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IGF 2020 – Day 10 – WS246 Will the real public interest Internet please stand up?

The following are the outputs of the real-time captioning taken during the virtual Fifteenth Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), from 2 to 17 November 2020. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid to understanding the proceedings at the event, but should not be treated as an authoritative record. 

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>> BRUNA SANTOS: Welcome, everyone, the ones who are in the room. My name is Bruna Santos. I'm from data privacy research association. I'm one of the cocoordinators of the Internet Governance Forum council. I share this responsibility with Sheetal Kumar who is joining us in this room as well.

Just for your information, the majority of you know, but it is a collective ‑‑ civil society collective that dates back whose main goal has been facilitating civil society group participation throughout IGF processes and spaces.

And then I would like to welcome you to the panel today whose name is "Will the Real Public Internet Please Stand Up"? Today we want to talk about how to set forth an agenda on behalf of the public interest and also to understand whether there is a concept ‑‑ if that's a concept that's adopted across the community and also perceptions we all have around this.

For this session today our speakers are Ramon Roca from the foundation of open free and neutral network, Mehwish from head of digital from article 19, Farzaneh Badii from social media governance, Graeme Bunton, a policy director and hopefully we'll be joined for a short intervention.

Our discussions will be divided into two parts. First we'll start with questions for the panelists which go around the meaning of public interest internet. We are asking what does a public interest internet mean to you and is it working on behalf of any public concept. Also what factors should be used when seeking to promote a public interest internet, tackling challenges and how can we govern the internet today on behalf of the public interest.

I'm going to hand the floor to Ramon. You have four minutes.

>> RAMON ROCA: Thanks, Bruna. Thanks, everyone, for coming to the session. Let's start with this concept which is very wide, you know, the public interest. For me in the beginning I would like to underscore because it doesn't matter, in fact, what is my interest or everyone's interest in terms of individually, but the general interest. That's the public interest, the interest for all.

When talking about the internet, I think everyone in this room, I assume really understands that the internet is something important for accessing many. It's fundamental for accessing many other rights like education, health, and so on. Since it is a fundamental right it doesn't matter what's my interest, but the interest for all. It starts with very basic things which is, okay, we have to connect everyone, right?

So it's not, let's say what happens quite often in the internet because in internet there are many interests. As many as people connected. But the general interest is to have everyone accessing to the same rights and the same opportunities and so on.

So quite often while talking about accessing internet and so on we are getting numbers like 80% of the population in some countries already have internet. In some others maybe it's a bit less, 60, 40%.

We are looking in this way and we have to start looking in the other way. When talking about general interests we have to realize the minorities who don't have access. So even if you are 80% people accessing the internet there is 20 that they are not. This is a big discrimination that as a general, a humankind, it is not acceptable that there is a difference between the connected and the unconnected.

So we have to look only at those who are connected but the minorities who don't have access. Many of the efforts have to be therefore put there. So it is a public interest to look for the minorities, whoever is not corrected or even in some cases unfortunately the minorities.

Let's say be sure that the internet is generally available for all without discrimination, without creating differences either from gender, territorial. Doesn't matter what you like. You have to get access. Be sure of that. I'm saying that because since the internet there are many private interests also that are mixed there. Can be confused in some cases and those are private interests. Private and public interests are not synonyms.

Also in some cases it can go together. Meaning for instance public‑private partnerships. Because internet in many cases are provided by private companies. But we have to realize that maybe it will be the private interest which also has other interests like profits and benefits and so on. Maybe for them it's in their interest not to connect everyone because, okay, or not to provide the same opportunities to all because in some cases, okay, if we already provide mobile connectivity somewhere what about providing other alternatives like WIFI or fiber optics, if they already have mobile. So we don't have to invest and we are taking the money anyway.

What about connecting the people who don't have incomes? They will have no interest as a private interest to connect someone who can't afford the connectivity.

So that's why we have to look from the public interest perspective to look to the minorities and not to look to just whoever is connected but also the others and the minorities.

>> BRUNA SANTOS: Thank you very much, Ramon, for highlighting the point of minorities and more diverse and marginalized communities which should be a main focus for this discussion.

I'm going to hand the floor to Mehwish who has been doing a lot of work on access ITU and digital rights community. So Mehwish, the floor is yours.

