G8 Leaders Give In to Special Interests, Fail to Commit to Freedoms

Paris, May 27th, 2011 – Today, the G8 released its final communiqué, which fails to offer balanced and concrete proposals regarding Internet policy. After convening an illegitimate eG8 during which special interests and governments came closer than ever, it is now clear that the G8 focus on Internet wanted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy comes down to a dangerous takeover of Internet governance.

The most detailed part of the communiqué1 is that on copyright. It calls for an increased private censorship to prevent the sharing of culture online2, like the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), just after the EU Commission announced its strategy to take on infringements "at the source" and after the U.S Protect IP Act was passed unanimously a committee vote in the Senate.

The communiqué does not include any substantial proposal about the importance of Net neutrality, the silencing or jailing of bloggers in many authoritarian countries, the dangers of private censorship by online actors, or of other burning issues. It only addresses in very vague and general terms the need to foster human rights and and democratic participation online.

After a disastrous eG8 forum where the most powerful businesses and control-oriented governments shared views on how to tailor the Internet to their needs, the G8 communiqué falls short of establishing a democratic Internet policy. It strongly contrasts with the just-released report3 of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion regarding the Internet. In this report, Rapporteur Franck La Rue underlines the fantastic opportunities embedded in the advent of the Internet and depicts in detail the various threats on freedom of expression or privacy, such as the dangers of relying on private actors to regulate online communications4 or the ruthless enforcement of copyright5. In the face of these threats, the report also makes a number of suggestions to protect the openness and the universality of the Internet.  

“This whole episode has shown that there is not much to expect from these few governments who lend their ears to special interests. G8 governments shun the historic responsibility of recognizing the necessary conditions for the Internet to be truly open. They fail to even consider proposing a reform of copyright, abstain from committing to Net neutrality or from protecting users of the malpractices of online businesses." says Philippe Aigrain, co-founder for La Quadrature du Net.

“After convening the biggest businesses of the Internet to a ridiculous public relations exercise, G8 leaders are now relaying their demands. This communiqué confirms that this unholy alliance between governments and big businesses is something Internet users should be worried about, and something against which they must mobilize. The Internet is ours!” concludes Zimmermann.

  • 1. http://www.g20-g8.com/g8-g20/g8/francais/en-direct/actualites/un-nouvel-elan-pour-la-liberte-et-la-democratie.1313.html
  • 2. The communiqué mentions "procedures to prevent current and future infringements". According to the G8, the enforcement of copyright calls for "an appropriate international cooperation between stakeholders, along with the private sector". Our translation.
  • 3. http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/17session/A.HRC.17.27_en.pdf
  • 4. The report says that “holding intermediaries liable for the content disseminated or created by their users severely undermines the enjoyment of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, because it leads to self-protective and over-broad private censorship, often without transparency and the due process of the law.
  • 5. "[The Rapporteur] is alarmed by proposals to disconnect users from Internet access if they violate intellectual property rights. This also includes legislation based on the concept of “graduated response”, which imposes a series of penalties on copyright infringers that could lead to suspension of Internet service, such as the so-called “three-strikes-law” in France and the Digital Economy Act 2010 of the United Kingdom.