“Who sets the rules for the Internet?” – over 500 people – representatives from civil society, businesses, governments, parliaments, and international organizations tried to answer this central theme of 5′ EuroDIG conference – European Dialogue on the Internet Governance. This conference took place in the middle of June, in Stockholm, the one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and in a country which definitely fights for an open, global and secure Internet now and in the future.
Why did so many people gathered in one place and discussed the Internet?
Over 2 billion people are now online, nearly a third of the humankind, 325 billion web sites, 100,000 tweets per second, and 48 hours of video clips uploaded to YouTube every minute. New technologies have changed the way of thinking and acting, we do it more freely and actively. People’s communication and connection nowadays has expanded. The Internet has made the world hyper-connected. Moreover, people operate web sites rather than offices. They would rather have followers than staff – esp. journalists and political activists. Let’s take an example of “Arab spring” – it’s amazing! By using the social networks sites, like Facebook, Twitter, also YouTube, political activists organized and publicized the unprecedented protests that gave rise to the so-called Arab Spring. Result: longtime governments in Egypt and Tunisia felt, regimes in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain collided with the opposition, and leaders in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE offered more benefits to their population. People see the Internet as a synonym of Freedom but, on another hand, there are threats to the security – unique cyber attacks against the private sector, governments, civil society, political or position grouuniqueps (e.g. 2011 England Riots where BBM and Twitter were actively used to organize their activities, protests, but this time the effect was terrifying because of brutal characteristics). Threat to our privacy – our digital footprint could be misused (Mr. Schrems, an Austrian law student has led a vocal campaign in Europe against what he maintains are Facebook’s illegal practices of collecting and marketing users’ personal data, often without consent.). So with freedom comes responsibility. We cannot ignore the dark side of the Internet. That’s why we all need to work together to keep the Internet free, open and, at the same time, safe place to be on. And this was exactly the aim of the 5′ EuroDIG conference.
At EuroDIG, there were large number of stakeholders from all over Europe, as well as the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the European Broadcasting Union. This year, the Youth (NMSS and The Nordic Youth Delegation) were also actively represented, proving to be also one of the proper stakeholders on the Internet. Why? Because the Youth is the future and the Internet is the future, too. We are grown up online, we have got e-skills more than anyone else has got and we are a part of the Internet, as well the Internet is a part of our life. And we should be one of the stakeholders when it comes to IG, because it’s all about our future.
Our goal was to bring the voice of the Youth there – saying that the Internet for us is and will/should be free because the “Internet was created to be a forum of freedom” and not to let policy-makers change it without us. We used all given possibilities – speaking from the floor, twitting hyper-actively, making interviews (videos available on YouTube Channel), etc. At EuroDIG, the Nordic Youth Forum represented a four minute film saying what they think and want regarding the Internet. On the stage there were also some speakers who supported the youth interests and bridged the gap among young people and (other) stakeholders and policy-makers.
The issues of multi-stakeholder model of the Internet were discussed at the opening panel. Some people, like Anna-Karin Hatt and Neelie Kroes, supported this idea by adding that young people should be heard and involved in the policy making. On the top of that, maybe young people should educate older generations on the Internet (including policy-makers and etc.) and improving their e-skills? It was actually the topic of opening panel: How do we get European citizens, governments and economies fit for the digital age?
One of the “hot” topics during the EuroDIG was the copyright issue – “Intellectual property rights in the digital environment”, the conflict among Internet users, artists, and creators’ interests (esp. the issue of their compensation). The matter is, if we need a whole new concept of copyright or maybe it’s good as it is, as also Anna Wesslau committed. From my point of view, the issue of “is copyright a theft?” is still not closed because, on the one hand, we have people who say file sharing is illegal because it’s simply against IPR, and if online piracy and counterfeiting go on then, how do we protect what we create? And, on another hand, we have people (mostly young people) insisting that it’s how we expend a culture, and make no worries about compensation – “the people who borrow more books in libraries are also the people who buy more books. The more you have access to culture, the more you love it. The more culture is important, the more you spend for culture.” Jérémie Zimmermann.
The dialogue also shaped other important topics such as online privacy, users protection/safety (esp. kids safety), open access, cybercrime and etc. (if interested visit www.eurodig.org). We also discussed a lot the future of the Internet by saying that we should keep balancing of opposite sides: young people and older generation interests; int. users and artists, creators, producers; safety and privacy; and above all between free Internet and protection of fundamental human rights.
To conclude this article, I would like to say, the more young people will be involved on the Internet (IG) issues, the better future the Youth will get. So update yourself and get involved online, as well as offline.
Ana Kakalashvili (Georgian Young Greens)