The second day of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was partially strange, partially funny, and indeed quite productive.
The day began with a main hall session about “Openness”, the whole protocol of which is already online here. As one might imagine, a panel about openness and transparency on the internet did create quite a bit of China bashing, and while Mr Art Reilly, senior director of strategic technology policy at Cisco Systems, had a hard time explaining the exact dealings of Cisco with the Chinese government, Vint Cerf made some clear statement for Google in terms of being transparent about filtering on request of the Chinese government, but trying to avoid to gather data that could be abused:
Let me also say that we also chose not to offer certain services in China. We didn't offer Gmail. We didn't offer blogging. The reason we did not do that is that we did not want to have materials on our servers that the Chinese government could ask us or insist that we reveal in order to identify individual parties. So we chose deliberately not to offer certain services in order to protect the interests of the Chinese people.
So when Mr YANG XIAOKUN of the Chinese mission in Geneva stood up after a long discussion about the subject to tell the assembled audience that China has no access restrictions of any kind, it did draw some unbelieving looks, and then some boos. Here is that part of the exchange:
>> NIK GOWING: Could I -- may I ask you a question? How would you define, for those who are not familiar with your government's policy and the detail of it, what is the principle on restrictions of openness in China? >> YANG XIAOKUN: We do not have restriction at all.
While it is justified to criticise China for their human rights record, it is not like all Northern countries had such a fantastic record themselves. The United States come to mind immediately, but also European countries are not always the poster-children they’d like to portray themselves as. So we could also have spoken about the surveillance of internet traffic in Germany, the Patriot Act in the United States, or similar things in almost any other country.
Dynamic Coalition for Open Standards
After the hardcore candy-bar lunch following on a skipped breakfast, the day went on productively with a press conference on the first so-called “Dynamic Coalition” at the IGF, which was started by a group of organisations and companies, including SUN, CPTech, the library of Alexandria, W3C, IP-Justice, the Yale Information Society Project, and the Free Software Foundation Europe.
Talks are ongoing with other major companies and several countries, as well as NGOs who have an interest in Open Standards. The goal will be to define a common understanding of what constitutes an Open Standard, practice examples of Open Standard implementations and policy advice on Open Standards.
You can see some first press echo at Computer Business Reviw Online, with more to follow.