assessments

Oct 31, 2006 | 04:07 GMT

2 mins read

Internet Governance Forum Convenes

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan convened the first Internet Governance Forum (IGF) on Oct. 30-Nov. 2 in Athens, Greece. IGF is not a decision-making body, but rather a forum for issues pertaining to the Internet and international policy. It is open to any stakeholders who wish to participate and produces no joint conclusions. As such, it provides an opportunity for people to air grievances and gain media attention for their perspectives, as well as to bring up ideas that are not commonly discussed. The IGF's agenda in Athens was based on four topics: openness (freedom of expression), security (trust and privacy), diversity (multilingualism and local content) and access (policy, open standards and cost). Internet companies, including Yahoo, Google, Microsoft Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc., came under sharp criticism by human rights organizations at the conference for cooperating with Chinese government censorship, as well as censorship in other countries such as Vietnam. The companies defended their record in China, saying they had no choice but to comply with the government's regulations, and that their overall activity in China has led to expanded freedom of information. IGF is a successor event to the World Summit on the Information Society, which was held in November 2005 in Tunis, Tunisia. The next IGF will convene in 2007 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Rio summit will likely be shaped in part by the results of a final report in spring 2007 from U.N. Special Representative on Business and Human Rights John Ruggie. By 2008, IGF will likely be working on a draft code of conduct for companies operating in countries that restrict their citizens' access to information.

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