The Green Group, The Commons Network and the Heinrich Böll Foundation will host a conference 'Internet as a Commons: Public Space in the Digital Age' on 1 October at the European Parliament in Brussels.
The Internet as a whole has become an important part of our global public sphere. Internet provides access to a wealth of information and knowledge, and the possibility to participate, create and communicate. This public space made up of internet infrastructures is increasingly threatened from two sides; by the centralization and commercialization through the dominant positions held by giant telecom and Internet companies, as well as by an increasing trend in state regulation and censorship of the net. This poses important questions about how we choose to organize and regulate our digital societies, and how Internet governance models can be developed and implemented to ensure fair and democratic participation.
When it comes to the future of the Internet, a key discussion is one of infrastructures; who owns, runs and controls them. The question of regulation, and who oversees the regulators, is made complicated by the transnational nature of the net.
As much as people expect a broadly and equitably accessible Internet open to diversity, we are, slowly but surely, moving away from it. Monopolization of Internet infrastructures and services by companies such as Facebook and Google has gone hand in hand with privacy intrusions, surveillance and the unbounded use of personal data for commercial gain. As we all interact in these centralized commercial platforms that monetize our actions we see an effective enclosure and manipulation of our public spaces. Decentralization and democratization of the Internet infrastructure and activities is essential to keep a free, open and democratic Internet for all to enjoy equitably. But can the “small is beautiful”-idea be compatible with the building of state-of-the-art successful infrastructure in the future?
The debates around net neutrality, infrastructure neutrality and Internet monopolies reflect the important choices that are to be made. It is essential the EU formulates a comprehensive vision on the internet that addresses the protection of civil liberties such as free speech and privacy, but also the growing commercialization of our digital public spaces and the commodification of personal data with the effect of the market encroaching on all aspects of our daily lives. Only then can it make relevant interventions regarding the Internet and its governance.
This conference will discuss how to re-decentralize and reclaim the Internet for all.
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