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The Second Internet Governance Forum

On 12-15 November, the Second Internet Governance Forum was held in Rio-de-Janeiro, Brazil. The Forum was attended by 2000-plus registered participants from 109 countries, including representatives of the Coordination Center for TLD .RU (Andrey Kolesnikov, a Board member, and Uliana Zinina, a lawyer).

For four days the Forum participants focused on five principal themes:

- Governance of critical Internet resources;
- Access;
- Diversity;
- Openness;
- Security.

As far as critical Internet resources are concerned, the Forum attendees debated issues of domain name system (DNS) governance, Internet protocols, root servers, standards, and telecommunication infrastructure, including innovation technologies and convergence issues, transition from IPv4 to IPv6. The Forum attendees raised questions of strengthening the global community’s impact on governing critical Internet resources and of enhancement of transparency of the ICANN’s procedures.

The issue of access to the Internet was recognized as a paramount one for the Internet’s expansion worldwide. Numerous participants admitted that it was critical to change business models and cut connection costs in order to ensure a broad access to the Internet for all the willing, and their number was constantly surging.

Issues of diversity in the Internet were all-important for the Forum participants. In the framework of this theme, they debated such issues as championing multilingual content in the Internet, launch of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), and deployment of support system for search queries directly from the address string.

The openness of the Internet was discussed in the context of several conflicts, including contradiction between protection of intellectual property rights and freedom of information, balance between security and freedom of expression. During working groups’ sessions, attendees exchanged opinions and approaches regarding tactics and strategy related to the problem of illegal and “harmful” content, and mechanisms for bringing perpetrators to justice.

Attendees stressed that legislation does not emerge in isolation from the societal needs and should reflect those. Besides, they advocated the principle of “technological neutrality” of human rights.

It was recognized that the main objective of the Internet’s advancement lies in securing the free flow of information. It was also suggested to make the issue of human rights on the Internet central theme for the next Internet Governance Forum to be held in 2008.

Internet security was addressed in several aspects. Firstly, combating cybercrime, including child pornography and other illegal content, international mechanisms and public-private partnership. In addition, attendees discussed issues of ISPs’ assistance to the law-enforcement agencies.

Secondly, ensuring anonymity in the Internet in the context of Internet security, and protection of the rights to privacy. The Forum participants arrive at the conclusion that the online and offline crime implies similar approaches and responsibilities.

Representatives of the Council of Europe and national associations of providers confirmed that the current legislation covered 95% of all crimes committed online. The main problem in combating cybercrime, according to the participants, was the lack of international cooperation between law enforcement agencies. The 2001 Convention on Cybercrime of the Council of Europe was recognized as a principal international document aimed at harmonization of national legislation in the sphere of cybercrime. Experts named creation of a unified system of cooperation between the law enforcement agencies in the 24/7 mode as its main objective.

To date, as many as 21 states have ratified the Convention, including the USA, France, Finland, and Ukraine, among others. The Russian Federation is among those countries which have not yet signed the Convention. According to the CoE representatives, problems with signing and ratification of the Convention by a number of countries are associated only with the question of interpretation of some of its provisions.

All the participants reaffirmed the need for harmonization of legislation in the field of cybercrime. It should be noted that some of the speakers at the Forum cautioned against over-regulation in the process of adoption of new legislation and stressed the need to adhere to the principle of reasonableness. In addition, a number of new adverse acts that potentially could qualify for cybercrimes, were discussed.

It was decided to hold an in-depth debate on issues of ISPs’ responsibilities at the next Forum in 2008. A number of participants agreed that there should not be any special norms of personal data protection in the Internet and that fundamental rules were sufficient in that case, including principles of the CoE Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data of 1981.

In the end, many speakers centered on the issue of phishing as a main current threat to protection of personal data on the Internet. Participants agreed that improvement of legislation on personal data protection posed one of major challenges in ensuring security on the Internet.

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