>> MEHWISH ANSARI: Thank you very much for having me. To answer your first question, perhaps the most fundamental way to think about the public interest in the context of the internet is to think about whether the consideration of the users ‑‑ both individuals and communities ‑‑ are at the center of not just the deployment of internet technologies, but also the design and development of them. Civil society has taken different approaches to this concept.

At Article 19 my team and I build the human rights framework before design and deployment of internet and infrastructure technologies. Some of the points Ramon makes are really important. Bruna, you asked whether the internet is working on behalf of any public interest concept.

In answering that, I would like to respond to a slightly different question. Does the design of the internet reflect the public interest? To answer that you need to look at the political economy in which the internet is developed. The development is largely driven by industry at this point with the support of governments under the assumptions of, you know, a capitalist environment. We are not just talking about the U.S. and Europe. We are also talking about more market interventionist states like champion, South Korea, and Japan.

Some of the very deeply embedded private interests, industry‑driven assumptions present some of the staunchest challenges to the design of the public ‑‑ of a public interest internet. So let's take the example of publicly deployed internet connected infrastructure like smart cities.

Often these technologies are marketed in terms that sound like the public interest but are technosolutionist like public good or social safety.

Within civil society we are often talking about these from a point of skepticism because they are enabling the surveillance and datafication of people while claiming to solve inequities in the social infrastructure that pre‑exist the technologies that we deploy.

It's not a coincidence that you find the tech sector descending on structural societal problems like policing or housing or poverty or education. The simple fact is that marketing something as a fix sells. It undermines the structural work that would actually reflect the public interest.

This is not to say ‑‑ like Ramon said, there are definitely moments where the public interest and the private interest intersect and even align. But civil society needs to be there in the decision‑making process to be able to question some of the industry‑driven assumptions.

If we want the internet to be governed in the public interest, one of the key ways to do this is build civil society's intervention in the design and development of internet technologies before we get to the point of deployment. This can be difficult because much of this is completed entirely behind closed doors. But standardization presents a critical opportunity to do that. Standards bodies like the internet engineering task force, the international standards organization, the international telecommunications union, the ITU, the institute for electronics engineers. These are places where civil society should engage.

While they are driven by industry and governments that want to enable their technologies, we can enter these spaces as civil society to take our public interest approaches to question some of those deeply embedded narratives of technosolutionism, efficiency as the primary value for driving education or the need for technology in all aspects of our lives.

>> BRUNA SANTOS: Thank you very much, Mehwish. Just bridging this conversation, you touched upon points such as the consideration of users being at the very center of the design and deployment of technologies and also a lot of need for us to consider the political economy and the scenario set out behind the development of such technologies.

Now I will go to someone from the private sector. Graeme, I'm going to hand you the floor to bring our perspectives as well on what has been kind of the principles or definition of public interest that have been shaping your work or the tech sector work with regards to domain names and so on. You have the floor.

>> GRAEME BUNTON: Thank you, Bruna. Hi, everyone. I'm Graeme. I'm from one of these evil commercial interests seeking to exploit all of you. Really that means I work for a large domain registrar Called Tucows. We have been involved forever, I think. Generally we are a good actor in the space. I think this is an interesting question. Actually unlike me scribbled down some thoughts so apologies if I read. Normally I wing it.

I think the problem we have in the framing of the question is that we are treating the internet as an monolithic thing and we sort of go off the rails when trying to define public interest because there is so much complexity inherent in the system and anything really on a public interest needs to reflect that complexity. My experience in speaking with regulators, governments and anybody who is not an expert, we tend to lose sight of that and that's a problem. Given that there is an immense competing plurality of ideas of what the purpose of the internet should be, getting to a public interest will be extremely difficult. Where I think we have opportunities is to bring it down or think about it in terms of the layers, the functions of the internet itself and figure out what we want the public interest to be.

I work for an infrastructure company so I think about the infrastructure of the internet, not necessarily the content layers on top of that. That's a whole separate world of thorny difficult problems.

So I think the public interest there in that infrastructure layer is that it's robust, resilient, secure, flexible, accessible. You know, it's maximally enabling for people around the world. I think there are opportunities to say that's what we want out of the infrastructure layer of the internet. That's our public interest.

