LIRNEasia was recently asked to sign a declaration on Internet rights. We do not normally sign declarations unless we have done the research to back up our signature. Another reason for declining at this time was my wariness about right-based approaches. I prefer the Deng Xiao Ping approach of crossing the river by feeling the stones. We need to figure out, for example, what is practical with regard to big data before imposing rights and policy solutions imported from other contexts to something that we are all unfamiliar with.
I found the following to resonate with that line of thinking, though I do believe the author is less skeptical of a positive rights approach.
On the Internet, we are all – young or old, corporate, government or private – still immature, trying to find our bearings, learning the “do’s” and “don’ts”. Internet freedom is not a bunch of broken promises, but a process that has not yet gone beyond a ‘storming’ stage, awaiting its own social contract. All stakeholders have to make progress, embrace new codes of conduct, abide by reinterpreted fundamental principles, and acquire new sensitivities, awareness and social skills. Education – of state and non-state actors alike, not only users – is fundamental for compliance. And above all, some will have to embrace transparency and show commitment, respect and leadership in the process, whether state or non-state actors, putting aside puerile disregard, precipitation and arrogance.