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OECD leaders split on web's future

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By Stewart Mitchell

Posted on 28 Jun 2011 at 13:16

An OECD debate in Paris on internet governance has thrown up conflicting visions of the future, with politicians and consumer groups disputing key issues on web openness and freedoms.

The OECD meeting painted in sharp relief the diverse interest groups at stake, with officials clashing over web freedoms.

The EU and Civil Society Information Society Advisory Council (CSISAC) said they wanted to continue to promote freedom online, concepts that went against the ethos of the main document under discussion - OECD Communiqué on Internet Policy-making principles.

The EU underlined its commitment to an open internet, criticising corporate and governmental processes that could restrict internet development.

CSISAC believes that these measures contradict international and European human rights law

“There are pressures – regulatory, political, and economic – to fragment the internet, often along national borders," said Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission responsible for the digital agenda.

"Sometimes this results from legitimate concerns, like personal data protection; sometimes it is just plain censorship.

“But the internet's most important characteristic is its universality, where, in principle, every node can communicate with every other. We must safeguard this.”

However, the OECD proposals, and Kroes, supported a multi-stakeholder approach that aimed to protect copyright holders from internet piracy.

The outlined methods for protecting rights holders came under criticism from CSISAC, which refused to endorse the OECD's proposals despite playing a role in drawing them up.

ISP responsibility

“CSISAC was not able to accept the final draft’s over-emphasis on intellectual property enforcement at the expense of fundamental freedoms," the group said before criticising plans to make ISPs more responsible for content.

“The final Communiqué advises OECD countries to adopt policy and legal frameworks that make internet intermediaries responsible for taking lawful steps to deter copyright infringement," CSISAC said.

"This approach could create incentives for internet intermediaries to delete or block contested content, and lead to network filtering."

This approach could create incentives for internet intermediaries to delete or block contested content, and lead to network filtering

CSISAS also railed against the idea of cutting off internet access, as outlined in the OECD's proposal and the Digital Economy Act in Britain.

“Internet intermediaries could voluntarily adopt “graduated response” policies under which internet users’ access could be terminated based solely on repeated allegations of infringement,” the council said.

“CSISAC believes that these measures contradict international and European human rights law.”

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