Tuesday, October 31, 2006

IGF: Ambassador David Gross on "Security and IPR"

31 October 2006
Thiru Balasubramaniam

The inaugural Internet Governance Forum is well underway in Athens, Greece (30 October-2 November 2006). Created by the UN Secretary-General from the mandate of the Tunis Agenda, it is the first, high-level, multistakeholder forum dedicated to internet governance. From initial impressions, it appears that over a 1000 people are attending the Athens IGF. Yesterday afternoon's panel, entitled "Setting the scene" was moderated by Kenneth Cukier of the Economist. This panel introduced the main themes of this year's IGF: openness, security, diversity and access. On the issue of security, Ambassador David Gross (United States) asserted that,

[t]his is a very serious and important issue for all of us. We think there are certain core principles that, from our perspective, guide us through this difficult process. The question really does touch on the different natures of security. But taking the question about the terrorist aspect of it, for example, we think, first and foremost, that we should never lose sight of the importance of the Internet as a conduit for the free flow of information. And that no one should use these other issues as an excuse for restricting it in ways that are not very carefully circumscribed. So we believe that restrictions on the Internet content have to be done transparently, have to be done as a result of rule of law, which is -- has great care, including the enactment in the rule of law. But, yet, also take into account the fact that illicit uses of the Internet are inappropriate, whether it's IPR violations that we've all dealt with for some period of time, whether it is incitement to violence if the like. So it requires us to do something very important but often very difficult, which is to keep two conflicting ideas in our head at the same time. One is the importance of the free flow of information, which is incredibly powerful. We have seen the rise of democracies around the world that corresponds very closely to the rise of the Internet, from about 30 democracies in the world in the '70s to over 120 today. While at the same time, recognizing that terrorism can create problems, can kill people, through the use of the Internet, and must be stopped as well. But how we do that has to be very carefully done in ways that are carefully tailored, transparent rule of law.