ISOC Tells WEF: No Quick Fixes For Safer Internet

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The Internet Society’s CEO will warn the World Economic Forum against a “knee-jerk” Internet security fix

Internet Society (ISOC) president and CEO Lynn St Amour is taking a message to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, this weekend. She is warning that any actions to control the Internet should be considered carefully and not enacted hastily.

St Amour’s organisation believes that the Internet should remain a trusted channel of communication and collaboration to benefit citizens across the world. The continued growth of the Internet is crucial to allow it to remain a driver for innovation and economic welfare, she said.

Openness Intrinsic To The Internet

ISOC’s’s concerns for Intenet freedom are pitched against a backdrop of rising criminal activity, political activism and government discomfort on the Internet. Auditor PwC has claimed that cybercrime in the UK alone cost businesses £10 billion last year.

There was also the landmark Stuxnet worm exploit which targeted Iran’s uranium enrichment centrifuges. Allegedly Israel and the US governments were involved in the development of the worm but the evidence is only circumstantial and nothing concrete has been brought to light to confirm these rumours.

The US is also smarting from the embarrassment of the WikiLeaks disclosures which may have further damaged the country’s standing in world affairs. Other governments have apparently acted to restrict the Internet; Egypt banned Twitter during protests, China has banned VoIP, and Burma was for a time cut off by an attack which may have been self-inflicted. French president Nicolas Sarkozy wants to discuss adding controls to the Internet at the G8 summit later this year.

St Amour is warning that the rising temperature could bring a “knee-jerk” reaction from the Davos meetings.

She cautioned that “cybersecurity is a broad term applied in many different contexts with multiple nuanced meanings”. She said that what is needed is investment in the development of technologies and practices to increase network confidence, citing as an example an Internet Society initiative.

The organisation has developed an application that gives Website visitors a clarification of the online usage policies of the sites they visit.

Hands off, Governments!

In a panel discussion called Governing in a New Media Age on Friday January 28, St Amour will argue for the safeguarding of the “unique qualities of the Internet”, principally its openness, in the face of renewed government pressure.

“Regimes more accustomed to control models are threatened by the openness and distributed nature of the Internet,” St Amour said. “However, those principles are intrinsic to the Internet.”

She will point out that, even when a country does shut off access to some services, the Internet can still prove to be a powerful tool for community building and mobilisation at a local level.

To illustrate her point, St Amour points to the use of social media in last month’s uprising in Tunisia. Protestors used the Web to coordinate action and to spread the message of the desire for change.

“While the roots of the Tunisian revolution can be found in underlying causes, there is broad agreement that social media channels played a vital role in fostering the change the government,” she said.

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