of information. And so what before was considered a kind of relatively unregulated space is now increasingly contested for economic, political and strategic regions."

Daniel Sepulveda on the ITU's attempt to expand its regulatory reach to the internet:

"In 2012 there was a major conference in Dubai of the International Telecommunications Union to construct the international telecommunications regulations update. And there was a move to inject some aspects of internet governance into that conversation. And as a result, the United States and 54 other governments voted against, 89 governments voted for it. Our challenge since then has been to go to countries with whom we share values, like Brazil, like Mexico, and others, and say, look, the best mechanism by which to further these shared values, freedom of association, freedom of expression, freedom of commerce, is to work together with the multistakeholder system to make it more democratic and inclusive. It's not to concentrate power in the hands of 193 governments in Geneva."

Lynn St. Amour on the recently concluded NETmundial conference:

"You know, the internet community was very pleasantly surprised with how NetMundial came out. Frankly there was some concern when it was first mooted. It was a very tight time table. Some of the countries that were active in that area don't necessarily consistently share our values. So we came out of this, those who believe in an open global internet and multistakeholder open processes, very well and probably as well as we could. Everybody there affirmed human rights. They certainly affirmed multistakeholder internet governance. There was a lot of common positions that were taken for granted, and the debates were more around the phrasing and the terminology."


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