Democratic Principles for an Open Internet

Democratic Principles for an Open Internet


An open and inclusive internet, where all
individuals can freely express themselves, share and debate ideas, and
engage in economic activities, is an essential part of a Modern Democracy. Sadly, this is not always the case. Because the Internet gives people the
ability to connect, powerful interests spend a lot of resources to control it. In order to improve understanding of how fundamental rights apply in a fast-changing digital world, and to protect and promote an open, democratic internet based on the IR PC principles, we have developed the Democratic
Principles for an Open Internet. Here, are the nine Democratic Principles for an Open Internet and warning signs if they are not being respected. Principle number one: Freedom of Expression Everyone has the right to express their views online, including dissenting opinions on policies, procedures, and/or public figures, without censorship, surveillance, or fear of reprisal. Some warning signs of an Undemocratic Internet are: The blocking of specific news media websites. Flooding of online spaces with disinformation or harassing language. And, the removal of content without legal justification. Principle number two: Freedom of Assembly and Association In a democracy, the internet is an important platform for political organizing, where individuals can collaborate to advance democratic goals. If security agents infiltrate online communities to monitor groups, or individuals are prevented from accessing websites and messaging apps
that facilitate political mobilization, this principle is not being upheld. Principle number three: Accessibility Everyone has an equal right to access
and use a secure and open Internet. What does this look like in a democracy? To ensure equal opportunity for participation, key public and private Internet stakeholders must identify and address existing inequalities in access, particularly among woman and other traditionally marginalized populations. Some warning signs of an Undemocratic Internet are: National broadband plans omit or delay access to rural communities. Lack of investments in the
infrastructure for broadband and mobile access throughout a country. And, the
implementation of a government mandated internet blackout in response to political protests. Principle number four: Privacy and Data
Protection All individuals have the right to use the internet without surveillance and to remain anonymous. Also, everyone has the right to control personal data collection, retention, processing, disposal, and disclosure. In countries where citizens must register their social media account with the government, or where governments criminalize encryption, and track online activities of its citizens in different ways, this principle is not being respected. Principle number five: Personal Safety and Security In a democracy, legal protections are established that address online threats of physical, sexual, and psychological violence. Furthermore, protections exist against online campaigns that incite any form of violence, discrimination, or hostility
against individuals or groups. Increasing reports from politically active women of
online stalking and blackmail that leads to in-person and physical confrontation,
is a warning sign of an Undemocratic Internet. Principle number six: Inclusion Cultural and linguistic diversity on the internet must be promoted, so that all individuals, such as women, persons with disabilities, and other marginalized populations may communicate, share information, or create online content in the language of their choice. In an Undemocratic Internet, official websites do not adhere to best practices for accessibility standards, preventing persons with disabilities from interacting with or using a site. Another warning sign of an Undemocratic Internet is when a government publishes information in one language and does not translate the information for non-primary language speaking members of the population. Principle number seven: Network Equality Everyone shall have equal access to the Internet’s content. Preventing access is not permitted on any grounds, including public order or natural security. Warning signs of an
Undemocratic Internet are: Speeding up of specific content in exchange for commercial considerations. The restriction of internet service during political events, such as elections and protests. And, when citizens in one country are unable to access websites that are available in other countries. Principle number eight: Standards The internet’s communication systems,
document and data formats should be open with limited barriers to access for
users, content hosts, and service providers, so they can freely exchange
information. Warning signs that this principle is not
being upheld are: If a technical standard is developed with the express intent of
enabling tracking or surveillance or if a government refuses to adopt
international internet standards to limit citizens access to the Internet. Principle number nine: Governance Diversity is essential to making sure
how the internet operates is inclusive and representative. This means that
public and private sector organizations must all be allowed to participate. If
Internet Governance bodies include only government or if at internet governance
conferences and forums, only multinational technology companies are
present, and not entrepreneurs or small business associations, this principle is
not being respected. These principles serve as an advocacy tool that you as an individual can utilize in pushing governments, the private sector, and civil society to adhere to universal human rights through Open Internet
Principles and Standards in order to move forward together, to make the
internet truly work for democracy. For more information, please visit our
website at openinternet.global

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