Press Coverage of Open Letter on Network Neutrality

An amazingly wide range of press coverage was generated by an open letter on network neutrality, including the following stories in the UK and International press:

All Bits Created Equal

Yahoo and eBay plead with Vaizey for UK net neutrality 3 Dec 2010

Organisations, ranging from eBay, Skype and Yahoo, to the Open Rights Group, Consumer Focus and Which, have … Telegraph, 2 Dec 2010

The letter calls on the UK   government to take practical steps to ensure the continued .. Financial Times – 2 Dec 2010

A group of major Internet companies, including Ebay, Yahoo and Skype, have written to Ed Vaizey, communications minister, ..  Telegraph 2 Dec 2010

The debate over net neutrality is reaching a new phase. Matt Warman examines the issues. The nature of the internet is underpinned on net neutrality – but – Wall Street Journal – Dec 2, 2010

A group of 19 leading internet heavyweights and supporters of the open web have urged the The Guardian – Dec 2, 2010

An interesting confluence with the publication earlier today of the Ofcom report about UK   consumers’ technology habits, today’s net neutrality letter to Ed Technology firms call out the UK Government on net   neutrality. Inquirer – Dec   2, 2010

Nineteen Technology Heavyweights have written to the UK Communications Minister and urged him to cement the Government’s stance on the open Vaizey pressed on net neutrality by internet   heavyweights. The Guardian – Dec 2, 2010

A coalition of Internet and venture capital companies and pressure groups have   written to communications minister Ed Vaizey calling for a clear political Vaizey told to safeguard open internet.  Digital Spy – Dec   3, 2010

A   group of 19 internet organisations and firms have submitted a letter to   culture secretary Ed Vaizey calling on him Net neutrality: UK advocates strike while the iron’s slighty warm. TelecomTV – 3 Dec  2010

Neutrality advocates have seized the opportunity presented by the FCC’s proposed rule-making to press their case for similar Internet protections to be Open letter presses Vaizey on net neutrality. HEXUS – Dec 3, 2010

A bunch of influential Internet big hitters have called on the UK government to keep the Internet open and protect net neutrality. Tech Firms Urge Vaizey To Safeguard Net Neutrality.  ITProPortal – Dec 3, 2010

Major technology firms have urged communications minister Ed Vaizey to lay down the ground rules for net neutrality in the UK. In an open letter, …  Top Technology Firms Join the Fight for Net Neutrality. The FirstFound Blog – Dec 3, 2010

In November, C0mmunications Minister Ed Vaizey decided that net neutrality wasn’ta good thing, and that small businesses, hobbyists and non-profit sites … Tech Firms Call On Vaizey To Safeguard Net Neutrality. eWEEK Europe UK – Dec 2, 2010

Last month, Vaizey clarified his stance on <strong>net neutrality</strong> (ie the unbiased running of Internet service access), saying that he is a supporter and that hisb… – Dec 2, 2010

Net neutrality demands a level playing field for access, and stops ìndiscriminatory business practices, ie. business practices that restrict web access by .. – Dec 2, 2010

.. organisations have written an open letter to communications minister Ed Vaizey urging a rethink of the government’s position on net neutrality.  UK government sets out its position on net neutrality. Lexology – Dec 2, 2010

The Communications Minister Ed Vaizey announced the government’s position on net neutrality on 17 November 2010, stating that ì the internet has been … – Dec 2, 2010

BBC technology chief Erik Huggers has repeatedly spoken out in favour of net neutrality. Vaizey last month provoked accusations that the Government would …  UK web companies demand net neutrality legislation. – Dec 2, 2010

It doesn’t use the words “net neutrality” directly, but it calls for the government to safeguard the web from “discriminatory business practices”, Net heavyweights demand action on net neutrality. PC Pro – Dec 2, 2010

eBay, Which and the Open Rights Group to pen a joint letter to the minister, calling for clarity over the Government’s position on net neutrality. Minister feels pressure to keep net neutral uSwitch†- Dec 3, 2010

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey is facing pressure from campaign groups to maintain net neutrality, after he backed plans for a two-speed internet.
Group letter to Ed Vaizey pleads for open internet – Dec 2, 2010

The signatories call on the government to throw its weight behind net neutrality, by ensuring that traffic management is kept to a minimum and all content U.K. Government Urged to Back Open Web  Wall Street Journal – Dec 2, 2010

The issue of net neutrality has gripped the US telecommunications sector, but the different structure of the European telecoms market means different  Groups oppose UK web traffic control Financial Times – Dec 2, 2010

