The problem with linking inter-governmental organizations and Internet governance were on display today, the very first day of the Egypt Internet Governance Forum. The Open Network Initiative (ONI) planned a reception to launch its new edited collection book, Access Controlled. Outside the room a banner with the book cover graphics and your standard promotional blurb was on display. The blurb mentioned “the great Chinese firewall.” Apparently a representative of the Chinese government complained and someone from the UN or the government of Egypt brought in security and (after about 15 minutes of bizarre discussions) insisted that the banner be taken away. The intervention was typically self-defeating and stupid one; the process of negotiating over the banner attracted a great deal of attention and dozens of attendees took pictures of the banner. Word spread instantly on Twitter and blogs. The book will be helped by this. Moreover, the reception was allowed to go on, and a video made by people in ONI Asia was displayed with graphic demonstrations of censorship activity in Singapore and elsewhere. So what was the point of the intervention? The point, I think was just to make a point – China showed that they could retaliate against their critics in the UN environment and use the apparatus of UN rules to do so. The global governance implications should be obvious.
Ron Deibert, editor of the book, said that if we can't talk about these things here, what is the point of the IGF?