Re-cap of the e-G8

May 27, 2011

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Categories: News and Announcements, Old News


This week the G8’s French presidency hosted the first e-G8 summit which brought digital leaders to the table with the G8 leaders where they discussed the future of the Web (see last week’s IWM blogpost where we laid out civil society concerns leading up to the summit). Plenary topics included “The Internet & Economic Growth,” “The Internet & Society,” “Future Net: What’s Next?” and “Intellectual Property and the Culture Economy in the Digital Age,” Fostering Innovation:How to build the future,” and “Digital Transformation: Reinventing traditional businesses,” followed by a number of workshops.

The e-G8 can be summarized by intra-government differences, intra-industry differences, and deep divisions between governments and industry. This is reflected in the final G8 Deauville communiquewhere as Reuters points out—the section on the Internet failed to produce any specific and concrete proposals for policies.

Concerns over intellectual property rights remained unsolved at the International level. At the summit, Rupert Murdoch—the billionaire exec at News Corporation—argued, “We hope that the G8 will strongly affirm that the property rights of artists and creators are more than just a matter of protecting cultures.” The G8 governments renewed their “commitment to ensuring effective action against violations of intellectual property rights in the digital arena, including action that addresses present and future infringements.” However, the commitment did not include any international commitments, and the final communique largely left this area in the hands of national governments.

The biggest division that was revealed at the e-G8 was the one between governments that wanted more regulation for the Internet, and Eric Schmidt of Google who stated on a panel that, “You want to tread lightly on regulating brand new, innovative industries.” He added, “Clearly you need some level of regulation for the evil stuff. But I would be careful about over-regulating the Internet,” and that “I cannot imagine any delegate in this conference that would want Internet growth to be significantly slowed by a government that slows it down because of some stupid rule that they put in place.”

In the Internet Governance Project’s blog post “The G8: A Declaration of the Dependence of Cyberspace,” written just prior to the eG8 meeting, Milton Mueller predicted that “You can be sure that this Summit will focus more on how to control unruly users and protect vested interests than on issues such as online censorship and surveillance, developing new growth potential through disruptive innovation or protecting the security and civil liberties of ordinary users.” Indeed, these concerns were not addressed in the final communique. Although the communique stated that, “Freedom of opinion, expression, information, assembly and association must be safeguarded on the Internet as elsewhere,” the communique also states that, “Arbitrary or indiscriminate censorship or restrictions on access to the Internet are inconsistent with States’ international obligations and are clearly unacceptable,” thus leaving room for online restrictions as determined acceptable by governments (for instance, justifying the US IP Protect Act which proposes the use of DNS blocking to prevent domestic access to sites infringing on intellectual property—something which Google’s Schmidt cautioned as setting a bad precedent and something which Anonymous protested against this week vis-a-vis a DDoS attack on the US Chamber of Congress).

On the question of privacy, the G8 called for greater protection of personal data and individual privacy on the Internet—however, this point failed to address issues of surveillance or lawful data access.

Amid the e-G8 summit, Ronald Deibert put forth a cyberspace policy proposal for Canada to consider. Deibert suggests that, “It is unlikely that such an ambitious agenda will emerge from Canada to influence this year’s meeting of the G8. But hopefully the meeting will set in motion a process of urgent reflection on the scope of the challenges that lay ahead.” For Deibert, it is hoped that such an agenda would focus around building a secure and open cyber commons, with rules focused around the promotion of norms of mutual restraint in cyberspace, protections for privacy and civil liberties, joint vigilance against cyber crime networks, and respect for the free flow of information, as opposed to a closed domain defined by controls and a dilution of civil liberties.

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