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Turnbull says internet governance can ignore privacy

Meanwhile at home, A-G Brandis floats three-strikes laws

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While the debate over Internet piracy rages in Australia, the nation's communications minister Malcolm Turnbull has headed overseas to endorse the unexceptional outcome of the NetMundial conference.

Speaking at Chatham House, Turnbull praised the outcome of the NetMundial conference in Brazil, which has proposed a model for Internet governance after America backs away from its direct-but-never-used contractual control of ICANN (perhaps because NetMundial managed to avoid too much contentious text in its final communiqué).

Of the multi-stakeholder model, what NetMundial determined was that “The development of international Internet-related public policies and Internet governance arrangements should enable the full and balanced participation of all stakeholders from around the globe, and made by consensus, to the extent possible.”

The conference also determined that the transition away from today's IANA and ICANN governance should be an open and multi-stakeholder process, with everyone “striving towards a completed transition by September 2015.”

Such an anodyne outcome could hardly cause offence, and Turnbull has obligingly endorsed the communiqué. He described the document as “a clear and useful line in the sand for advocating the continued evolution of the multi-stakeholder model: it may see the world’s conversation about internet governance leave behind the old Manichaean dualities of government versus non-government stakeholders, or of ICANN versus ITU.”

Turnbull described the issues of “trust and privacy” as outside the scope of NetMundial. Although the Snowden revelations have “cast a long pall” over the Internet, and a rise in suspicion. However, Turnbull argues the trust issue is outside the scope of the Internet governance debate: “espionage and surveillance is not connected to the governance of the Internet … the governance issues we are discussing today relate to the all important plumbing of the Internet and should not be confused with the content or practices that use that plumbing.”

Which, perchance, is how the communications minister could feel comfortable hitting the hobnob circuit in London while his cabinet colleague, Attorney-General Senator George Brandis, is breezily pressing ahead with the Hollywood-driven Internet piracy crackdown that would see Australian users spied on by their ISPs to watch for piracy.

According to Fairfax, the proposals to be considered by Cabinet are the same ideas that have failed to curb piracy in other countries – blocks on sites like PirateBay, and a three-strikes notice system based on ISPs watching user traffic for possibly-infringing content.

It might be considered that like government spying, content crackdowns are beyond the question of how the plumbing of the Internet is managed, but no: the NetMundial communiqué has this to say about intermediaries:

“Intermediary liability limitations should be implemented in a way that respects and promotes economic growth, innovation, creativity and free flow of information. In this regard, cooperation among all stakeholders should be encouraged to address and deter illegal activity, consistent with fair process.”

No wonder the Australian government is praising the outcome. ®

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