In snowy, cold mid-December, my colleagues and I found ourselves in Geneva, Switzerland attending the 12th annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF), a United Nations-sponsored global multi-stakeholder forum on internet governance. This was the second time CIPE attended the conference (read a recap of last year’s forum), and we were very busy at this year’s forum. Over 1,000 attendees representing governments, the private sector, civil society, and media gathered to discuss the current state of the internet, and what the future holds.
Over the course of four days, sessions covered trending issues like cybersecurity, data privacy, emerging technologies (Internet of Things, blockchain, artificial intelligence, fintech), digital economy, and the challenges of tech and human rights. Above all, many of the sessions highlighted the need to keep or make the internet more inclusive and reflective of our rich cultures and societies. CIPE and its sister organizations, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA), articulated exactly this point throughout the conference.
For the past year, CIPE, NDI, and CIMA have been leading a joint initiative to identify and promote internet norms and principles essential to democratic governance. To empower citizens to know how their fundamental rights to speech, assembly, and association apply in the digital world, we crowdsourced from our partners and created a framework for internet openness, A Democratic Framework to Interpret Open Internet Principles.
At the IGF, we officially launched the principles, as well as led several sessions relating to the intersection of democracy and open internet:
- CIPE sat down with members of the Open Internet Community to discuss their contributions to the Open Internet Principles;
- CIPE, NDI, and CIMA co-hosted a panel titled The Distributed Denial of Democracy: Threats to Democratic Processes Online to discuss the challenges that media, civil society, government, and private sector are currently facing to keep the internet open;
- NDI hosted Fake News, AI Trolls & Disinformation: How Can the Internet Community Deal with Poison in the System?, discussing how to support open and inclusive online dialogues when disruptions like fake news and disinformation are taking over the internet;
- NDI’s gender team also hosted Combating Online Violence Against Politically-Active Women, highlighting how women who are public figures face gender-based violence online across the globe.
Ensuring that the internet remains both open and accessible is necessary to strengthen democratic engagement, enable equal participation in the market economy, and promote social accountability. We delivered this message at IGF 2017 to a multi-stakeholder audience, and CIPE and our partners will continue our work in 2018 to bolster the linkage between democracy, freedom of expression online, and internet openness.
Maiko Nakagaki is a Program Officer for Global Programs at the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE).