Thursday, 29 September 2011

Autonomy as a measure for societal harm from online behaviours

Debates about internet governance are not sustainable at the current level.  All too often we hear three sides of an argument, but are left with no rational framework to evaluate the relative merits of each point of view.

Invariably the viewpoints offered are:
  • Regulation is needed
  • Regulation is not needed
  • In an ideal world we should regulate, but the nature of the internet makes regulation impossible/impracticable
Whether the topic is privacy, free speech, protection of intellectual property rights, national security or freedom from oppression; assertions driven by fear or self interest rise to prominence above evidential findings or deep and thorough rational thinking.

And by fear I'm not just talking about those who fear harm (personal, economic or national) may come through an open internet, but also those who fear the positive power of the internet will be ruined if regulation is enforced.

But can we even start to propose a model, a rational approach, to assessing harm, risk and benefit of digital technology and various regulatory approaches in such a complex domain?

Can we quantify harm from loss of privacy and balance against the benefits brought by linked and accessible data? Or set the perceived risks to political discourse from blocking and censorship against the perceived benefit from limiting access to harmful content?

Your first instinct may be to say "no!"  But if we don't explore new ways of understanding the problem domain we risk stalemate; debates lead by human instinct - great for so many of life's problems, but wholly inadequate for some complex, chaotic social problems when the answer sometimes proves to be counter-intuitive.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Eric Joyce MP appointed president of the Open Digital Policy Advisory Council

Open Digital PAC President,
Eric Joyce MP
We're extremely pleased to announce the formation of the Open Digital Policy Advisory Council with one of Parliament's most engaged digital policy specialists, Eric Joyce MP, as President of our advisory body.

Eric has been active on digital issues since his appointment to parliament in 2005, chairing the Digital Economy All Party Parliamentary Group before its recent merger with another parliamentary group. Eric is now the Digital Chair of the Parliament Internet, Communications and Technology Forum (PICTFOR) and he also sits on the All Party Privacy and Injunctions Parliamentary Committee, where he advises on social media.

Also appointed to the Council are Andrew Sharpe, an accomplished media lawyer, who will serve as our general counsel; and Dominique Lazanski, an internet industry expert with a keen focus on civil rights, who will act as our consumer representative.

Eric, Dominique and Andrew join our Open Digital CEO James Firth and Chairman Julian Ranger at Open Digital.  For full details and bios see here.

We're still on the look out for a research advisor with academic or professional research experience to get involved.  If you're interested, get in touch:

There are also a limited number of sponsorship opportunities to help our Open Digital mission.  

Our aim is to build a self-funding, transparent and open organisation for the formation of digital policy; with the aim of promoting an open internet where market competition is fierce but fair, and the consumer voice is strong enough to ensure all our interests (privacy and other freedoms) are maintained. For more details see our charter.

We aim to fund our free-to-access analysis and research with an arms length consultancy, but to get there we need funding.  

Donor-stakeholders can purchase shares in Open Digital Policy Organisation Ltd.  All shareholders over a threshold 2.5% also get to vote on policy positions. We aim to provide a return on investment by growing the company into a self-funding organisation, but we acknowledge our business model is unproven,  therefore we offer a chance to help shape digital policy as an incentive, a donation that may well also yield returns.

There are also opportunities to commission or sponsor analysis and research.  We pledge to release all our work for free, under a Creative Commons license, as we believe in transparency for those attempting to influence government policy; however public release of commissioned research will be delayed by up to 12 months, giving your organisation exclusive access for a limited time.

From time to time some of our research may hit the headlines. There are opportunities to sponsor a paper and have your name associated with the paper and associated press release.

For more information please call 01252 560 426 or email