The letter comes a day after US regulators agreed to relax their proposals on so-called net neutrality and allow cable companies to charge internet users Tech companies write to Vaizey advocating open Internet Techwatch – Dec 3, 2010

The letter follows concerns sparked by Vaizey’s recent comments, in which he appeared to be considering abandoning the principles of net neutrality  Vaizey told to safeguard open internet Digital Spy – Dec 3, 2010

Ofcom is currently running a review of net neutrality and web traffic management practices. In a speech earlier this month, Vaizey appeared to suggest that  UK tech heavyweights send Ed Vaizey open letter on open internet TechEye – Dec 2, 2010

Tech heavyweights and supporters of the British open internet have signed a joint letter addressed to Ed Vaizey, MP, following his u-turn on net neutrality What is the point of Ed Vaizey – Dec 2, 2010

On 17th November, the gaffe-prone communications minister Ed Vaizey delivered a speech that challenged assumptions about the future of net neutrality in the  Businesses press government on open Internet Computer Business Review – Dec 2, 2010

Those in favour of net neutrality believe a two-tiered Internet, hinted at by Ed Vaizey recently, would damage the UK’s online economy. Gov commitment to open net sought Public Service – Dec 3, 2010

The Next Step for Online Petitions in the UK

It is brilliant to see the UK government opening up the potential for greater use of the Internet in shaping policy agendas. Apparently, the coalition government plans to allow online petitions to raise issues that might be debated in parliament. This is a very responsible approach to enabling the public to express concerns and, in cases where concern is widespread, see the issues debated in parliament.

Online Petitions

This initiative has already led to concerns being raised over ‘frivolous’ petitions and the gaming of this system by organized pressure groups. This ignores the degree that bad ideas are raised, from time to time, by parliamentarians, and dismisses the ability of parliament to assess the merits of a petition drive. This should be an all party initiative given the role that the Labour Party played in introducing e-Petitions in the UK, but in opposition, the Labour Party might not follow through on this innovation.

Of course, a valid concern is over the potential for a large segment of the public to support measures that are unwise. For example, many referenda supported in California have been judged unconstitutional by the courts. However, this is not a referendum, but only an opportunity to put an issue on the table. What better way is there for politicians to explain and debate issues of concern to the public. They need not be tied by a petition to discuss the issue.

Hopefully, the government will sense public support for this initiative so that it moves ahead as soon as practical.

For press coverage, see:

eWeek Government Moves Towards Bills By Crowdsourcing, December 28, 2010 by Eric Doyle

MPs, the class apart by Daily Mail Comment, 29th December 2010

Petitions and Democracy

International Symposium on Freedom of Expression, Paris, 26 January 2011


UNESCO is holding an ‘International Symposium on Freedom of Expression‘ on 26 January 2011, with the support of the Swedish National Commission for UNESCO. One panel session will focus on freedom of expression on the Internet, and we also expect that our UNESCO publication, entitled ‘Freedom of Connection – Freedom of Expression‘, will be launched. A penultimate draft of the manuscript is online at SSRN, but a print version will be available by the date of the symposium.

There has hardly been a more critical time to focus on freedom of expression. It is not simply WikiLeaks that makes this a timely topic, but also worldwide trends in policy and practice that could undermine expression online unless the larger ecology of policies shaping expression are more fully understood.

Symposium site at:

Internet Studies Arrives: A New Category Status in the Oxford Libraries

The Oxford University Library System – specifically the Subject Librarian most closely involved with Internet-related research – has decided to create a category for the library of ‘Media and Internet Studies’. These categories are listed in OxLIP+, and therefore significant in helping people to find work on the Internet.

Queen's College Library, Oxford

Of course, how Internet studies is categorized as been a long problem for those working in this field. Where do you look in bookstores, libraries, …? Often books on the social aspects of the Internet are shelved with computer sciences, sometimes with business and management, sometimes with media studies. At long last, Internet studies might well be moving to a new stage of legitimacy as it finds some place in the categories of major libraries. Now we can begin discussion of whether this is the right category.

I thank Nesrine Abdel-Sattar, one of our DPhil students, who – among others – has urged the library to up-date its categories to capture the development of Internet Studies. Well done.

