Opening Speech delivered by John Shattuck, President and Rector of CEU
Welcome to Central European University. I’m John Shattuck, the President of CEU, and it’s my privilege to open this conference. I want to start by thanking Google for partnering with us in what we expect will be an amazing and far-reaching event.
As you know, we’re here to explore the challenges and opportunities for free expression on the Internet. Rarely, if ever, has such a diverse group from across the globe come together to address these issues – from activists to bloggers, NGOs, universities, companies and governments. We have all the ingredients for a provocative couple of days of discussion and debate, and there will be opportunities for everyone here to participate when the spirit moves you.
Let me say a few words about why we’re here in Budapest and at CEU.
CEU was founded twenty years ago at the time of the Great Transition in Central and Eastern Europe – and at the dawn of the Internet Age. It was founded in the ruins of a closed and repressive system, and it was founded as a new laboratory for free expression. The founders of CEU were the moral and political heroes of the Great Transition – champions of democracy and human rights from this region like Vaclav Havel, Arpad Goncz, and Bronislaw Geremek, backed by the generosity of George Soros. This “hole-in-the-wall” where we’re holding the conference symbolizes CEU’s laboratory for free expression and the struggle that it took to build it.
Over the last twenty years CEU has become a global university, with students now drawn from 134 countries, and faculty from forty. We offer graduate-level studies in the social sciences, humanities, law and business, and we’re building a new school of public policy, an expanded center for media and communication studies, and cutting-edge programs in cognitive science and network science. One of our most renowned programs is the Open Society Archives, the official archive of the Index on Censorship, a preeminent watchdog on freedom of expression worldwide. We have the largest samizdat collection in the world, starting with underground publications from the Soviet Union in the 1920s, a testament to the struggle for free expression in the most dangerous times.
Like the Internet, CEU crosses all borders, and we have no single dominant nationality. We like to think of ourselves as a “crossroads university” where all parts of the world come together. We have 9,000 alumni around the world in key positions in policymaking, government, business, media and universities.
Promoting and protecting freedom of expression is at the core of CEU’s mission. As history shows, and everyone here knows, the right to free expression is hard to gain, easy to lose, and a struggle to keep. And it’s a complex struggle, because it involves competing rights, like individual privacy, and competing interests, like security, that sometimes conflict with free expression.
I’ve been involved in this struggle for most of my career. I was a U.S. civil rights lawyer during the Watergate era, challenging government censorship of publications like the Pentagon Papers, and government wiretapping and surveillance of private citizens by the Nixon White House and intelligence agencies. Later, as a law professor and vice president at Harvard, I defended scientific researchers whose work was being censored by the government on national security grounds. Then, as US Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, I encountered the complexity of free expression issues, when official radio broadcasts in Rwanda and Yugoslavia in 1994 were being used to provoke genocide. I felt the response in this rare case should have been to try to stop the genocide by jamming the hate radios.
The struggle to protect free expression has always been led by activists, but it must also involve the broader civil society, the private sector and government. It’s always a struggle of competing interests and tensions, but in the end if free expression is protected so is democracy and open society.
Internet at Liberty 2010 is all about this struggle. Our focus will be from the ground up, not the top down. Here are some of the questions we’ll be asking ourselves:
What is the state of internet liberty from the point of view of those who are trying to exercise it?
What do we mean by online free expression, and how can it be promoted and protected?
What are the dilemmas and challenges facing all the stakeholders who are represented here – from bloggers, to NGOs, to companies, to governments?
What are our hopes and fears about the Internet at a time of great change and upheaval in the world?
And above all, how can the internet be used to advance human freedom at a time of great uncertainty about the future?It’s now a privilege to introduce David Drummond, the Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel of Google, and to ask you to join me and my colleagues Kate Coyer, Ildiko Moran and Istvan Rev in thanking David and the entire Google team, especially Bob Boorstin and Doireann Gillan, for being such great partners in putting on this conference.
The following is an op-ed by Google Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel David Drummond published in the International Herald Tribune.
This week, hundreds of Internet activists, bloggers and officials from the public and private sectors will gather in Budapest to talk about the promise and peril of free expression on the Internet. People from Armenia to Kazakhstan to Zimbabwe will compare notes at a conference organized by Google and the Central European University about the state of play in what is an increasingly controversial and important arena.
Most of the debate will revolve around questions about human rights, technological innovation and — in the wake of the Wikileaks Afghanistan release — how to protect national security while increasing access to information online. There is another issue, a fundamental one about global trade and economic growth, that will also be discussed.
Simply put, evidence is fast accumulating that governments that block the free flow of information into, out of and within their nations are damaging their own prospects for economic growth. These obstacles are not just barriers to free expression, but barriers to free trade and, ultimately, a nation’s chances of achieving the kind of political stability that only economic growth can bring.
