Human Rights 29 November 2011

Internet Society Statement: Council of Europe’s draft Internet Governance Principles

Internet Society Statement:
Council of Europe’s draft Internet Governance Principles and Recommendation concerning the Protection and Promotion of the Internet’s Universality, Integrity and Openness

Date: 13 May 2011


The Internet Society welcomes this opportunity to comment on the Council of Europe’s draft Internet Governance Principles and Recommendation concerning the Protection and Promotion of the Internet’s Universality, Integrity and Openness.

We commend the Council of Europe for its objective of ensuring fundamental human rights and internationally recognised principles of Internet governance (such as multi-stakeholder participation in Internet policy development) are articulated and adopted by European member states. However, we consider that it is important to identify and apply existing international principles and law before creating new principles. For example, in relation to freedom of speech, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:


Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. –


In this regard, the Council of Europe could play a leading role in the Internet governance space by compiling an authoritative and comprehensive account of all relevant international laws and principles.

Additionally, where there are perceived gaps, it is also important, given the international character of the Internet and Internet governance issues, to consider what is the appropriate forum (or forums) for the development of such principles.

We also note that the Council of Europe hopes to extend the commitment to these principles beyond member states to the organisations responsible for the management of critical Internet resources as well as enterprise, civil society and other stakeholders. It should be noted, however, that such organisations typically already have their own set of principles intended to preserve the openness, integrity and accessibility of the Internet. Such principles are tailored to the work andobjectives of the organisation, which may not be the same as those of member states.

Internet Governance Principles

Should the Council of Europe wish to proceed with the proposed Internet Governance Principles, we offer the following preliminary comments regarding the draft:

Paragraph 10

Rather than “consistency in the approaches of different actors”, we would suggest “compatible and interoperable …”

Paragraph 11 (principle 2)

We suggest “and all stakeholders” be added to the last sentence.

Paragraph 11 (principle 3)

We suggest a reference to “the public interest” be included in this principle.

Paragraph 11 (principle 6)

Another key objective of Internet governance should be “the ability to evolve”.

We propose “and national” be added to “it is necessary to promote international multi-stakeholder cooperation”.

Paragraph 11 (principle 7)

We propose replacing “the private sector” in the second sentence with “the Internet technical and management organisations”.

Paragraph 11 (principle 8)

We propose adding “and work to ensure there are no barriers to entry for new users and uses of the Internet”.

Paragraph 11 (principle 9)

We suggest deletion of “whether or not they are offered free of charge”.

We also wish to emphasise that anything described as “Internet Service” should provide unimpeded passage of packets, according to well-advertised terms of service.

Protection and Promotion of Internet’s Universality, Integrity and Openness

Should the Council of Europe wish to proceed with the proposed recommendation, we offer the following preliminary comments regarding the draft:
Paragraph 4

We propose adding “and deployment” after “design”.

Paragraph 5

We do not fully understand what is meant by “… access and use of the Internet is exposed to risks of disruption of the stable and ongoing function of the network due to technical failures …”. What are the “technical failures” to which you refer?

We also wish to note that the Internet’s stability and resilience also is intrinsically related to its decentralised and distributed nature.

Paragraph 6

Rather than “various private international entities”, we suggest using “various international and regional non-governmental entities”.

Principle 1.2

We propose deleting “in order to avoid any adverse transboundary impact on access to, and use of, the Internet” so as not to restrict the principle to transboundary issues.

Principles 1.3 and 2.3

It is unclear what is covered by the expression – “Within the limits of  non-involvement in the operational issues and ordinary administration of Internet activities …”.

New principle 2.1.4

You may wish to consider adding a principle to the following effect:

States should consult relevant stakeholders in the development of strategies for emergency plans.

Principle 2.3

This paragraph would benefit from greater clarity as to what this principle is intended to achieve.

Principle 2.4

What does “accountability” mean in this context? To whom would that requirement apply?

In so far as dialogue is concerned, we suggested adding “multi- stakeholder”.
Principle 3
We are concerned that this principle could be used as an excuse for states to seek to exercise greater and unnecessary control over the development and management of Critical Internet Resources (“CIRs”).

Additionally, while the objective is well-intentioned, the use of the word “incorporate” may impose unrealistic and undesirable burdens on the management of CIRs. We consider “are consistent with” is preferable.

Council of Europe Conference, Strasbourg

Finally, we wish to express our thanks to the Council of Europe for inviting the Internet Society to participate on a panel concerning architecture for multi- stakeholder participation and policy-making at the Internet Freedom: From Principles to Global Treaty Law? conference in Strasbourg, France (18-19 April 2011). The Internet Society is committed to fostering effective multi-stakeholder policy development regarding Internet issues and governance. We welcome further opportunities to provide more specific input on these issues as the Council of Europe’s work progresses.

About the Internet Society

The Internet Society is an independent non-profit organisation, founded in 1992 to provide leadership in Internet related standards, education and policy. It is a principles-based organisation, dedicated to ensuring the open development, evolution and use of the Internet for the benefit of people throughout the world.

The Internet Society is the organisational home of the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) – an open consensus-based group responsible for defining Internet protocols and standards.

The Internet Society is accredited with Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. It has formal and strong working relationships with other UN organisations such as UNESCO, UNECA, WIPO and the ITU, as well as governmental and inter-governmental organisations, for example, the OECD, CITEL and APEC.

The Internet Society has more than 100 organisational members, more than 40,000 individual members and over 80 chapters around the world. To better serve the regional Internet community, the Internet Society has created regional bureaus in Africa, Latin America, Asia, North America and Europe. Further, the Internet Society has established a Next Generation Leaders Programme to nurture future Internet leaders to address the critical technology, policy, business, and education challenges that lie ahead.

This global and diverse community continues to deploy efforts in a wide range of areas, working to enhance their contribution to the development of Internet-related public policy solutions around the world. Through its sponsored events, developing- country training workshops, tutorials, public policy, and regional and local chapters, the Internet Society serves the needs of the growing global Internet community.

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