Sarah Lianne Clayton
Master’s student, University of Leeds, UK
The New Media Summer School: The Web of Tomorrow is Yours! Youth Think Thank on Internet Governance and EuroDIG, Stockholm June 2012.
The youth voice has traditionally been absent in internet governance discussions and yet young people are important stakeholders in the internet governance debate because we use technology in different ways to the older generations.
For instance, we are accustomed to consuming news in 140 character strings and using modern technology to take multitasking to a new level by simultaneously checking emails, tweets, status updates, streaming/downloading content etc. Additionally young people are the largest online user group and amongst their number are future leaders who can shape the internet’s continued development.
The summer school attracted a healthy mix of young people from all over Europe from various backgrounds; some having a vast knowledge of internet governance issues and others for which the subject was relatively new. The event provided a wonderful opportunity for me to learn from others and to contribute knowledge from my own background in Cyberlaw. Moreover, the summer school provided a great introduction for what was to come at the EuroDIG conference scheduled for later that week.
A mixture of backgrounds
I have never been to such a massive conference with so many participants from all over the world from diverse cultural and occupational backgrounds. The inclusiveness of all stakeholders was clear to see. There was an extensive range of plenary sessions and workshops to attend covering all aspects of the information society, from cybercrime to child protection.
The fruitful discussions were recorded using real time transcription services; something that I had never witnessed before. Furthermore remote participation was encouraged through streaming online videos and transcriptions of the event in real time. Questions were encouraged and moderators in each session intervened in the discussions ensuring that contributions and queries from the remote participants were included. This illustrated the organisers’ recognition of the need for complete inclusiveness from all perspectives and geographical locations into the internet governance debate.
On the first day I attended sessions about the inclusive society, intellectual property (IP) rights and child protection. Additionally, all youth participants attended a session featuring Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe.
I particularly enjoyed the IP session as the thesis I am currently writing for my university degree focuses on IP, human rights and access to knowledge. Ludo Keizer from Bits of Freedom and the New Media Summer School explained that young people tend to have respect for the author, but not the middleman. He continued, saying that when an author uploads content to their personal website, many young people are happy to pay the author directly for that content. He further suggested that it is often easier to steal creative works online than to buy them online from a middleman!
Stuart Hamilton, from the International Federation of Library Associations, put forward his view that the global internet requires copyright frameworks that cross borders. He went on to say that the system must be more balanced so the framework respects the rights of the creator, not necessarily the middleman. In my opinion the internet promotes sharing and a rigid copyright system opposes the internet’s design. Therefore it is certainly appropriate to adjust copyright laws to coincide with existing social practices because at the moment the law is out of step with societal norms.
Queen Silvia debated
On the morning of the second day the Queen of Sweden addressed the issues of child protection and online security. It was brilliant that Sweden’s Queen, a prominent national figure, got involved personally and so visibly in the debate.
In addition, I attended sessions about the evolution of European democracy, internet territoriality and jurisdiction, cybercrime and digital citizenship. The territoriality and jurisdiction workshop led by Bertrand De La Chapelle, member of the Board of Directors at ICANN, was particularly interesting. The session mentioned the recent Megaupload take down as it considered issues arising from the internet’s global reach, the territoriality of nation states and the privatisation of law through private firm’s terms of service agreements.
With ambitions to enter the field of internet governance myself, EuroDIG provided superb opportunities for meeting a wide range of people from all over Europe already involved in the field. What a fantastic event for networking! I spoke to politicians, business leaders, academics and non-governmental organisation lobbyists. I even had lunch with Alexander Alvaro, Vice President of the European Parliament, on the second day of the conference after meeting him at a dinner reception the night before, where there was also music, dancing, food and drink.
My experience confirmed that I do wish to pursue a career in internet governance. The New Media Summer School and EuroDIG conference illustrated how rapidly the field is developing and it was evident that there is much interesting work still to be done to understand and resolve the many outstanding issues. There are countless conflicting viewpoints, notably for example concerning issues such as cybersecurity versus privacy and combatting hate speech/protecting children online versus open access.
EuroDIG is Europe’s regional emulation of the United Nations sponsored Internet Governance Forum. Internet governance is a bottom up approach, but it will only work if as many stakeholders as possible get involved and voice their opinions in order to shape the internet’s future development. Everyone is a stakeholder, the young, old, private individuals and those representing organisations of every size, type and global reach. Consequently I encourage everyone to take an interest in internet governance and attend EuroDIG next year!