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About Internet Society 29 August 2018

It Is a Challenging Time for the Internet: We Must Not Let It Be Undermined

Andrew Sullivan
By Andrew SullivanPresident & CEO

On 1 September I start work as CEO of the Internet Society. I have a lot to do to live up to the example set by Kathy Brown with all that she achieved during her leadership. It is a great honour, and I appreciate the trust the Board of Trustees has placed in me. I will work daily to earn the same trust from the rest of the Internet community, in part by being transparent about what drives me to do this.

It is a challenging time for the Internet Society, because it is a challenging time for the Internet. For most of the Internet Society’s history, the expansion and development of the Internet could be regarded as an obvious good. There were always those who simply opposed technological development. There were always those who wanted their own interests protected from the Internet. But Internet users historically benefited so much, so obviously, that skepticism about the value of the Internet itself was rare.

Things have changed. Every technology can be used for negative ends. The Internet still, plainly, brings gains in efficiency, convenience, and communications. Yet in the recent past, some of the negative uses have become apparent, which leads some people to ask whether the Internet is just too dangerous. This environment has produced a golden opportunity for those who always preferred a sanitized, tightly-controlled utility to the generative, empowering Internet. These forces claim that only national governments, treaties, laws, regulations, and monopolies can protect us from the problems we face. They do not want the extraordinary collaboration of the Internet. They think there is some mere political choice to be made between the Internet we have known on the one hand, and a tidy, regulated network on the other. If these forces are successful, we will all lose.

The Internet connects people because of its basic design. Each network that joins the Internet does its own thing, but together they are all richer and more reliable. A network of networks cannot be centrally controlled because it has no centre. This is not some accidental design choice we could alter: without this essential feature, we do not have the Internet at all.

For that very reason, we – all humanity – must not let this technology be undermined. We must face, realistically, the challenges that the Internet produces for us all; but we must face them collaboratively and together. The Internet is for everyone, because only everyone can make the global network of networks.

I am inspired by the real Internet – the network of networks that is open, globally-connected, secure, and trustworthy. This is why I am so happy to become the CEO of the Internet Society at this challenging time. We are strong. Our chapters and members demonstrate the enormous value of the Internet. We wish, in every language and corner of the world, to welcome today those who were not connected yesterday and to reach out to those who will connect tomorrow. We collaborate with others throughout the world who embrace the value of the Internet.

Our potential lies not only in our diversity, but in the power of our community to act as one in service of our mission. Together, our stories of an Internet with people at its heart offer a unifying message for all the world. We can sing as a massed choir, all in harmony, to project the beauty and value of our shared, global heritage. We can take that harmony and common purpose to other communities, to governments, and to boardrooms, and enlist them all in our cause. Our history, linked to the early Internet, teaches us to work with a single mind toward that open, globally-connected, trusted, and secure future.

We will turn away from fear and narrow interests. We will not allow this tool of endless potential to be ruined, whether by vandal or greed. We will support and foster new technologies for all humans. We will promote the security and safety of all who connect.

The Internet Society is for the Internet, and the Internet is for everyone.

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