Use Internet Universality to assess cyberlaws

01 December 2017

Following the first Vietnam Internet Forum hosted by Sweden and the government of Vietnam in Hanoi this week, a number of speakers were invited to dialogue with members of the country’s ruling party at its “party school”.

UNESCO’s director for freedom of expression and media development, Guy Berger, presented the Organisation’s Internet Universality concept, and highlighted the relevance of the four related guiding principles for national law and policy.

“These principles of Rights, Openness, Accessibility and Multistakeholder participation give us criteria to strengthen the Internet’s potential for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) – especially the specified target for ensuring public access to information and fundamental freedoms”, he said.

Asked by a participant about Vietnam’s cybersecurity law development, Berger said the terms could be assessed in terms of any impact on rights, openness, and accessibility, and that the process could be especially enriched by multistakeholder dialogue with affected stakeholders.

Highlighting the value of dialogue, Berger earlier gave the example of varying interests on issues such as encryption. “The interests of law enforcement may be against encryption, but the interests of commerce would be that encryption protects against e-fraud,” he stated.  The views of consumers and academics on the topic were also important to tap, in order for the wisest decisions to emerge.

Decisions on cyber laws that could limit human rights needed to take account of necessity and proportionality, Berger underlined. “People need to trust that their rights will be respected online, else they will withdraw from using the Internet,” he argued. The impact of cyber laws on openness and accessibility needed also to be taken into account.

During the engagement, some discussion referred to the metaphor of the Internet as a table that provided a feast. A concern was expressed that passers-by might not know which “food” on the table was toxic.  Responding, Berger acknowledged problems such as online incitement to violence which needed to be addressed. At the same time, he added, “over history, humanity had learnt to avoid dangerous food, and our eating perspective today can be mainly focused on the pleasures of tasting many different options without risk.

“In the same way,” he continued, “we need extensive education in media and information literacy so that the public can also be empowered in regard to their consumption online”.

The UNESCO director concluded by noting that UNESCO is developing indicators that can help each Member State to assess the Internet from the point of view of the Internet Universality principles, and this scientific research tool might of value of Vietnam using the Internet in sustainable development.