Imagined as a follow-on to Brazil’s Net Mundial meeting held in April 2014, the Net Mundial Initiative (NMI) has generated more controversy than consensus since it was announced late last year.
Having the World Economic Forum (WEF) as one of NMI’s founding partners (alongside the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee and ICANN) has done little to quell fears that this initiative is just another power grab from elites more concerned with their own status than the Internet’s well being.
Shortly after the NMI was first announced, the Internet Society (ISOC) refused to participate and put out a damning statement. “We are concerned that the way in which the NETmundial Initiative is being formed does not appear to be consistent with the Internet Society’s longstanding principles, including: Bottom-up orientation; Decentralized; Open; Transparent; Accountable; Multi-Stakeholder,” ISOC charged.
And now, timed to coincide with the WEF’s Annual Meeting in Davos, comes a new forum created in direct opposition to the NMI. The Internet Social Forum’s (ISF) pitch is clearly anti-NMI and anti-elite. “While the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the ‘Net Mundial Initiative’ convene global elites, the Internet Social Forum will be a participatory and bottom-up space for all those who believe that the global Internet must evolve in the public interest; a direct parallel to the launch of the World Social Forum in 2001 as a counter initiative to the WEF,” says ISF’s inaugural announcement.
Several civil society organisations are behind ISF, including the French Open-Root project championed by Louis Pouzin. One of the fathers of the Internet (he invented the datagram, one of the foundations for the core TCP/IP Internet Protocol developed by Vint Cerf), Pouzin has been a long-standing critic of ICANN and US-centric governance of the Internet.