The good news is that there are opportunities for like-minded governments, supported by citizens and corporations, to design and put into use a set of 21st-century trade rules that can help people all over the world seize the opportunities of the new technology era.
Establishing a framework that takes into account the enormous impact of the Internet economy will help entrepreneurs create new businesses, businesses create new jobs and countries increase their exports.
In the ever-changing and uncertain online world, this much is clear: Information is the currency of the Internet. The Internet has transformed traditional commerce, created an astounding array of new economic opportunities, and expanded international trade.
The tremendous spread of the Internet — faster than the spread of any previous technology — has created new, rapidly expanding markets. Today, more than 5 billion people have access to cellphones, and 2 billion have access to the Internet. These are tools with unprecedented powers that help farmers in Kenya to get the best price for their crops and traders in Hong Kong to instantaneously invest huge sums. Little wonder that demand for information across national borders has grown exponentially.
While many governments have welcomed this trend, some have recoiled at the new openness — and are doing their best to make sure that the Internet is a restricted space.
Today about 40 governments around the world disrupt the free flow of online information — a tenfold increase from just a decade ago. Popular tactics include incorporating surveillance tools into Internet infrastructure; blocking online services; imposing new, secretive regulations; and requiring onerous licensing regimes.
In fact, direct government blockage of an Internet service is tantamount to a customs official stopping certain goods at the border. A small business that advertises on Bing, Google or Yahoo, for example, cannot reach certain markets when the platform is effectively blocked — or when access is slowed. Wildly successful enterprises like iTunes and eBay are locked out of seeking out new consumers. And multinational financial institutions cannot help but take steps to make sure they have access to their clients’ data while protecting it better than ever before.
To successfully export to or invest in a new market, a company needs to be able to understand the rules of the road and have some level of confidence that the government will not arbitrarily interfere with its business.
But when governments impose non-transparent and arbitrary regulation on online services — or use information regimes to favor their own national players — they make it difficult for businesses to make and execute commercial plans. Many governments do not even make publicly available their basic rules on restricting content.
Governments often are able to succeed in abusive regulation of Internet companies and information because they require that data be stored in-country, effectively requiring local investment. Requirements like this reduce the economic efficiency of the Internet, which otherwise allows a business in any one country to easily reach users and consumers around the world.
It is becoming harder for companies to compete in foreign markets where the government favors local firms. In China and elsewhere, companies in the information technology and other sectors are forced to compete on a playing field that is anything but level.
Given the stakes involved, policymakers must develop and implement an agenda that aligns Internet policy with the core principles of international trade. Governments should not treat the two as stand-alone silos, but should recognize that many Internet censorship-related actions are unfair trade barriers.
Governments should also use existing trade rules to challenge Internet censorship measures that are insufficiently transparent, unreasonably administered, or biased in favor of domestic players. Finally, governments should negotiate new trade disciplines — specifically, the Trans Pacific Partnership — that reflect the growing role of Internet-related trade in the global economy.
These issues present not only a tremendous challenge, but an opportunity — an opportunity for governments to align trade policy with the 21st century economy and to promote the many trade benefits that come from an open Internet.
The Internet’s power and ability to deliver benefits to the international trading system depends on the free flow of information across the entire global network. When data is blocked or disrupted, businesses and consumers who depend on the Internet as a tool of trade are affected.
I'd like to begin by thanking John Shattuck and the Central European University for helping organize this event. Working with our Google team, their efforts have made it possible for all of us to spend the next two days learning more about the promise and peril of free expression on the Internet. Working alongside them to host this conference has been a privilege.
I'd also like to welcome everyone and thank you for coming. We have quite a crowd gathered here today, with people who have traveled here from Armenia to Kazakhstan, from Brazil to Zimbabwe. Our goal from the beginning has been to bring together Internet activists from around the world...representatives of traditional NGOs...academics who are studying what free expression means in a digital age...and officials from the private sector and governments. I welcome all of you.
My name is David Drummond and I have a title at Google that barely fits on my business cards. But for the next three days, I’d like everyone to think of me -- in fact, think of everyone in this room -- as a colleague: a colleague in pursuit of our common goal of achieving the promise of a free, open and safe Internet.
Very simply, when services are blocked or filtered, users of Internet platforms everywhere cannot be served effectively. That’s why Google and other companies try very hard to maximize free expression and access to information. We do our very best, even if sometimes we make mistakes. In one effort to promote transparency -- as you’ll see during this conference -- Google is building online tools that allow our users to see where governments are demanding that we remove content and where our services are being blocked. We believe this kind of transparency can be a powerful deterrent to censorship.