How do we protect it? For me that's been thinking about what I would call DNS or technical abuse of the internet. That's people using domain registrations in my world to exploit the domain name system or exploit the internet to cause harm. I think there are ways into that discussion where we can make definitions of what is harmful, what's against the public interest and figure out the incentives, disincentives to tackling those things.

I had interesting experiences and I shared them in other sessions about trying to look at harm ‑‑ websites and domains related to COVID. It was a hilarious disaster.

It was next to impossible. My team spent hours looking at something close to 20,000 different websites related to COVID to try to assess things. There was so much diversity there and so much subtly and nuance trying to assess I think we are nowhere near the place for those conversations.

So maybe if I can try to wrap all of this up, public interest and approaches to it need to reflect the complexity of the system. I think there is real opportunity at the infrastructure layer and what we want it to do. We just need to make sure we are reflecting our approach that the complexity of the problem in the complexity of our approaches. That's maybe where there is a bridge between what I'm saying and what Mehwish ‑‑ I apologize if I brutalized that ‑‑ that's where we are get standards and working with the IETF and others to come together and build approaches we can agree on to make the internet a better place for more people. Thanks.

>> BRUNA SANTOS: Thank you very much, Graeme. Some points you highlighted in your intervention such as agreeing on open ended, accessibility and robustness are starting points for this conversation. Either at the technical community or part of any of the layers related to the internet.

So this can be definitely a starting point for us to try to convene a common understanding or even try to achieve some sort of agreement between stakeholders.

I'm going to hand the floor now to Farzaneh. You have four minutes.

>> Thanks, everybody. I am not representing my employer here. For the sake of saying the obvious public interest is difficult to define. Global public interest is even more difficult to define. Even for difficult when we talk about the internet and global public interest.

Now public interest is a concept that domestically has been abused by states and other actors to reach their political or other agendas. Some argue that in the developed world since they are democratic you see less of this abuse because there are checks and balances.

Unfortunately, on the internet some of those checks and balances may not work. For example, if you look at the international organizations and governments at internet corporation for assignings and numbers you see they argue many things are in the public interest. Despite providing no rationale as to why those issues are in a government ‑‑ governments claim they are in public interest and get away with it. We have not been able to challenge these claims and we see more and more policy changes in the name of public interest which we don't even know what it is.

Sometimes on the internet one country's public interest is another country's public abuse. I'll give you an example. When it comes to sanctions, since many of the registries are based in the U.S. many comply or overcomply with the U.S. sanctions. The U.S. argues that the sanction laws are to protect the U.S. public interest. But the sanction laws are not in the public interest of the normal, nongovernmental, nonblack‑listed residents of nonsanctioned countries because it has a sweeping effect under access to the internet, something we discussed that the infrastructure layer wants to provide, and also various functions of the internet.

For example, you have the NGO that's being allocated by public interest registry. This registry is set up to ‑‑ and I quote ‑‑ serve the public interest online arguing that their globally diverse team is committed to providing a stable online platform to enable people to do good things, but not all people.

Of course they don't really mean serving global public interest because they simply can't claim that because in the U.S., there are sanctioned laws that the residents of sanctioned countries cannot register .NGO. There are ways to deal with the problems without some grand international organization or involving one, convening some high level panel to talk in abstract or always putting the governments in charge of that unknown global internet public interest.

Actually discuss the interest applicable to a globally distributed network, we need to look at the public interest as a globally distributed concept. This means that we need to look at various functions of the internet, how and who conducts them and what sort of public interest issues may rise. The public interest on the internet cannot only be decided by the governments.

I'm going to say the magic words since I'm sure you have heard it a lot but if we only have a group of governments that tell us what global public interest is on the internet with no checks and balances when you are going to have expansive and broad definition of public interest that frankly wouldn't serve the public interest and would serve the bureaucrats' interest. We have seen the concept of public interest being used and piggybacked on for policies that could potentially harm people and the very public interest they claim to defend.

One is bringing safety and security to the internet. I can make examples of when private actors aligned with the government argue that they are fighting against bad actors to bring safety and security to the internet. But at the same time they obviously want to protect their private interest through those policies.

