Who Should Govern the Internet? | Freedom House

Who Should Govern the Internet?

by Adrian Shahbaz, Research Manager, Freedom on the Net

A certain group of countries want greater control over how the internet is run globally. As it turns out, they tend to be some of the worst offenders when it comes to censoring the web and arresting users for their online activities. Turkey, which made international headlines this spring by blocking Twitter and YouTube, is hosting the 2014 Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Istanbul this week. The country is one example of how domestic positions on internet freedom may play a role in determining how the internet is governed worldwide.


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The IGF is a gathering of representatives from civil society, academia, the tech community, and government agencies. By encouraging interaction and cooperation among a variety of stakeholders, the forum seeks to ensure that the internet continues to develop as an open, decentralized, and transnational network. If, as some countries desire, control were handed over to an intergovernmental body consisting solely of government officials, these other groups would be silenced.

Freedom House analyzed a sample of 53 countries* that both voted on a 2012 treaty on internet governance and were included in last year’s Freedom on the Net report. (The 2014 edition of Freedom on the Net will be published in early December.) By examining how countries regulate citizens’ online freedoms at home, we can see how they may act if entrusted to make decisions that affect us globally.

* Of the 53 states that Freedom House examined, 37 voted for and 16 voted against the International Telecommunications Regulations at WCIT in 2012, which critics said promoted a government-centric model of internet governance. In total, 144 member states voted, with 89 for and 55 against the regulations.

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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