Vive La France! Senate Report on Internet Governance

Netopia readers will recall that this editor and two of the main contributors – main writer Peter Warren and interviewee professor Murray Shanahan – addressed the French Senate this spring, following the release of the report Can We Make the Digital World Ethical?. Now the Senate’s information mission is concluded and its findings published, as abstract and report (both in French).

Once again, the French resistance is the last hope for freedom and democracy in Europe. The Senate’s report does not pull its punches in describing the current internet governance as US-centric, biased and lacking in respect for basic human rights. It calls for a radical make-over of the regulating bodies, such as ICANN and IETF.

The Senate report argues that internet governance today is “de facto American”. For example, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) governs top level domains such as .gov, .eu, .tv etc as well as the “phone book” that connects these with the IP-addresses that identify internet servers. It is a core function of internet infrastructure and you probably would guess it’s an NGO or part of the United Nations or under the supervision of some governments, but it is a (not for profit) company in California, supervised by the US Department of Commerce. It abides by the so-called “multi-stakeholder model”, according to which businesses, academics, governments, the public and other stakeholders supposedly get equal influence: that’s right, elected representatives in this model are considered one of many stakeholders. That goes against the principles of democracy, where we elect representatives and task them with making law for all of society. The multi-stakeholder model reduces democracy to a vested interest, which makes it in practice technocratic – only masquerading as independent (my conclusion, not the Senate’s).

The Senate makes a strong call for making internet governance a truly global undertaking where all involved parties have influence in a transparent and democratic way. Netopia congratulates the French Senate to its insight and recommends European legislators and the Commission to take notice.

UPDATE: Link to the English summary of the French Senate report: