RightsCon 2016: Debrief of the panel “Ensuring Users’ Rights are part of Internet Governance Debates”

Quick points from the “Ensuring Users’ Rights are part of Internet Governance Debates” panel:

“The Internet policy world seems to want to stay exclusive. For instance, they use a lot of acronyms. And the same people show up to these conferences year after year. Next year, when you sign up, you should have to bring a friend too.”

My solution?
Buy one ticket get one free 😉

The panelists were:

Andrew Puddephatt, the Director of global partners digital, said that it was absolutely necessary for engineers to be involved in order to ensure that users’ rights are protected.

Adam Peake, civil society engagement, ICANN, noted that it was the Internet activists decades ago who ensured that users online could be anonymous. There was a time when that policy was not a given.

Karen Rose of the Internet Society spelled it out: people seem to not want to admit they don’t know something. Too paraphrase the rest: that’s a problem.

Farzaneh Badiei, Associate Researcher, Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society, also spoke on the panel.

To Begin

One question was: “Any concerns that transferring control from US-based NTIA will open up the Internet to more human rights threats?

Answer: “The panel as a whole responded that ICANN actually only makes 5% or so of the decisions with regards to Internet policy. The battle at issue is more against countries’ desire to nationalize their Internet. As one panelist stated: ‘ICANN is a side show'”

Which Comes First, Innovation or Law?

One issue addressed: Is it appropriate to “build the technology and let the law catch up”? Is that supportive or combative of human rights?

One developer argued that that’s exactly what needs to be done – simply push innovation, and let the law catch up.

But a member of the panel rebuffed that argument, asserting that “engineers have a certain hubris, and they need to shed that hubris.” The panel as whole stated that there need to be protections and regulations online, and the engineers need to be part of creating it.

This Isn’t The Wild, Wild West Anymore

One question addressed the complete lack of “online dispute resolution”, a subject which Farzaneh Badiei studied in connection with her dissertation.

I think at some point there will be some contractual version where we can use online dispute resolution.- Farzaneh Badiei

Ms. Badiei noted that arbitration has caught on as being incredibly useful, and that there’s no reason to believe that online dispute resolution wouldn’t work just as well.

What is the Internet these days?

One question reminded the audience that there is only a small handful of people who might even have the knowledge set to make Internet policy decisions. The definition of the Internet itself, or peoples’ expectations of it, rapidly change and policies need to mirror, or, alternatively, curb those expectations on purpose.

It was noted that there are too few people who understand all of the critical intersecting issues necessary for effective Internet advocacy. The moderator asked how the audience/panelists could get engineers to know the difference between the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

I proposed (in my mind, not outloud): send them to law school, register them for Professor Greene’s class. You know, like I did. lol.

The moderator shared that, in Finland – there’s a right to broadband. What’s next???

My “Lawyer Side” Perked Up At This Issue: Is the IoT going to redefine the Internet as ‘passive’?

One panelist noted that many people now think of “the Internet” as the “Internet of Things”, which is passive, rather than active digital interaction. You know what that sounds like to me? Ahem, get ready for a case citation: Restaurant Corp. v. King, 126 F.3d 25. That would be a seriously bad thing for jurisdiction over online disputes. If you don’t know why it’s important whether a website is “active” or “passive”, you can get the jist here: Bensusan Restaurant Corp. v. King

Ok, time for the next conference session. Got any questions? Tweet to me @lmmharriman!

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