Cyberspace: what is internet freedom?

1 November, 2011

The Rt Hon William Hague MP and host to the recent ‘London Conference on Cyberspace’ opened our panel discussion on internet freedom comprising 90 minutes of dialogue on freedom of speech over the internet.

London Cyberspace Conference

Panel discussion on Internet freedom, hosted by Wilton Park on Tuesday 1 November (WP1149)

Within just over a decade cyberspace has revolutionised how many of us live and work. Access has grown from 16 million internet users in 1995 to nearly 2 billion today.

The conference aims to develop a better collective understanding of how to protect and preserve the tremendous opportunities that the development of cyberspace offers us all.

The scope for and extent of cyber influence was highlighted during the Arab Spring, which saw citizens voices projected globally, using cyber as a forum for disseminating ideas, opinions and events, demonstrating cyber’s ever increasing global impact.

A podcast – Who can govern the ungovernable was recorded by our CEO, Richard Burge, in conversation with John Duncan and Ben Hammersley, which summarises this week’s conference.

Internet freedom: panel discussion

In keeping with overall conference themes, including economic growth and development, and cyber-crime, Wilton Park in partnership with the FCO, hosted a debate on ‘Internet freedom’. This explored the rapid rise and implications of social media, and the recent experience of its growing use, especially during the Arab Spring. Many of the issues raised have both political and legal implications. The big question remains: how free is free speech in the 21st century?

The Rt Hon William Hague MP opens our panel discussion on Internet freedom

The Rt Hon William Hague MP, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, opened our discussion. You can read Mr Hague’s speech here.

Images of our discussion can be seen on our Flickr page.

Panel host, Richard Burge, CEO of Wilton Park, asked panellists to put a single question to Mr Hague to respond to later. Details of the panellists and their question are below:

Atiaf Alwazir

Activist and blogger, Yemen
Question: Will the UK link standards on freedom of expression to aid support?

Barbora Bukovská

Senior Director, Law and Policy, ARTICLE 19
Question: How will UK govt translate it’s position of freedom of expression into domestic policy ?

William Echikson

Head, Free Expression in Europe, Middle East and Africa, Google
Question: What action is the UK going to take to support internet freedom of expression?

Hanan Ezzat

Regional Director, Marketing and Communications for Middle East and North Africa, British Council
Question: How will UK support Arab Spring activists using the internet to promote their cause?

Tom Ilube

Managing Director, Consumer Markets, CallCredit
Question: How is the UK going to help people defend their identity on the Internet ?

John Kampfner

Chief Executive, Index on Censorship
Question: What is the UK going to do about blanket bans imposed by other govts on the internet?

Realising the full potential of cyberspace is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Wilton Park hopes that its involvement, working in partnership with the FCO and hosting a great debate on Internet Freedom, a widely disputed and much talked about issue, will go some way in answering this challenge and furthering the discussions on cyber.

Further information

Panel details and biographies 

William Hague’s speech (to open our panel discussion)

Podcast on London Cyberspace – in conversation with John Duncan and Ben Hammersley

Flickr images from our panel discussion

Watch our podcasts from the #lounge

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