Warning of Thorny Online Issues Ahead, Cyber-Rights Groups Form Internet Democracy Project

July 6, 2000 12:00 am

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NEW YORK — Seeking to strengthen civil society online, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR) and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) joined together today to launch the Internet Democracy Project.

“The goals of the Internet Democracy Project are to encourage participation by non-governmental organizations in Internet governance and to promote the principles of a civil society,” said Hans Klein Chair of CPSR.

As the unique medium of the Internet develops, Klein noted, key governance decisions about central resources and operations are being made by quasi-governmental agencies, such as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, known as ICANN.

ICANN is a new global organization originally chartered by the United States Government to administer the Internet addresses and the Domain Name System which govern what a Internet site can be called and how it can be found.

“There is real need to focus the attention of civil society on the seemingly technical issues that organizations like ICANN are addressing,” said Barry Steinhardt Associate Director of the ACLU. “If our voices are not heard while the governance structures are being created it may be too late,” he added.

Increasingly, ICANN has been setting policies on issues that will have a significant impact on the free expression and privacy rights of Internet users for example by crafting policies that favor commercial interests over those of non-commercial speakers.

As one of its first priorities, the Project will sponsor a forum on “Civil Society and the ICANN Elections” on July 13 in Yokohama, Japan. Yokohama is the site of the next ICANN board meeting and related meetings. The forum will feature speakers from around the globe and will include discussion of principles by which the Internet should be governed.

In addition to its work on ICANN, the Internet Democracy Project will also look at the impact of other Internet governance structure on civil society.

“ICANN may be the most prominent organization in some corners of the globe, but it is hardly the only group that will affect the future of the Internet,” said Marc Rotenberg, Executive Director of EPIC. “Our work will be broader and we will encourage the participation of the Public Voice at every opportunity,” continued Rotenberg.

The Project’s upcoming agenda will include:

  • Statement of Principles — Developing support for a statement on “Civil Society and ICANN Elections,” which is to be discussed in Yokohama. The Internet Democracy Project will continue to seek support for the statement that speaks to the need for transparent and representative governance, a balanced approach for intellectual property protection, the need to ensure minimal and equitable costs for domain registration, and other key issues for the management of ICANN.
  • Informational Clearinghouse — The Internet Democracy Project will promote public education about Internet governance and encourage public participation in Internet policymaking. IDP will publish a newsletter, establish a web site (www.internetdemocracy.net), and produce a sourcebook on Internet governance issues.
  • ICANN Election Resource — The Project will serve as a non-partisan educational resource for voters in the upcoming election of At Large members of the Board of the ICANN. The Project will also foster dialogue among voters and ICANN’s current and potential Board members about important public policy issues. The Project will ask the candidates to express their position on civil society issues and widely publish their answers.

The Internet Democracy Project is non-partisan and will neither support nor oppose the election of any candidates.

The Internet Democracy Project is online at www.internetdemocracyproject.org.

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