Internet governance debate derailed at the e-G8 by Xu Peixi, associate professor with the Communication University of China

French President Sarkozy’s e-G8 Forum indicates that the debate on Internet governance has shifted from broader concerns such as social justice and the unrestricted sharing of knowledge, to a narrow concern with technology and markets. While the 2003-2005 World Summit on Information Society and subsequent forums acknowledged, at least in name, the importance of a multi-stakeholder approach to building an inclusive information society, and a bottom-up democratic approach designed to serve the interests of the global public, the e-G8 Forum casts aside these earlier achievements and ends up approaching the issues from back to front.The forum shrinks the role of the Internet back to the outdated neo-liberal slogan of “accelerating growth”. It is a sign that the Internet, formerly the world’s freest medium, is increasingly succumbing to control by states and global corporations. President Sarkozy’s re-positioning of the Internet appears understandable against a background of global economic worries. But the opposing arguments carry more weight. The Internet is a core infrastructure for better communication that is too important to be compromised and monopolized by a state-market coalition, particularly against a background in which underprivileged groups and countries need more than ever to make their voices heard and world citizens need to mobilize and coordinate their actions on issues such as climate change.

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