So if you ask the global public interest to raise its hand in this room, we are going to see a lot of functions and elements of the public interest and they are not only in this room. They are distributed all over the internet and, as Graeme says, we need to look at it on the different layers.

Sometimes what we consider as public interests may not be a public interest. Thank you.

>> BRUNA SANTOS: Thank you very much for your intervention and also highlighting for me some points as well on the relevance of being wary of the various applications of the ‑‑ of what like a global public interest could be and how this can feed into governments taking more awe authoritarian decisions in light of what they deem as a public interest. Thank you very much for the intervention.

I'm going to hand the floor now to Peter Micek. You also have four minutes.

>> Thanks, everyone. So I wanted to join this mainly to kind of reflect on this big campaign that access now and many of you and other partners in the space contributed to which was to push back against the proposed sale of control over the public interest registry to private equity firms last year. End of 2019 and the first half of 2020.

I think we have heard a lot about the complexity and the difficulty in defining public interest which makes it ironic that in this case it was quite clearly the public interest registry that we were trying to save and truly Access Now and many of our partners saw this in very stark terms. This is the home of civil society online, this domain of .org. As we learned throughout the campaign and heard from many of those proposing this deal it's not just NGOs or do‑gooders or something registered on dot‑org but nonetheless we have established the space and built it into an incredibly valuable and rich environment and eco‑system and home for civil society online.

I think that was reflected in the valuation of the proposed deal to sell control of the public interest registry around $1.1 billion.

A few things that stuck out to us during this campaign that kicked off at IGF in Paris in November 2019. Dot‑org is one of the few platforms that is available to civil society that we have built up and that, again, isn't controlled by either a private company, profit‑seeking company or a government.

The internet society has controlled the public interest registry since it was created in 2003 when it was granted control over the dot‑org domain. This is important to us to have this formal stamp of civil society control. Say what you want about any individual organization. But just the fact that you have an entity that's organized legally as a nonprofit and was granted control of this domain under certain terms to protect the public interest it was important to us. Also clearly important to the almost 900 organizations and more than 27,000 individuals who signed on to a letter to save dot‑org. That should be still available online.

Sea. Second thing is that we see, I think, as other speakers said not just increasing capitalization and privatization of shared internet resources. That's been true since the beginning of the web but the hyper capitalism and extension of walled gardens to almost everything we say and do online is something that creates a lot of vulnerability and kind of an monoculture as we have seen on other panels that's really dangerous. It can allow us to create our weird and wacky websites, put some diversity and permaculture forward.

Finally, I think we agree there is more that could be done to protect this domain and that's coming out on this panel is that just calling yourself the Public Interest Registry doesn't mean everything you do is in the public interest. So we came up with some of our partner organizations with a few safeguards that we think are necessary to sort of prevent this sort of pulling the regular out from under us again. This proposed sale to unknown entities with a lot of money. But also to protect the public interest.

They are putting human rights at the center of the operation of this infrastructure, committing to affordable pricing for the domains now and in the future, just locking that in because, again, $1.1 billion evaluation for dot‑org raised questions as to how the money would be recuperated.

Finally, strengthening governing structures around dot‑org. So it is putting a diverse and representative panel of experts onto the board and ensuring real power for the community. Opens questions as to how we define who is the community, who sits on the board and who is actually going to be sustainably inputting. We think the structures are necessary to create.

So that was a successful campaign and I think reflected, if nothing else, you know, there is still an active and very large community globally that wants to help protect the public interest online.

>> BRUNA SANTOS: Thank you very much, Peter, for the intervention and for highlighting that there is still a lot to do in safeguarding digital rights and participation and diversity in these spaces. We thank you very the intervention.

Now we have a space for anyone who is either an attendee or panelist who wishes to raise their hand, bring any new perspectives to this discussion. So if you would like to speak please raise your hand in the chat or the Zoom room and I would be happy to give you the floor.

In the meantime if any of the panelists wants to reply or has thoughts or ideas of what has been discussed so far, you are also welcome to do so.

Since I am seeing no hands, Ramon, do you wish to speak?

>> RAMON ROCA: Yeah. Thanks to the panelists for the points of view and trying to get into ‑‑ we are promoting community networks. So people by themselves. So not from that perspective. I'm talking about the infrastructure. Sometimes it has been said that the internet is complex. Many variety and a lot of complexity on it and so on.

