WSIS Civil Society Human Rights Caucus

Joint statement between the WSIS Civil Society Privacy and Security Working Group and the WSIS Civil Society Human Rights Caucus, which was just read in plenary of SubComittee A morning session, 29 September 2005:

Yesterday afternoon Israel proposed a new paragraph 50bis. Because it was introduced in a drafting group and not in the subcommittee, we will read it for you for the sake of transparency:

“We underline the importance of countering the manifestations of terrorism at all its forms in the Internet. In particular, we condemn the use of the internet for purposes of financing of terrorist acts, radicalization towards terrorist acts, recruitment for terrorist acts, and glorification of terrorist acts that may incite further terrorist acts.”

Civil society is impressed by the fact that it is possible to use the word “terrorist” not less than six times in one single sentence.

We are very concerned about this paragraph and strongly oppose it, for the following reasons:

1. The international community has tried for years, but has not yet been able to reach agreement on how to define terrorists or terrorism. The Secretary General Report for the Millenium Summit again called for Member States to adopt a definition of terrorism. Before this has happened, we want to remind you of the old wisdom that “one country’s freedom fighter is the other one’s terrorist”. Therefore, this paragraph would introduce vague language that is open to all kinds of interpretation and misuse.

2. The same argument applies to the language of “manifestations of terrorism at all its forms in the Internet”. It is totally unclear what “manifestations” of terrorism on the internet would be. This language opens a dangerous door to censorship and infringements on Freedom of Expression.

3. Likewise, mentioning “glorification of terrorist acts that may incite further terrorist acts” is equally imprecise and vague. What acts of terror can you not glorify? What is glorification? Which kind of internet use “may incite” other acts, and which one would not? If CNN or Al-Jazeera report about acts of terrorism and show footage of the attacks – as happened around the world, online and offline, on September 11, 2001 – it could be seen as glorification. The terrorists’ supporters surely loved it.

4. We are also uncertain what is meant by “financing terror on the internet”. Maybe this refers to websites that accept donations, but that already falls under international rules on funding terror – the FATF rules and other banking rules. This is well covered in other agreements and has nothing to do with Internet Governance.

5. We get the feeling that some governments are using the debate around Internet governance to sneak in all kinds of other issues that do not belong here. In the Compilation of Comments received on the WGIG report, the contribution from Israel – which includes reference to terrorism – is listed under “other issues not directly addressed in the WGIG report”.

To make clear how imprecise and arbitrary the paragraph is, we want to read it to you again with a minor change, just exchanging “internet” with another public infrastructure:

“We underline the importance of countering the manifestations of terrorism at all its forms in the streets. In particular, we condemn the use of the streets for purposes of financing of terrorist acts, radicalization towards terrorist acts, recruitment for terrorist acts, and glorification of terrorist acts that may incite further terrorist acts.”

Would you really want a paragraph like that in a UN summit declaration on traffic and public transport?

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