Democracy in a Network Society: Recommendations from a Dagstuhl Perspectives Workshop

Democracy in a Network Society

A Perspectives Workshop supported by Dagstuhl

[27.09.09 – 02.10.09, Seminar 09402]

Organized by:

David Chaum (K.U. Leuven, BE)
William H. Dutton (University of Oxford, GB)
Miroslaw Kutylowski (Wroclaw University of Technology, PL)
Tracy Westen (Center for Governmental Studies – Los Angeles, US)

Three Organizers Finding Their Way Near Dagstuhl


The workshop was a meeting forum for experts in the area of computer security and social sciences. The main idea of the seminar was to discuss new challenges for democracy during the transition from traditional society into a society where network communication influences so much social and political life.

The workshop participants discussed the key issues behind success or failure of electronic systems in e-democracy. While advances of technology play a central role in evolution of e-democracy, the main threats and failures are due to insufficient cooperation and lack of understanding between IT specialists and those from political and social sciences. In the past, major failures can be attributed to a narrow view of the systems supporting e-democracy. For this reason many fundamental mistakes have been made.

Some major problems arise when technical sciences and social sciences meet. On the one hand, computer specialists are often unaware of real requirements for the emerging systems, on the other hand the specialists from social sciences might be unaware of technical limitations due to hermetic language of computer security professionals. Nevertheless, the workshop participants succeeded immediately in building up a working group focused on identifying the most crucial issues for development of future e-democracy systems.

The result of the workshop is a set of recommendations for decision-makers regarding e-democracy systems. The list does not consider all problems that may arise, but brings focus to those that in our opinion have the biggest impact.

Dagstuhl Castle


1. Encourage Interdisciplinary Collaboration. Severe design errors may result from making decisions based on partial expertise, or from separate groups working in isolation. As design processes for technologies used in democratic systems should include a wide range of competencies, it is vital that lawyers, public officials and social scientists are engaged as well as computer scientists and engineers. Unfortunately, the workshop participants observe that this is not a common practice today and many fundamental errors in the past resulted from partial expertise.
2. Ensure Effective Take-up of E-democracy Solutions. At present, government-driven processes (like elections, disclosure of information) are often so conservative that they fail to take full advantage of new technologies and approaches, despite that they have proved effective elsewhere. The reason for this phenomenon is a discrepancy between available solutions that are ready to use and specific requirements of e-democracy. Substantial amount of research is necessary to adapt emerging technologies to meet the diverse requirements of e-democracy.
3. Deploy Appropriate Design Models. The lesson we have learnt during the last decades is that the really successful systems are in practice the flexible ones that were not designed by a single organization but have instead developed through collaborative efforts of many participants driven by their interests and needs. Therefore we feel that new technical systems supporting e-democracy should be small, flexible, modular and based on proven off-the-shelf technical components, rather than be large, centralized special-purpose systems.
4. Promote Best Practice. There are examples of excellent solutions which are implemented and used in practice. However, dissemination of such best practices is limited. A survey should be conducted of best practices. This is particularly important for making government information accessible online inexpensively, efficiently and in forms that are easy to use by the public. Today, inefficient access to information is one of the major weaknesses of democracies, despite many efforts. Pilot projects should then be funded to implement these best practices in a number of different jurisdictions. Information on best practices and pilot projects should be made available to the public in easily accessible formats.
5. Support Open-Audit Systems. Research on electronic voting systems has shown that our approach to security assurance should be redefined. Traditional certification by trusted bodies should be continued, however in order to provide undeniable evidence open-audit concepts should be developed. In particular, current field trials of open-audit voting systems should be carefully assessed and documented. When they are successful, larger-scale trials should be encouraged.
6. Learn from Web 2.0 Innovations. Public officials and system designers should draw on the experience of Web-based social networks. There are substantial technical and social challenges related to Web 2.0, but there are opportunities as well. This should be taken into account when planning online systems for democratic decision making.
7. Address Conflicting Requirements. Quite often, requirements for e-democracy systems are in conflict. A prominent example are e-voting systems, which have to provide strong privacy of vote casting and voters’ identification at the same time. Since according to the present state-of-the-art the answers for many fundamental questions are still missing, more research should be directed towards new technologies that have the potential to reconcile between such conflicting requirements. This concerns in particular privacy enhancing technologies, identity management and cryptographic protocols.
8. Gain Public Acceptance. One of preconditions for introducing technical systems supporting democratic processes is gaining understanding, acceptance and confidence by the lay, non-scientific public. A failure to do so would immediately undermine the citizens’ will to engage in the process. Therefore technical solutions for e-democracy that support democratic processes should be made simple enough, or must be so widely endorsed by the scientific community and other trusted societal leaders. Democratic technologies should be designed with widespread public acceptance as a key design parameter.
9. Fund Civic Engagement Experiments. Since in the field of e-democracy we are entering unknown grounds, a lot can be learned from examples. For this reason, governments should be encouraged to fund experimentations with technologies that support greater online civic engagement in democratic processes (voting, information acquisition, collaborative participation in government decisions). On the one hand, such government funding will encourage technological research as well as provide computer scientists with the priorities they require. On the other hand, these experimentations will allow the citizens to influence design evolution so that it goes in the right direction.
10. Share Knowledge Between Disciplines. Lack of interaction and sometimes even barriers for interdisciplinary work is one of the main risk factors for development of e-systems supporting democracy. Therefore, various contributions made by different disciplines to e-democracy development can be strengthened through forums that encourage (not only verbally) dialogue between multidisciplinary groups of computer and social scientists, legal scholars, practitioners and policy experts.

