Activists meet to defend Internet from state control

Tue Sep 27, 2011 11:06am EDT
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By Georgina Prodhan and Duncan Miriri

LONDON/NAIROBI (Reuters) - Internet activists accused governments of making it difficult for users of the Web, rights campaigners and private businesses to carry out their work through state attempts to seize control of the Web.

They said state officials were getting bolder in their drive to regulate the Web that has fueled Arab revolutions, enabled mass leaks of U.S. diplomatic cables and allowed online piracy to thrive.

"What we have seen in the last three years is that no longer do governments shy away from attempting to regulate Internet content," said Joy Liddicoat, project coordinator at New Zealand-based Association for Progressive Communications, which seeks to protect people's rights on and to the Internet.

They were speaking at the Internet Governance Forum in Nairobi on Tuesday, an annual event that brings together companies, non-profit groups, academics, engineers, government representatives and ordinary citizens.

Participants at the meeting said governments were increasingly filtering and blocking content on the Web, carrying out surveillance and making requests for data and privacy information in countries like Egypt and Pakistan.

"These are the sort of issues we would like to see discussed at the IGF and we think we need much more open and transparent discussions on how we should respond to these challenges," Liddicoat said.

They hope to show they are best placed to write the rules of the road ahead for the World Wide Web, an increasingly important driver of economic growth in a world on the brink of recession.

Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, deputy secretary general at Council of Europe, a 47-nation group that is mainly concerned about human rights, said that the growing relevance of the Web to millions of people as a tool of communication and commerce added impetus to the need for agreements on Internet governance.   Continued...