OECD Internet policy angers civil liberty groups
BRUSSELS — The OECD has issued a framework for developing Internet policy that puts pressure on Internet service providers to take responsibility for policing their networks.

The OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) represents 34 governments including European Union member states, the U.S., Canada, Australia, Mexico and Korea. Wednesday’s communication focuses on copyright infringement and the measures ISPs could take to deter this.

“Sound Internet policy should encompass norms of responsibility that enable private sector voluntary co-operation for the protection of intellectual property. Appropriate measures include lawful steps to address and deter infringement. All parties have a role to play, including intermediaries,” the communication said.

But civil liberties groups, worried that it puts too much emphasis on intellectual property enforcement, have criticized the text.

“This approach could create incentives for Internet intermediaries to delete or block contested content and lead to network filtering, which would harm online expression. In addition Internet intermediaries could voluntarily adopt a “graduated response” (the so-called three strikes rule) under which Internet users’ access could be terminated based solely on repeated allegations of infringement,” said CSISAC, a coalition of more than 80 civil liberties groups from across the globe, including La Quadrature du Net, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and EDRi.

The OECD communication does accept that “appropriate limitations of liability for Internet intermediaries play a fundamental role with regard to third party content.” But it then goes on to say that intermediaries, such as ISPs and search engines, could be useful to governments in deterring illegal activity conducted online and in reducing illegal content.

“Governments may be able to achieve certain policy goals by encouraging the development of codes of conduct that are supported by effective accountability mechanisms. Such codes of conduct should encourage voluntary co-operative efforts by the private sector to … address illegal activity, including fraudulent, malicious, misleading and unfair practices taking place over the Internet,” said the communication.

This appears to favor a move towards more filtering and control, something that troubles CSISAC members. “Internet intermediaries must not be called upon to make determinations about the legality of content passing through their networks and platforms because they are neither competent nor appropriate parties to do so.

Requiring them to make determinations on the legality of content or behavior of users raises issues for transparency, due process and accountability,” said CSISAC.
In a news release the OECD says goal of the framework is to create a more open Internet.
“Participants also recognised that the Internet economy’s success depends upon the free flow of information, which should be promoted and protected,” the release said. “Governments should improve their efforts to protect personal data, the freedom of expression, and other fundamental rights online.”
Countries must develop and promote high-speed broadband access to reap the full benefits of an Internet economy, the release added. “Governments have a key role to play in spurring demand for broadband, particularly in areas such as education, health, energy distribution and transport.”
(With adds by Howard Solomon, Network World Canada)

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