Internet governance refers to the development, coordination and management of a broad range of principles of policies and the technical standards that determine how the internet operates and evolves over time. Internet governance has a big impact on issues like human rights, media freedom and development, making it important for everyone.
Changes to the way the Internet is currently governed could result in increasing curbs to online freedoms. This would have obvious repercussions for media outlets and also for media development. But in the end, Internet governance also affects other fundamental human rights.
Matthias Spielkamp the editor of “Guidebook Internet Governance” has this to say; Internet governance directly relates to freedom of expression because almost all kinds of communications nowadays are mediated via the Internet. Even TV in many countries is now IPTV, meaning that the signal does not come via airwaves anymore but over the Internet. Therefore it is very important how the Internet is regulated or governed and to define what rights and what duties, for example, journalistic publications or the media or platforms like YouTube or Facebook have, and how they can define these duties and freedoms. Internet governance now means media governance to a very large extent.
If we look at the privacy/security issue, it has a direct effect on journalists. What about protection of sources? If I work as a journalist, I have to guarantee anonymity for my sources. Now, can I do that in a context where the government is surveilling me, and where we have data retention laws? This is something that concerns journalists. Then there are, for example, liability issues. Who is liable for a discussion that is going on, on my website?
Apart from freedom of expression internet governance has effect on other fundamental rights; we have the right to privacy, for example, which is affected by how the Internet is governed because companies decide about the storage of their customers’ data. On the other hand, we also have a lot of governments that like to collect information and data about their citizens. Sometimes this is done in line with the law, sometimes it is done outside of the law.
Then there is also freedom of assembly. People might say, “Freedom of assembly, what does that have to do with Internet governance?” but they forget that many people now assemble online, in groups, in forums or in discussion circles. Sometimes they even contribute to acts of protest online, for example, by having a demonstration on the Internet. People increasingly gather online before going out on the streets
Access to the internet is also an issue. If you don’t have access to the Internet, this impairs your freedom to access information. Access to the Internet effects directly questions of justice and fairness. If you can’t participate in Internet communication because there is no affordable Internet access in your country, then you are not very well off nowadays because you can’t participate in many discussions and also in many aspects of economic development.
A public sphere that enables discussion and participation is imperative for a strong and resilient democracy and for inclusive and sustainable growth. At the same time, the Internet as a marketplace and as an economic tool offers enormous opportunities. There are of course also dangers but chances are certainly there. Trade platforms for spare parts, for example, can have a big impact in developing countries because the gain in time and money can be considerable if you take into account how difficult it is often to organize markets in an offline world with inefficient infrastructure. We have many examples like that: from mobile payment to information exchange. All this can be part of a path that leads to sustainable growth.
Media has always been a definite stakeholder in terms of society and public policy. Its scope and objectives are not just limited to its work periphery but it acts as an immense part of society that is responsible for creating better values of social welfare and development. Looking at its growth from traditional approach to the current use of technology, media has been very comfortable in terms of migration and adaptation but when it comes to leading the issues and problems of internet governance, media slides back in a lame role of providing support for the dialogue process. The hesitation of media for acceptance of its role as a stakeholder certainly highlights the concept of lack of awareness and capacity building associated with the overall internet governance process.
It’s a fact that “Media strongly drives the people’s choice and preference” though this is subject to debate. As journalist one must know the power of media for raising issues and creating a buzz. From bringing of news to setting new trends to creating better values, Media plays a key role in spreading awareness and creating buzz among the public. It sets new trend and has been responsible for creating better opportunity of business and value of marketing.
The definition of media and its role is also changing with the scope and role of internet. The mobile technology and internet has made it possible for the media to be more dynamic. The news making process has also evolved in various ways of creating better opportunity and reach among the popularity with social media and other applications of web platform.
The new age of media has not only challenged the orthodox method of slow and processed communication but it definitely has created different dimensions of role and scope. Creating better opportunity of socializing and networking media is adapting and adjusting individual user behavior at various form of Viral, citizen journalism and blogging prospective.
Though there has been a significant growth and development in the field of media and communication but the traditional values and prejudices associated with traditional media still pulls it back from opening up to the round table discussion of internet world. Yes, the media world has certainly accepted technology and internet as an integral part of its cooperation and development but when it comes to defining its aspect of contribution towards the internet governance process it simply slides back either in Private sector or civil society role. It has been very rigid in terms of opening up especially with core issues of technology and communication medium.
Another aspect to the transformation is Media has always been a key player for the development of human evolution; it enjoys the recognition of being one of the major leading players in public policy. With the rapid development and adaptation of Internet Technology, media certainly holds its share of experiences and values. The contemplation of media under Internet or Internet under Media is a huge discussion where things are changing rapidly and constantly. The transcending and transformation process may be an issue but looking at it from a developing countries point of view there are more concrete answer.
Media should know their roles and act on it accordingly and some of its roles are;
- Information dissemination /Awareness
- Capacity building
- Act as a Facilitator
- Policy makers
- Identifying and highlighting problems (victim)
- Collaboration and Trust
- Innovation, among others.
Matthias Spielkamp is co-founder and publisher of the platform iRights.info. He is also a board member of the German section of Reporters Without Borders and responsible for the organization’s policies regarding information freedom on the Internet.