But at the end of the day it's about thinking and applying common sense and looking holistically. That can seem simple. I want to provide two very simple and hopefully understandable concepts that can be easily addressed, right?

One is, okay, for bringing the internet we need the infrastructure that has to be built. Typically what's happening is that all of the fundings being used for that companies but not the local communities to build networks for themselves. That's the reality.

Look, what happens if it goes only in that way. The thing is, okay, we are connecting the people, providing internet through a large company but at the end of the day the behavior of the company is just taking the money of the internet that we have provided to them which is actually a need because people need connectivity and we are extracting the money. What about the economics that at the end of the day are happening?

We created an extractive tool for making the poor people even more poor than they were before. We created the net and they have to spend.

It's as simple as saying, okay, what about not just bringing the money to large companies but also to the communities to empower themselves to get connected because maybe technology is complex but it's not that complex.

For instance, I'm in a rural area and connected with fiber. At the end of the day it's about buying a cable, installing the router. It's something that can be done by the citizens and not just only the large companies. So it is important to create alternatives to that.

Secondly, a very stupid thing that's also happening against the common sense, against the public interest and often I see that happening through the public administrations. They are managing the public domains and so on.

There are many infrastructures like power lines, railways where internet is already there with the fibers deployed in those infrastructures.

When people are trying to access those infrastructures to get connected from their homes, and for getting /ABG Tess to those infrastructures quite often they give you a price, a cost for accessing it. They index the cost to the meters, the distance for accessing public conduits, whatever infrastructure. That's stupid because yes, it's mathematics. That's against common sense. Whoever has a longer distance and fewer population, if you are living in a rural area, it will be more expensive.

So it makes common sense to average financially the indexing, the pricing for getting access to the internet by simply avoiding and no regulators or very few are looking into that.

So just a couple of examples how the public money is being given for providing access to the internet and how somebody should look if we are taking care of the public interest.

>> BRUNA SANTOS: Thank you very much. Anriette has her hand up. Would you wish to speak? If not, I can put your questions on the general chat as well. I have promoted you to a panelist.

In the meantime, I can read Deirdre's comment on the chat which is that we globally need to be aware that our core values, our perspectives and perceptions may not be the same in order to add to the complexity of the discussions we are promoting today.

I'm going to post also questions on the general chat. So everybody is aware of that.

>> JUDITH HELLERSTEIN: Maybe the panel can answer Anriette's questions.

>> BRUNA SANTOS: Do any other panelists wish to address these questions. Okay. So that's definitely food for thought ‑‑

>> I'm sorry. The question was about the core infrastructure?

>> BRUNA SANTOS: Whether or not you think there is such a thing as a public core.

>> I totally agree we need to come up with a definition of ‑‑ I hate this word definition. It makes everything complicated. We can never reach consensus really.

But we need to really identify the core public infrastructure which is ‑‑ internet infrastructure, which is global. So these public infrastructures do not have to abide by one jurisdiction or one body of law applies to them. We see this problem not only in the domain name area. But also we see it in the internet regional registries. We see that they are elected country‑specific law can also affect people around the world. Like for example Europe has sanctions against certain countries and then the internet registries, they can bring lawsuits against internet registries to not provide the IP addresses to people in those countries.

I think we definitely need to have a framework on how we define them and hopefully give them immunity.

I mean, I know this is ‑‑ really work. But I don't know if the framework or the norms that these commissions or, you know, high level panels come up with are practical or issue‑specific and until now I have not seen an effect. But I think we really need to look at the issues that brings up the public ‑‑ that actually violates public interest globally. Thank you.

>> BRUNA SANTOS: Thank you very much. Another question that's been raised on the chat is that recently it was proposed that we should create parks in relation to private enclosure of the internet to date.

Also bridging to the second part of our conversation, where we are going to discuss the challenges both your works across the community faces in public interest as a principle or any related principles. I would also like to ask this to our panelists. At first, any kind of ideas surrounding more common open spaces are taken into consideration.

Also, what challenges are you currently facing and examples of measured proposals and anything else that can help us protect the internet as a common ‑‑ and our almost agreed concept of a public interest.

