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Science & Technology

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: http://www.humanite.fr/26_05_2011-p...

by Christophe Aguiton, ATTAC France

In favour of a free Internet, open and accessible to all!

Translated Friday 24 June 2011, by Richard Bach and reviewed by Bill Scoble

Why has the e-G8 been challenged?

We should "civilize" the Internet, as if it were dangerous territory, where a species should be confined and domesticated. That in any case was the meaning of the message delivered by Nicolas Sarkozy at the opening of the e-G8, the conference that dealt with the Internet that preceded the G8 summit in Deauville. The priorities should be, if we listen to the President or the Minister of Culture, the fight against pedophilia, terrorism and illegal downloading.

This opinion is contrary to the real concerns of Internet users in France and elsewhere in the world.

The first right to defend and guarantee is that of access to the Internet, and to communication tools in general. It is a right which has been called into question in Iran, Egypt or Tunisia by dictatorial regimes who have cut off the Internet and mobile networks to try to end the protests for democracy and social rights. To be effective worldwide, this "right to communication" also needs to increase public support and investment in Africa and parts of the world where Internet access is not possible for the vast majority of population.

The second priority is to ensure freedom of expression, a freedom that has been called into question in countries like China, where dozens of bloggers are in prison. It is also endemic in countries like the United States where authorities are seeking to prevent Wikileaks from disseminating information on American diplomacy and the actions of United States armed forces.

The third priority is the defence of "net neutrality," which specifically means not allowing service providers to discriminate against Internet content according to its origin. Net neutrality is important in ensuring that users have good access to all content, but also in allowing the pursuit of innovation in information technology. The end of net neutrality would mean the concentration of Internet provision in the hands of big players, the only ones able to pay the royalties that Internet access providers would demand.

The fourth priority is to defend people’s private lives and Internet chat rooms. This is the "right to oblivion" so that information held on people on the web does not shadow them their whole lives or – in matters of private exchanges on social networks – it is not attacked or questioned by companies or institutions.

Even the organization of the e-G8 explains why these priorities have not been at the heart of official speeches. While the management of the Internet has been, since its inception, open to all stakeholders including research centers, associations and NGOs, the e-G8 was conceived and organized by multinational companies for their own interests. There have been numerous protests, from institutions like the CNIL (Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés), and from associations worldwide, who have issued a statement protesting the way the e-G8 was organized and defending the principle of a free Internet, open and accessible to all women and men!

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