For more about results of the seminar see the article in Social Sciences Research Network Machiavelli Confronts 21st Century Digital Technology: Democracy in a Network Society published by the workshop participants.

Related Seminars

2010 Uehiro/Carnegie/Oxford Conference Conference on ‘Information Ethics: Future of Humanities’

This is a conference focused on information ethics, primarily from a philosophical perspective, but including a few empirical researchers such as myself and Helen Nissenbaum, and legal scholars, such as David Erdos. It is supported by the Uehiro Foundation, and organized by the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford. Of course, as in most multi-disciplinary conferences, it is easy to feel quite marginal within this circle, but the issues arising are cross-cutting and open to debate from beyond philosophical perspectives – in fact, it is nice to remind others of the importance of social and empirical research. One of the most interesting aspects is the fact that I can’t find much about the conference online, so hopefully this post will correct that.

2010 Uehiro/Carnegie/Oxford Conference

Wednesday 8th and Thursday 9th December 2010

Information Ethics: Future of Humanities


8.30 a.m. Registration opens.  Coffee, tea and muffins provided


9.00 a.m. Professor Julian Savulescu (Director, Oxford Uehiro Centre)


9.30 a.m. Is the Society of Cohabitation with Robots Possible?

Professor Toru Nishigaki (The University of Tokyo)

10.15 a.m. Short break


10.30 a.m. Beyond Humanisms

Professor Rafael Capurro (Steinbeis University Berlin)

11.15 a.m. Discussion

11.30 a.m. The Virtual Other: Thinking about virtuality and the future of ethics

Professor Lucas Introna (Lancaster University)

12.15 p.m. Discussion

12.30 p.m. Lunch


1.30 p.m. Ethical challenges of information poverty

Professor Johannes Britz (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)

2.15 p.m. Discussion

2.30 p.m. Sustainability and self-organization: sustainability seen in the perspective of complexity and systems science and ethical considerations

Professor Wolfgang Hofkirchner (Vienna University of Technology)

3.15 p.m. Discussion

3.30 p.m. Refreshments


3.45 p.m.   The fuzzy brain: extended minds, neural interfaces and collective intelligence

Dr Anders Sandberg (Research Fellow, Oxford Uehiro Centre)

4.15 p.m. Discussion

4.30 p.m. Life-Log and Privacy

Dr. Fumio Shimpo (Keio University)

5.30 p.m. Discussion

6.30 p.m. Reception and Dinner to follow at St. Cross College hosted by
The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton


The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton (opening speech)

Dr. Maruyama, Secretary General, The Uehiro Foundation

Dr. Rosenthal, President, The Carnegie Council

(Dress code: Business dress)


9.30 a.m. Registration opens.  Coffee, tea and muffins provided


10.00 a.m. Data Protection: An Appropriate Framework for Personal Information Ethics?

Dr. David Erdos (University of Oxford)

10.45 a.m. Discussion

11.00 a.m. Moral Panics Over the Internet

Dr. William H. Dutton (University of Oxford)

11.45 a.m. Discussion

12.00 p.m. Lunch


1.00 p.m. Humanity and Freedom from the Viewpoint of Information

Dr. Tadashi Takenouchi (The University of Tokyo)

1.45 p.m. Discussion

2.00 p.m. Does Privacy in Context endorse Moral Relativism?

Professor Helen Nissenbaum (New York University)

2:45 p.m. Discussion

Mr. Hisateru Onozuka (Director, Uehiro Foundation)