So I think I'm going to start with Ramon again and we can follow the same order.

>> RAMON ROCA: Myself?

>> BRUNA SANTOS: Yes.

>> RAMON ROCA: Okay. I'm glad to see great common spaces and so on. That's the way to go. If we want to go to public interest participation is a key point. Any way to participate in all the layers. I was referring to the infrastructure previously and citizens, yes, can help their communities to help in building infrastructures and not depend only on the others.

That's a good alternative.

That could happen also in other layers. I have seen referrals to the DNS, the core of the internet, and many other layers. The way to go, yes, is to democratize everything to be sure everything becomes participative and being sure people get involved in all the layers and being sure not a few layers, just in very few hands in short. That's the point. The policies have to be approached from my point of view.

>> BRUNA SANTOS: Thank you very much, Ramon. Moving on to Mehwish. If you could add anything on the challenges we have been facing recently and also examples of measures and proposals to protect the public interest.

>> MEHWISH ANSARI: Thank you, Bruna. One of the major challenges that civil society faces at least when we are talking about internet infrastructure decision‑making is just the power asymmetry that exists in the most critical decision‑making spaces, including spaces that are multi stakeholder.

So when we look at the landscape of bodies that develop technical policies and standards that make up internet infrastructure we see plenty of them that claim to be technically open to civil society. One is financial. Participating in standards development while critical for public interest advocates in general is heavily resource‑intensive. Right? Standards develop over the course of years and require in‑person participation in several meetings per year in addition to intersessional work on mailing lists and spaces like GitHub. That means travel and meeting participation, staff time in between meetings as well. So that's also a consideration that funders need to be aware of when they are providing support to civil society.

But the other major barrier we see is a knowledge barrier. These are extremely technical spaces that have their own very particular histories, very particular politics. So being effective in them means not only knowing the technologies but the idiosyncrasies and communities that make up the space. This can be difficult for new entrants to hit the ground running which is stressful when you think about the resource scarcity problem we have.

That's not just for human rights organizations like mine but also for small ISPs, community networks. In terms of responding to the challenges the first step is continuing to build around these. There are a few civil society organizations that work in these spaces that can provide support to new entrants in overcoming the knowledge barrier and connecting them to funders to help with the financial barrier.

We really need to do a much better job of bringing global representatives into these spaces. Right now, even the civil society advocacy that is present in these spaces, although small is dominated by global north perspectives and we really risk perpetuating the same monoculture in our sector as we bring that up.

That's something we need to address in terms of the power differentials that exist and how easy it is for global north organizations to get funding versus global south organizations. How we can champion our allies. Speaking as somebody who works for a global north organization I think that's really important.

The other way is working with ‑‑ more on the public side. Those who aligned themselves with internet freedom agendas and the idea of a public interest internet present a critical opportunity here. These governments are often civil society funders through ministries of foreign affairs and departments of state. They can create funding opportunities that provide civil society ‑‑ that can support civil society interventions in these spaces, but these governments can also provide pathways to support the participation of civil society in intergovernmental standard spaces which remain the least multi‑stakeholder and the most closed off to civil society participation. These are standard spaces like the ITU and the ISO and governments can allow civil society to join government delegations to these standard meetings, for example.

>> BRUNA SANTOS: Thank you very much, Mehwish. Graeme, for a civil society as both Mehwish highlighted Andrea moan highlighted some parts of it, power imbalances in these spaces and allowing for more participation and for other stakeholders to understand the layers and intricacies of the actors as well as s an issue and also a challenge for us.

Moving to another stakeholder, what would be the challenges you would see or like to point out in this and also examples of measures and proposals?

 

>> GRAEME BUNTON: Thanks, Bruna. You know, the resourcing issue is interesting. I spent four years as elected chair of the registrar stakeholder group inside of ICAN which represents all ICAN accredited domain registrars.

Really exposed to the diversity of that group and was part of my mandate was to encourage diversity in the group, get more voices from more places to participate in the policy development process. Boy, was that a really interesting challenge? You know, huge language issues there. You know, there is a sense that a lot of commercial players in the internet are these giant mega corps and there are lots of those. My company is sort of medium‑sized now. We have grown a lot over the past few years, but we are not huge. We're the second largest domain registrar in the world and it really wasn't until the past year, 18 months before we really dedicated someone to policy issues full time.

