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Internet Governance 26 February 2018

Kathy Brown’s Remarks at the Global Internet & Jurisdiction Conference’s Opening Session

Thank you to Bertrand and Paul for the invitation to participate at this important Conference. Internet & Jurisdiction – I&J has demonstrated the commitment, perseverance and tenacity needed to develop a new approach for cross-border decision-making on the Internet. It is my sincere hope that, with all the work that has preceded this conference, we will see the breakthrough this week that is required in these complex times.

Indeed, these are complex times. And, in the Internet space, complexity is our strength and it is our challenge.

From the beginning of the world’s discussion about governance on the Internet, there has been an intuitive understanding that the very nature of the Internet—a voluntary network of networks that is agnostic to sovereign borders and allows its users to create and operate without central control—required new “governance” mechanisms. As the trans-global Internet has grown and evolved, it has delivered on the promise of an era of knowledge expansion, innovation and economic growth. But it has also presented the world with perplexing choices in how to ensure that human beings remain in control of their inherently social destiny while the technology moves at a breathtaking pace.

In the 2005 book The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman described the desired outcome of “globalization” (at the time, not the verboten word it has become)—primarily driven by the forces unleashed by the Internet: equal opportunity for everyone, everywhere to compete for the future without regard to borders or old regulatory barriers. Eleven years later, in a book I recommend highly, Thank You for Being Late, Friedman looks back on his earlier thinking and admits that, with all that opportunity came complexity which we should have anticipated and for which we were unprepared. We now face enormous challenges as the pace of change has accelerated faster than did our human institutions, societal and existing global agreements.

Many of our governments, despite their commitment to a different model, are doubling down on what they know how to do – shut it down, shut it off, censor users, regulate creators. The global Internet community, itself, is in danger of splintering into predictable commercial, social and geopolitical camps and user trust is being lost by bad actors exploiting the very vulnerabilities that we understood but failed to adequately address.

Thus, we face the crisis that Vint [Cerf] just delineated. The World Has Changed but our governing approaches, despite years of our promotion of multistakeholder processes, have not.

Last year as part of ISOC’s Global Internet Report, we asked thousands of people in our global Internet community about their expectations for the future of the Internet. We found there are clear divisions when people talk about their expectations. While their hopes remain inspiring, their fears are very real.

We heard that while the Internet allows unprecedented opportunity for individual choice and social and economic growth:

There is growing loss of trust in the Internet – fear that it is becoming a Trojan horse for fraud, abuse and crime;

The core infrastructure of the Internet needs protection against attacks, cyber threats, and that personal safety and security is at risk.

The explosion of connected devices is putting users’ privacy and security in the spotlight.

More than 40% of the world’s people are not connected, and they are being left behind as the opportunities advance. And this isn’t just a developing world challenge – indigenous communities in Canada and the U.S. also still struggle with access.

So, how do we address these social anxieties, legitimate government concerns and economic realities? Keep doing what we are doing or develop new approaches that can facilitate decision-making on a local, regional and global scale that will keep pace with the changing world in which we find ourselves?

It has been the consistent, value-based position of this community that decision-making in a complex world, in an Internet world, must be collaborative, inclusive, transparent and multi-stakeholder. And that is for good reason. In complex ecosystems, norms need to be set by diverse communities, serving diverse needs and must be designed to be good for the whole. Processes must be flexible and decision-making must be collaborative and agile. This is not utopian theory; current top down governmental efforts at control, self serving business models, unilateral security communiques will not be successful. New models are required and we must act now.

That is why the work Bertrand [de La Chapelle] is leading here is crucial and urgent. Cross border cooperation for enforcement of agreed upon norms is a must. The alternative approach – just shut the borders – is not.

The Internet Society, consistent with I & J’s work, is also stepping up. Through our Multistakeholder in Action initiative and our newly announced Collaborative Governance Project, we are calling on governments to reform their processes, and we are gearing up under Larry’s leadership, to facilitate communities that are ready to use the Multistakeholder approach to do so. We are committed to training, convening and studying the efficacy of these process for pressing issues, particularly those involving approaches to security. We envision a world where collaborative processes are the norm, not the exception for reaching norms and agreements in the Internet space.

And, the Canadian government is taking immediate action in committing to Multistakeholder participation in the G7 meeting they are hosting this year. Canada is also taking the lead to convene necessary stakeholders to address privacy and security challenges around the exploding Internet of Things. Indeed, we are pleased that the Canadian government has asked the Internet Society and several industry leaders in Canada to convene a multistakeholder process to develop an IoT framework by the end of the year.

[NOTE: Partners include ISOC, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registry Authority), CANARIE, CIPPIC (Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic), and ISED (Innovation, Science, and Economic Development – Gov’t of Canada].

Finally, we should applaud many in this room, Netmundial established the equal footing principle which remind us that all stakeholders have an equal and legitimate interest in participation. Also want to acknowledge CIGI, Wolfgang, Anriette, and all who have been studying and modeling various approaches that hold promise.

But now is the time to take all of our learning and get moving with doing. The challenge we face is to keep people at the very heart of the Internet. To achieve this, we ask Canada and like-minded governments to reform their processes; for the industry players to step up and sincerely and authentically participate in collaborate policy development and enforcement processes, as well as civil society and we – the technical community to do the same.

If we want to ensure that the Internet remains open, globally connected and trustworthy – available to all everywhere, the believers in this room need to act and we need to convince others to do the same.

Thanks, Bertrand, for leading the way this week.

Thank you.

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