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This week’s front page editor


Francesc Badia i Dalmases is Editor and Director of democraciaAbierta.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

An ICANN pioneer, Esther Dyson tells the story of how the net community harnessed political imagination to create its own forms of governance, and shares her views of what the future holds in store for internet users worldwide. This series of articles on internet regulation and ICANN consists of several interviews with Dyson collected over a one year period. Stefan Verhulst from the Markle Foundation shares his views on achieving public legitimacy.

The link tax threatens the internet as we know it

The EU Commission's proposed copyright directive poses a threat to the internet's fundamental interconnectedness.

Cybersecurity should protect us – not control us

In the race to secure against threats, human rights such as privacy, free expression, freedom of assembly are undermined rather than protected.

Twenty-first century protest: social media and surveillance

The internet is a two-edged sword—a vehicle for mass surveillance on the one hand and the organisation of civil-society protest on the other.

Selling dictatorship

Liberal opinion has been outraged by the disclosures about US and UK electronic surveillance. Yet the most unpalatable revelation is that, in an unregulated capitalist economy, liberal democracy is always threatened with authoritarian regression.

After Snowden: UN takes first small step to curb global surveillance

The debate on international electronic spying, blown open by the US National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden, moves this week to the United Nations General Assembly. It begins what is set to be a long battle to affirm the privacy rights of global citizens

The future of Russia's i-curtain

Hot on the heels of a new law establishing a register of forbidden sites, Russian authorities are now promoting a system of 'virtual' borders and international supervision. Their proposal has so far failed to find significant support, but Russia will keep trying, says Irina Borogan

Zimbabwe: speaking from where I feel safe

Many women in Zimbabwe face war in their homes daily and face war with the state when we try to overcome it. Often we find ourselves in combat when all we are actually trying to do is to crawl out of our own small room, says Betty Makoni.

The Kremlin and the hackers: partners in crime?

The recent Russian parliamentary and presidential elections were notable for the wide use of cyber attacks on the websites of the liberal media, as well as opposition hackers accessing officials’ intranet email exchanges. But was this a question of large-scale collusion between the Kremlin and professional hackers, or an altogether more amateur effort by political activists? In the latest article in their ‘Project ID’ series, Irina Borogan and Andrei Soldatov investigate the destructive forces targeting the Russian internet.

Cybersecurity: politics, interests, choices

The threat of cyber-attack is driving states and corporations to devote ever-greater resources to meet the challenge. The accompanying debate about the scale of the risk has profound implications for the future of the internet, says Ben Schiller.

The freedom cloud

The tools that help Arab democracy protesters also extend the reach of three United States corporations. The power of Facebook, Google, and Twitter represents an appropriation of the hacker-utopian ideals of the early internet, says Becky Hogge. The challenge to those who still uphold these ideals is to recover a true freedom path.

Thabo Mbeki's fall: the ANC and South Africa's democracy

The transition of power in South Africa exposes intense political rivalries within the ruling party and raises wider questions about the country's constitutional future, says Roger Southall.

(This article was first published on 13 October 2008)

openDemocracy's beta launch

Felix Cohen introduces openDemocracy's new-look site, and invites your contributions on how to improve it.

Amnesty's China hit-list

An Amnesty International report on leading companies' complicity with China's internet censorship is the latest stage in a vital campaign, says Becky Hogge.

What does Google know about you?

…and will it tell George W Bush? Andrew Brown reveals why Google is resisting a White House subpoena to reveal random search data, when its rivals MSN, Yahoo! et al, have complied.

The net's future after Tunis

The UN-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society makes an easy target for critics. Behind the headlines is a different story, says Bill Thompson.

Why the WSIS? Democracy and cyberspace

The debate about who governs the internet will dominate the World Summit on the Information Society meeting in Tunis this week – but the world’s web users have more important things on their mind, says Becky Hogge.

The web is not dead: a response to Bill Thompson

Is the world wide web evolving, dying or merely pining for the fjords? A young web developer takes issue with Bill Thompson’s call to dump the web. Eavesdrop on the techies slugging it out over HTML, distributed processing, < IMG > tags and illiterate waiters. The future of your desktop is at stake.

Relax, internet users, the World Wide Web is not dead, far from it. If you are worried by Bill Thompson’s call to dump the web before it dies, don’t be.

Dump the World Wide Web!

Bill Thompson studied computer science, built his first site in 1994, attended the first international web conference later that year with Tim Berners-Lee, created the Guardian’s first website and has worked with openDemocracy since its first version. But he has a deep, dark secret. He thinks the web sucks. Not just individual sites, but the whole web edifice. He explains why he wants to cure the addiction to HTML and do online publishing properly.

The internet's future in an aircraft hangar

The World Summit on the Information Society venue was bland, the rhetoric cloudy, the chocolates consoling – but ideas and energy flowed around the fringes.

Communication: the missing link in sustainable development

The appropriate use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) could make a vast contribution to solving the problems of development and democracy. But to realise this potential, a global conversation is needed to match the global nature of economic, social and environmental challenges.

The WSIS: whose freedom, whose information?

The UN’s World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in Geneva is intended to create ways of bridging the global ‘digital divide’. But will its political tensions and complex agenda make it less of an “internet-Kyoto” and more of an arid talk shop?

Defending ICANN: Esther Dyson interviewed

The leading ICANN activist Esther Dyson reflects on the domain name organisation’s recent dispute over the future direction of Internet governance.

The torrent

The media saturates, drenches, overflows our lives: an endless torrent of words, images, sounds. This is not the “information age”, a mere channel to life, says openDemocracy’s North Americas editor, but life itself. How do people make sense of the onrush without being submerged by it?

Public legitimacy: ICANN at the crossroads

The debate about governing the internet is intensifying. Does the new medium need new forms of representation, or simply an application of “real world” norms? If the former, how can the public interest be best secured? The net’s governing body, ICANN, is meeting this weekend to thrash out the issues. A representative of the Markle Foundation sets out the principles he, and other independent experts, believe should guide it.

Participation is bigger than voting

In Issue 3 of openDemocracy, we published an interview with Esther Dyson on governing the Internet. She described how ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) was created - and called for global parties to keep it open and accountable. Our members had the opportunity to put their questions to her in our debate section. Just back from a meeting of the At-Large Study Committee of ICANN, she responds to six of them, dealing with issues of both process and principle. She finishes by examining notions of global democracy.

Governing freedom

The net is rule-governed space as well as dynamic technology and business medium. But who wrote the rules? An ICANN pioneer tells openDemocracy the story of how the net community harnessed political imagination to create its own forms of governance, and asks: can a global civil society now emerge, with political parties to help make that governance accountable?
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