It's really only in the last two years that any company other than Go Daddy within the registrar space had a full‑time policy person. The vast majority of /TKPHAO*EUPB domain registrars trying to engage in the space, it was just a small portion of one person's time. These are small shops with two or three people trying to engage even for them as commercial entities in standards‑building, policy development at ICAN is extremely expensive, time‑consuming and they don't have resources for it either. It's a problem that it's narrowed not just to commercial entities ‑‑ a small number of commercial entities. We need to solve that problem, too.

You know, I don't have any great ideas on how to solve this huge array of problems in front of us in protecting the global public interest. I think whether we like it or not, the internet is built on commerce. It's commercial entities all the way essentially top to bottom. My experience with governments is they tend to be bad actors in a lot of circumstances, even the good ones. I'm Canadian but we have lots of garbage legislation floating around that causes me deep concerns. I don't have great ways to provide spaces that are not impacted by commercial interests. With my early intervention about separating into layers.

Figure out for a particular layer. I'm thinking a lot about incentivization programs so we can reduce that type of technical harm on the internet. It will be registries and registrars causing people harm. I think there are interesting solutions that can be done that are narrow and tailored to solve specific problems. That may be a reasonable way forward instead of thinking of the grand scope with the problems with the commercial internet and a global public interest is like let's pick a layer, look at the low‑hanging fruit and start working our way upwards.

Thanks.

>> BRUNA SANTOS: Thank you very much, Graeme. Interesting point as well especially on the idea of us all compromising on behalf of keeping it as open as it is. Moving on I'll go to Farzaneh for the same question. Challenges and opportunities and proposals. You have the floor.

>> I think I said a lot of challenges. I'm not in my most optimistic mood.

I agree with Graeme that we need to really look at the public interest on the internet at a granular level. If we look at it ‑‑ if we don't then we are just going to miss a lot of issues that are real public interest issues and we'll be left with norms and I think norms are very important, but norms that cannot be enforced are not effective.

Also what we need to do is move away from giving the states or the governments mandates to come up with this definition or what global interest is or what they think ‑‑ who can identify the global public interest. I think that the /SHAEULDs should be able to do that. But as I said, there are difficulties with that. Sometimes like stakeholders have conflicts among each other what is a public interest and what is not a public interest. It can be, as I said, it can be abuse.

But I think ultimately we need to look at the various functions of the internet. How the internet comes together and consider its distributed nature and look at ‑‑ then we will not miss part of the public interest that could be violated in some part of the internet. Also when we discuss about stakeholder participation, civil society participation it is not only about participation. Because we see that we come up with a lot of policies that we think in a multi‑stakeholder fashion and then there is a comity there that can just say, well, no. I need you to change these things.

So it's not only about participation. It is also about empowering them. And multi stakeholder approach is not the answer. Not all the time the answer. And we can discuss this having two, three stakeholders or I don't know. But I don't think that we can have just the government to come up with the public interest for the global internet.

>> BRUNA SANTOS: Thank you very much, Farzi. Also for highlighting it is not only about civil society participation but also about a meaningful one. Lastly, I'm going to hand the floor back to Peter. Peter, again, same question. If you have any comments on that. The floor is yours.

>> Thanks. Super thoughtful stuff. I think one thing we try to do in the dot‑org campaign was to get people to conceive of this domain as online civic space.

I see talk in the chat about creating online parks or dedicated public interest spaces. I think there are issues with that. In the U.S. at a public park you could say just about anything you want so long as it follows certain time, place, and manner guidelines. I think it would be interesting to see it play out online. But, again, this campaign showed there is huge and broad, active communities that are willing to fight for what they see as a public interest.

Concept of the public core is useful because, again, if we get rough consensus around what maybe one piece of the public core might be and then we can ‑‑ I think we can create broad coalitions to protect that.

So I think the two main campaigns that Access Now runs against internet shutdowns and intentional disruptions. Then on the digital ID and access restrictions, both get at aspects of what it means to be a human and enjoy your human rights and do so online as offline.

I think the more that we can kind of identify these key threshold issues like just the ability to access affordably, openly and securely one piece of the internet is something we can protect in some way as we can.

 

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