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Bonnie Sutton

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Internet Governance UN take ideas on digital citzenship international citizenship

started by Bonnie Sutton on 27 Mar 12
  • Bonnie Sutton
    Guest Post: The United Nation's Take on Digital Citizenship

    Christine Kane on the Internet Governance Forum!

    This week the United Nations' Internet Governance Forum (IGF) met in Kenya. No one is sure what will be accomplished by the three day conference, but it's an opportunity for "multi-stakeholders" from around the world to talk about important Internet-related issues such as child protection, cybercrime, privacy, censorship, managing critical Internet resources and making sure that the Internet is accessible in developing countries.
    One chief issue at IGF is child protection. In addition to workshops on protecting youths against exploitation and introduction to pornography, there will be some on "digital citizenship," to discover how children's rights can be protected online while boosting responsible behavior and allowing children to have a meaningful online presence. The issue has come to ahead lately with increased attention to cyberbullying and sexting. In addition to adults compelling children to obey the rules, IGF will be concentrating on ways to strengthen the role of children and youths as active contributors, which is what "citizenship" (digital or otherwise) is supposed to be about.
    There will also be discussions about child pornography. Many countries have laws that forbid trafficking in sexually explicit images of children, but those laws are far from world-wide or consistent. Because of the Internet, pictures made in one country can effortlessly find their way to others, irrespective of local laws.
    The Internet Governance Forum doesn't have any stated power, but it does have influence. It brings together individuals from around the world who help set the agenda for further deliberations and, possibly, regulations. IGF's origins date back to the 2005 meeting of the World Summit on the Information Society. Unlike most U.N. groups, IGF consists not just of government representatives, but individuals from industry and nonprofit organizations.
    The fact that IGF has no official power is actually a positive thing because it serves as a substitute to international regulations that, if some groups had their way, could be tyrannical. There are governments, including China, Iran and Brazil, which have called for severe laws regarding what is suitable on the Internet. Here in the United States, we've had a history of vigorous debate about regulations, including several laws to "protect children" against pornography that have dismissed by courts because they would have also restricted adults' rights to access legal content.
    If we can't all agree on what's suitable in the United States, there is virtually no way we can reach global accord. China, for example, famously limits access to Facebook and other social networking sites and many countries prohibit supposed adult pornography that is legal in the United States and many western countries.
    Even matters like hacking don't automatically lend themselves to international regulations. Most governments would agree that people who break into websites and servers should be prosecuted, but there is no global agreement on what makes up cybercrime. It gets even fuzzier with issues such as copyright enforcement, which produces strong debate even within the borders of many countries.
    However, there is a role for increased international cooperation because, unlike physical objects, data can travel amongst countries in the blink of an eye- and typically without detection. That's usually a positive thing, but not when it comes to child porn, malicious software, or schemes to steal money or intellectual property.
    Some at IGF will want to work toward a method of world governance system for the Internet, but many at the conference, including representatives from the U.S. delegation, will want to encourage its role as an international debate where individuals can talk about issues without the burden or supposition of having to create laws to actually control what happens between borders.


    This Guest post is by Christine Kane from internet providers, she is a graduate of Communication and Journalism. She enjoys writing about a wide-variety of subjects for different blogs. She can be reached via email at: Christi.Kane00 @

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