NetMundial 'rule-the-internet' ISC project gets grudging support of civil society

Well, we won't boycott it, OK? Does that count?

Civil society groups have decided they will not boycott the proposed new internet governance program, the NetMundial Initiative.

In a letter sent earlier this week, representatives from the Internet Governance Civil Society Coordination Group (CSCG) noted that there were "very significant misgivings across a broad segment of civil society about the merits of our prospective involvement" but they would nevertheless engage with the program.

The main sticking point appears to have been the organisers' initial plan to select members of its "Coordination Council" themselves. Seemingly the CSCG will now be allowed to select its own members from those who choose to apply.

"We have decided to facilitate the involvement of those from civil society who do wish to apply for membership of the Coordination Council, while acknowledging others have decided as a matter of principle that they do not wish to be involved — and indeed [some of those others] would rather that civil society did not participate at all," the letter notes, while also acknowledging that one civil society group, the Just Net Coalition, has already rejected the initiative and refused to take part.

The letter also put conditions on its involvement, including:

  • Discussions about why there are five "permanent seats" on the Council for the organizers plus two others that it chose, and whether that situation should continue
  • That the initiative support the Internet Governance Forum and back off if the IGF moves into other governance areas
  • That involvement be periodically re-evaluated

Even despite the conditions and skeptical tone, the NetMundial Initiative organizers will be relieved to see some support of its plans following a torrid three weeks where it has: been accused of running a top-down process; disregarding core internet principles; been rejected by the Internet Society; seen very few candidates come forward; received but a single work proposal; had mention of its namesake conference pulled out of a public statement because of fears of being associated with it (see the email at the link dated Nov 17 and sent at 3.19pm); and failed to yet receive endorsement from the holders of the other two permanent seats that it created.

Despite the qualified approval of civil society, the initiative still faces a number of significant questions over its development, approach, budget and purpose. With the organizers still refusing to redraw their plans, it remains to be seen with the NetMundial Initiative has a future. ®

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