The Internet Governance Forum lands in Poland. Five days of discussion to reaffirm the freedom and neutrality of a network at the service of all
Arturo Di Corinto
The 16th Global Internet Governance Forum (Igf) will be held in Poland from 6 to 10 December. The more than 1,000 speakers expected, from 175 countries, will meet in Katowice and online, to talk about digital inclusion, respect for human rights, market regulation, consumer rights, climate change, and then cooperation, trust and online security.
The initiative belongs to the United Nations which decided to launch it after the World Summit in Tunis in 2005. At the time it was already clear that the Internet would transform every aspect of civil life and the hope of its equal and inclusive diffusion was very high.
From the beginning, Italy played a fundamental role in fostering the discussion path in which the IGF wanted to involve all the stakeholders concerned, namely civil society, technical associations, experts and certification bodies together with Tlc companies.
The list of these stakeholders today has grown longer and the results of the meetings also held at the national level in many countries are there for all to see.
Even for those who do not see the differences of a more modern Internet in terms of protocols, more resilient to cyber attacks, and more inclusive and respectful of the rights of women, discriminated communities and marginal populations.
Despite the work done at the IGF in recent years, a real “Internet Parliament”, based on discussion and consensus, many problems remain to be addressed.
Therefore this year the United Nations initiative entitled “Internet United” takes on a strongly symbolic value in the face of the autarchy of states and Big Tech who want it “their thing”, for the regulatory, persuasive and surveillance power that they manage.
And the only medicine to this effect will once again be the dialogue and the self-representation of political, religious and gender diversity, especially in the face of the challenges of the new digital authoritarianism.
The ghost to be confronted with is the so-called digital sovereignty, the government storytelling that, with the excuse of ensuring social stability, privacy or the free market, restricts the range of admissible behaviors on the net, deciding by authority to close the doors to dissidents, free thinkers and human rights lawyers.
In the cauldron of shutdowns, the forced interruptions of the network in the vicinity of the elections, the censorship of online newspapers, the harassment within social networks, the freedom that the Internet promotes and represents is thinned.
So, the IGF is an opportunity to discuss the limits of governments and platforms and make those who use it every day the real protagonists.
In fact, no one forgets what happened with Brexit, the election of Trump and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the mass surveillance that the US exercises through the network, the Russian manipulation of opinions on social media, the Chinese and Korean forays into cyberspace or the cyber warfare between pro-Israelis and pro-Palestinians.
But the Internet is a disruptive force.
If in the nigerian markets an application on the phone that runs on the Internet is enough to shop for food, protest movements in Russia meet in chat, European citizens organize climate marches on social media and filipino bloggers denounce the violence of the Duterte government.
It seems obvious to us, but the continuous request for openness and sharing by those who participate in the IGF represent the best result for an Internet at the service of the people and not for corporative profits.
Disclaimer: Arturo Di Corinto is moderator of the IGF of the High Level Expert Panel on issues of digital inclusion and the role of social platforms