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At NETmundial Brazil: Is "Multistakeholderism" Good for the Internet?

BY Antonella Napolitano | Wednesday, April 23 2014

The two-day NETmundial conference, a global multi-stakeholder meeting on the future of Internet governance, kicked off today, April 23.

"This meeting will focus on the elaboration of principles of Internet governance and the proposal for a roadmap for future development of this ecosystem," it says on the NETmundial website. "The goal is to consolidate proposals based on these two topics. NETmundial represents the beginning of a process for the construction of such policies in the global context, following a model of participatory plurality."

The conference counts on 33 remote participation hubs in 23 countries and is livestreamed from the website NETmundial.br.

Brazil is an apt place to host such a meeting, as earlier today President Dilma Rousseff officially signed into law the Marco Civil, already dubbed "the Internet bill of rights of Brazil."

The morning was packed with welcoming speeches (literally: there were 437, which raised some humorous questions). The most praised speech was made by Nnenna Nwakanma, Africa Regional Coordinator of the World Wide Web Foundation.

"My name is Nnenna. I come from the Internet. [...] I work to establish the open Web as a global public good and a basic right, ensuring that everyone can access and use it freely," she stated in her remarks. Her talk focused on access, justice, equality and human rights. And she did not forget the surveillance issue: "To you, to all those who work… to people like Edward. Edward Snowden, thank you," she concluded.

While most of the speeches advocated for effective "multi-stakeholderism," this approach is strongly criticized by many Internet activists. French Internet rights activist Jérémie Zimmermann called the meeting a farce and calls multistakeholderism a "dead approach."

In an op-ed published on the website of his organization, La Quadrature du Net, Zimmermann says: "Governments must consider the Internet as our common good, and protect it as such, with no compromise. Like the most precious natural reserve, or patch of clean drinking water. From then we must engage into a profound debate on the nature of the trust we place into private or public actors ("trustees") who will manage this resource."

Here's a Storify account of the opening morning of NETmundial:

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