I don't think it's too much of an exaggeration to say that as we gather here this morning we are standing at a crossroads in the future of the Internet. Unless companies, governments and individuals do something about it, we are likely to see the open Internet become ever more restricted -- taking choice and control away from the user, and putting more power in the hands of those who would limit access to information.
The number of governments that censor has grown to 40 today from about four in 2002. Just as important, we’ve gone beyond firewalls and typical ways of censoring content and seen governments develop cunning and sophisticated tools. We all know that on the day of the Iranian elections last summer, the regime in Tehran simply turned off the switch -- no text messaging, Twitter, Facebook or Gmail. We've also got countries like Turkey, Russia and China all talking about building their own nationally-owned search engines.
Clearly, then, the spectrum of global threats is wide...there is much work to be done. From the moment we began planning “Internet at Liberty 2010,” we determined that it should not be an episode or an event but rather be the beginning of a new effort to bring together people like you to help find the concrete steps that can achieve common goals. Many of you started this process yesterday at the practical workshops -- and I urge you to continue contributing your ideas. Ultimately, the website for the conference will become a discussion and action forum where virtual planning to bring about real progress will continue.
As I close, I’d also like to ask everyone in this beautiful space to take a moment to honor those who have given their lives or are living in jails as punishment for having freely expressed their opinions. As we take that moment, consider the story of one such activist who wanted to be here today but was told, in essence, not to come. In an email, that activist wrote of a journey...a journey worthy of Franz Kafka or Nikolai Gogol...that led from one government office to another to another...but always brought about the same result:
“Everywhere I turned, I was only talking to a repetition of the same monomaniac mind where all the keywords around the conference were defined as dangerous and forbidden: ‘liberty,’ ‘access,’ ‘internet,’ ‘Google,’ and even such simple words as ‘university,’ ‘conference’ and ‘Europe.’ Upon a second investigation, I realized that they are not afraid of these things because of their intrinsic identity, but because they can transform me from a passive and obedient member of the mass to a free, critical, creative and active subjectivity.”
Again, welcome, and now we'll proceed with our first session, which is called, “A moment in time: a very short history of the Internet and free expression.”
Budapest (September 15, 2010)--Google and Central European University have teamed up to co-sponsor an international conference, Internet at Liberty 2010, to address the complex issues facing the development of the Internet as a global, free and open space. The event will be held at the campus of CEU in Budapest on September 20-22.
The dynamic and decentralized nature of the Internet offers new opportunities for communication and free expression as well as new threats. Governments that wish to control the spread of information and activists using digital technologies to promote change are becoming increasingly sophisticated and strategic as they confront each other around the world.
"Google acts every day to maximize free expression and access to information,” said David Drummond, Google’s Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel. “To promote transparency, we have built online tools that allow our users to see where governments demand that we remove content or request data about people who use our services. And we are founders and participants in the Global Network Initiative, a group of companies, human rights groups, investors and academics that has set out principles and guidelines to hold governments and companies accountable for their actions."
Internet at Liberty 2010 will bring together hundreds of activists, bloggers and officials from the public and private sector to explore the often controversial policy issues of Internet communication. The conference will address the boundaries of online free expression; the complex relationship among technology, economic growth and human rights; the ways in which dissidents and governments are using the Internet; and urgent policy and legal issues of online communication such as privacy and cybersecurity.
"At the core of our mission, CEU is committed to provide intellectual support for building and strengthening open and democratic societies that respect human rights,” added John Shattuck, President and Rector of Central European University. “The fundamental right to free expression is essential to democratic institutions, but it does not come easily, is never fixed, and must be constantly renewed. It is our job as a university to create forums for debate where the complexities of these issues can be openly discussed. As a global institution in an interconnected world, CEU is honored to co-host this important and far-reaching conference with Google.”
The conference and break-out sessions will focus on issues including the role of the Internet as a democratizing force, challenges for governments and the private sector, and the complexities of promoting and protecting free expression. It will also provide a forum to highlight national case studies and efforts to advance transparency and accountability. At the conference workshops, activists, NGOs and companies will help individuals learn ways to practice Internet advocacy while protecting their security and privacy.
The conference will be conducted in English.
About Google Inc.
Google's innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top web property in all major global markets. Google's targeted advertising program provides businesses of all sizes with measurable results, while enhancing the overall web experience for users. Google is headquartered in Silicon Valley with offices throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia. For more information, visit www.google.com
About Central European University
Central European University was founded in 1991. Today CEU is a global institution of graduate education in the social sciences, the humanities, law, management, environmental studies, government and public policy, with students from more than 100 countries, and a faculty drawn from major universities across the world. For more information, visit www.ceu.hu.