[discuss] Key point -- different contexts

Seth Johnson seth.p.johnson at gmail.com
Tue Jan 7 15:18:20 UTC 2014

(Just reposting with its own subject line, as a basic, critical consideration)

On Tue, Jan 7, 2014 at 8:55 AM, Adam Peake <ajp at glocom.ac.jp> wrote:
> On Jan 7, 2014, at 8:59 AM, Andrew Sullivan wrote:
>> 2.  On the meaning of Internet governance
>>    "Internet governance" is an enormous topic that links together
>>    diverse topics, which may not in themselves obviously fit in the
>>    same discussion.  What links them is the technical impingement of
>>    the Internet upon them.  To those who are technically minded, this
>>    may seem to be a hodgepodge category, because it is plain that
>>    the technical implications of (say) international trade in child
>>    pornography and (say) the details of how ranges of addresses are
>>    allocated to RIRs are at best distantly related.

I think it important to incorporate specific stipulation that a
supposedly clear distinction between "more technical" and "other"
categories of issues can't be treated as tenable.

It's more useful to recognize that "more technical" discussions can
proceed more effectively within a certain type of context, while
international fora inherently place governments in a role where many
issues are addressed in a very different way.

That's aside from the usual point that policy and technical means are
inextricably linked.

(There's a world of difference between a context where governments are
accountable to fundamental liberties because their people set up
limits in a founding act, and a context where fundamental liberties
are only expressed in the form of treaties among governments.  The
biggest problem is dealing with the second, where we aren't in a
position to tell governments to just stop trampling on our ability to
just work things out.  In the first, we hardly had to think about it
-- governments are always aware that they are subject to powerful
recourse if they step in.  In the second, we're dealing with the
creation of frameworks that don't work that way.)


>>  Nevertheless, if
>>    only by virtue of these topics having been treated under the same
>>    rubric for some time, it is necessary to engage across all these
>>    issues.  At the same time, it is beneficial to make clear,
>>    well-delineated distinctions as we go, in order not to muddle
>>    topics that can properly be treated distinctly.  By way of
>>    analogy, local schools and the department of national defence may
>>    both be "government activities", but they are plainly different
>>    divisions.
>>    Governance need not entail a new overarching role for governments,
>>    and the thing to be governed need not be controversial.
> During a session at the Bali IGF about the role of governments one of the govt speakers (might have been Brazil) noted that once governments can see a process operating in a transparent and predictable manner, following agreed standards/rules etc, they may not ask for any role other than to know that the function is being carried out correctly and consistently.  Worth considering as we think about new models.
> Adam
>>  For
>>    instance, the mere fact of decision-making about IP address
>>    allocations to RIRs is a kind of governance.  It is small and it
>>    really only needs some reasonably fair if possibly arbitrary
>>    convention to which everyone can subscribe.  This is not like a
>>    large and controversial topic (such as, say, child protection on
>>    the Internet), which may also involve a kind of "governance".
>>    Many of these simpler cases may in fact ne adequately governed
>>    already, and the main need may be to communicate what that
>>    governance is and show it is adequate.  Of course, in such
>>    discussions, we may discover that such governance actually is
>>    inadequate after all.
>> 3.  On the need for this exploration
>>    There are three reasons that existing forums and institutions are
>>    inadequate to the purposes of our activity.  One is that it is
>>    nearly impossible for someone unfamiliar with the various topics
>>    to learn how they relate to each other or even where a given topic
>>    may already be treated.  We can function as a clearing house for
>>    such questions, hooking interested parties into existing
>>    structures that already treat the issue of interest.
>>    A second is that trust in both the technology and in the good
>>    faith of existing institutions has been shaken by some reported
>>    actions in recent history.  Only by facing such behaviour and
>>    discussing what can be done can any trust be restored.  When
>>    facing those facts, we must acknowledge that the answer might be,
>>    "Nothing can be done.  To make this better would require that no
>>    bad people exist, that perfect knowledge was universal, and that
>>    sovereign states will have to give up chunks of sovereignty."  It
>>    is the discussion in an open forum of many actors that is at least
>>    as important as the outcome.
>>    A third is that everyone acknowledges that there have been "orphan
>>    issues" even in the narrowest meaning of Internet governance.
>>    This activity provides an opportunity to uncover these gaps and
>>    either identify where those orphans fit, or to identify new
>>    institutions that should be created.
>>    In general, we could say that our activity functions as a
>>    facilitator for the "tussle" necessary for continued global
>>    scaling of the Internet, without the creation of global or local
>>    hegemons, and in service of the minimization of any perceived
>>    existing threat from hegemony.  In the end, we hope to converge on
>>    something that most people, including people of very different
>>    backgrounds and interests, will agree is legitimate even if
>>    imperfect.  We do not seek merely something that is effective.  We
>>    do not aspire to universal happiness, but we do aspire to wide
>>    acceptance across different types of interests and experiences.
>> Acknowledgements
>>    I particularly want to thank Brian Carpenter, John Curran, Avri
>>    Doria, Jeremy Malcolm, Milton Mueller, Suzanne Woolf, and some
>>    people who contacted me only off-list (and who, I therefore
>>    assume, don't want to be associated with the public debate) for
>>    detailed remarks that helped inform my thinking.
>> Best regards,
>> A
>> --
>> Andrew Sullivan
>> ajs at anvilwalrusden.com
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