OECD internet policy guidelines hit turbulence

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OECD internet policy guidelines hit turbulence
Senator Stephen Conroy at lecturn

Privacy advocates warn draft text cracks down on freedom.

A coalition of 80 international consumer and privacy groups have "declined" to negotiate on the text of a draft set of internet policy guidelines overnight, amid concerns they undermined internet freedom.

The draft communiqué was presented at this week's OECD High Level meeting in Paris.

It sought a common approach on how best to ensure the continued growth and innovation of the internet economy.

The public portion of the meeting saw broad agreement on the importance of having a non-fragmented global internet that was “free and open”, with both Government and non-Government organisations having a say and regulation being a last resort.

However behind the scenes, a draft OECD communiqué on internet policy-making principles upset the influential advisory committee The Civil Society Information Society Advisory Council (CSISAC).

CSISAC was a coalition of more than 80 global civil society group covering consumer and privacy issues. Its local representative was Electronic Frontiers Australia.

In a prepared statement issued within hours of OECD meeting CSISAC said the OECD's draft undermined fundamental rights and would force ISPs and other intermediaries to police and enforce laws on their networks and services.

“This is something that civil society is unable to accept and is inconsistent with our understanding of the notion of multistakeholder policy development," the council noted.

Aspects of the draft communiqué which upset CSISAC include:

  • A perceived over-emphasis on protecting and enforcing intellectual property rights.
  • That cyber-security and intellectual property rights were being given equal level of importance to freedom of expression.
  • Restricting content access to “lawful” content implied a tacit endorsement for network-level filtering of the internet.
  • Inadequate recognition of privacy rights while endorsing transborder data storage or processing.
  • Requiring ISPs and other intermediaries to determine lawful behaviour which clashed with the view that they were “mere conduits”.

“No text should undermine, or condition, existing limitations of liability for such entities upon the satisfaction  of positive obligations to take particular actions, such as “lawful steps”. Nor  should intermediaries be required to “assist rights holders in ...reduc[ing]  illegal content," the CSISAC noted.

The full text of the draft communiqué was not available at the time this story was filed but would appear on the OECD site shortly.

NBN battles

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy remained 'on message' throughout his contribution on a panel at the Paris meeting to share experiences on the challenge of obtaining national broadband coverage.

However in an unguarded aside, he complained about the lack of cooperation from his Ministerial colleagues to get the broadband agenda taken up across the Federal Government.

Conroy noted the Government's approach to "reach across all silos of education, health, environment, to drive the reforms to take up the broadband challenge.”

“I don’t say that’s the best way -  I simply say that you need a lot more black hair when you start than grey hair to fight your way through the silos," he said.

“Your own colleagues will fight you strongly even though they might be your best friends. So it is a real challenge to drive it through on a Government as a whole basis.”

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