Say NO to Big Tech deciding Global Governance of Big Tech
“Hey Google, check and tell me if you are evil or not”.
Last week, the Just Net Coalition and other organizations invited everybody to sign an open letter against something very worrying that is happening in, or around, the intersection of the United Nations and the Internet. That specific invitation expired yesterday, but since the danger is still there, very concrete, the more people know and oppose it, the better. For your convenience, here is the shortest possible summary of what the problem is, with the invitation to share it as much as you can, wherever you see fit.
Why you should care
This is by me, not in the open letter: in case you missed it, the Big Tech mentioned below is the same that has so much money by itself (plus more from Saudi Arabia), and so much power, that has become Big Banks, and works combining feudalism, surveillance and tax avoidance.
Who watches Big Tech? Big Tech Watchmen, of course
Years ago, the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) mandated a process of “Enhanced Cooperation” for developing “international public policies pertaining to the Internet” (or global digital policies), and a multistakeholder policy dialogue space, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). While the IGF has been functioning since 2006, the world is still waiting for the “Enhanced Cooperation” part, that is the organization that would actually develop concrete, global digital policies, to form start working.
But instead of such an organization, we now face the unbelievable prospect of “a Big Tech led body for Global Governance of Big Tech”.
This prospect comes from a proposal for a new “strategic and empowered” body with substantial digital policies related roles, in which corporation and government nominees will participate as equals. This is unacceptable. Equally unacceptable, if not worse, is that this Body will rely largely on corporate funding, and maybe also assigning seats only to funders. This is a new low for the UN, and an unthinkably dangerous direction for the future of global governance.
It is dangerous to give a private funding base to a regulator body for global digital governance. And it is even absurd, in a moment when calls for stronger regulation of Big Tech are rising in the EU, as well as in US and many other countries.
What to do instead
The Open Letter concludes that:
- The proposal for an ‘empowered and strategic’ High Level Multistakeholder Body for Digital Cooperation should be shelved, period
- A clear distinction should be made between what could be Digital Cooperation for assisting UN agencies in deploying digital technologies in programmatic terms, on the one hand, and the actual UN’s core digital policy functions, on the other
- Efforts should be renewed in full earnest to develop a genuinely democratic system for global digital governance, keeping vested corporate interests at bay.
For many more details about both the problem and the proposed solution, plus a short history of WSIS and IGF, see the full open letter.