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The Struggle over Internet Governance: Searching for Common Ground

Date & Time:
17:30:00 - 20:00:00,
Thursday 5 May, 2005


An invited group of international experts with differing perspectives on Internet research, policy and practice, including the Chairman and Secretariat of the United Nation’s recently created Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG), will be invited to contribute to this OII-Berkman Center forum. The aim is to help inform negotiations and debates shaping the future governance, regulation and use of the Internet. The event will start in the late afternoon of 5th May with a panel discussion, followed by a reception. Invited participants will convene on 6th May for a day-long roundtable discussion, which will be followed by a closing dinner.

The dual-edged nature of the Internet is becoming increasingly evident around the world, with the substantial benefits for educational, social, economic, business and entertainment purposes being offset by Internet-based cybercrime, pornography, spam and computer viruses. As a result, governments, industry, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and various civil society groups and activists are seeking to influence and participate in the shaping and control of Internet resources and services, which involves discussions, negotiations, agreements and conflicts between a variety of competing and complementary interests.

The open culture that nurtured the Internet’s phenomenal growth evolved largely through decentralised, voluntary, bottom-up governance, which many claim is the secret of the technology’s success. By transforming many processes and institutions touching all areas of life, and thereby the lives of many people, this success has brought the Internet to a crossroads, where different directions are pointed to for managing the related opportunities and associated problems.

Some stakeholders argue for various forms of Internet governance and regulation; some advocate a greater role for inter-governmental and inter-agency cooperation in specific areas like the policing of cybercrime; and others seek to maintain the ‘open commons’ culture on which the Internet was built. This forum provides a neutral arena in which to explore common ground, as well as areas of contention. The resultant discussion and its subsequent synthesis aims to help guide and assist policy and practice in this area, particularly as input to the WGIG.

This is particularly important in the run up to the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunis in November 2005. The WSIS process involves government, private enterprise, non-governmental organisations and civil society representatives working together to harness the potential of the technology to achieve the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.


This forum will bring together a set of knowledgeable and experienced participants, encompassing a broad range of perspectives, to explore a number of key questions relating to Internet governance and regulation:

  • What does ‘Internet governance’ mean?

  • How should the Internet be best steered in future?

  • What policy issues are relevant to Internet governance?

  • Which key policy issues, if any, are best addressed through better Internet governance mechanisms?

  • Does the Internet need to be ‘governed’ by formal national and/or global institutions?

  • Are any new institutions of Internet governance required, such as a new intergovernmental organisation or a global Internet convention – or would it be preferable to continue generally with the established system of national laws and regulations?

  • As the Internet is a global phenomenon that is shaped according to the local social, cultural and personal contexts in which it is developed and used, how do institutions of Internet governance balance global and local needs?

  • Can there be any agreement on the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders, from governments, global enterprises and large NGOs to individuals, families, communities and smaller NGOs and businesses?

  • What are appropriate roles for Internet-related legislation and regulation?



Oxford Consensus:

Position Papers:

This forum has been organised in collaboration with The Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard Law School. We are pleased to acknowledge the sponsorship of Afilias, the Economist, and Nominet UK.

AfiliasBerkman Center for Internet & SocietyNominet UKThe Economist

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  • Professor William H. Dutton
  • Name: Professor William H. Dutton
  • Affiliation: Oxford Internet Institute
  • Role:
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