“From Quill to Cursor”* and 140 Characters

The following text is a guest blog entry at the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media at www.rfom15.org. The original post is available at www.rfom15.org/experts/from-quill-to-cursor-and-140-characters-christian-moller.

“From Quill to Cursor”* and 140 Characters

OSCE RFOM 15th anniversary

When I first joined the Office of the OSCE Media Freedom Representative in the summer of 2002, a colleague of mine – a senior U.S. diplomat – asked whether I knew “how to google”. Well, I did.

Among other things, I used the Internet and the WWW to communicate and to research current media developments: digitization and convergence, ownership and concentration, the independence of regulatory authorities as well as other pressing issues of that time, some of which are still valid today, others seem to be rather bygone.

Neither YouTube nor Facebook nor Twitter existed. At the OSCE we used WindowsNT. Broadband access was scarce and Wi-Fi was a rare amenity throughout the OSCE region. Users discussed Napster or mp3.com and nobody knew what IPTV stood for. Two things we knew already, though: that the Internet would re-define the media world as we knew it and that the Internet is not immune to censorship.

We wanted to believe that “the Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it” – as John Gilmore, Usenet pioneer and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said in 1993 – but it dawned on us already that this belief was naïve.

Access to the Internet grew, market entry barriers for media outlets crumbled, formerly scarce resources such as frequencies or printing facilities became increasingly obsolete, licensing regimes were questioned and new media developed, and fast. Sure enough, from the very beginning we also saw attempts to curtail and regulate the free flow of information on the Net – always one step behind the technical developments, but quickly catching up.

Filtering and blocking of Internet content was discussed and introduced. Limiting Internet traffic across borders was considered and occasionally implemented, restrictive legislation was introduced. Sometimes even legitimate public policy interests such as countering hate speech or national security concerns served as pretexts to limit freedom online.

Sometimes well-meaning legislation had unintended side-effects. Online censorship can also be surprisingly analogue: Online journalists have been arrested, harassed, beaten and killed; offices have been searched, computer equipment seized, servers shut down and premises sealed. In the fall of 2002, the Representative organized a workshop on freedom of the media and the Internet. The workshop was followed by a series of so called Amsterdam Internet Conferences and numerous publications such as the ‘Media Freedom Internet Cookbook’.

When the first UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF) was organized in Athens in 2006 the OSCE Media Representative played an active role, co-operating with numerous other institutions such as UNESCO, the Council of Europe, Reporters without Borders, and Article19, and companies such as Microsoft or Google. Today, freedom of the media on the Internet is an integral part of all RFOM activities. While the Internet has evolved from a technical infrastructure to a vital part of our everyday lives, many of the principles we discussed and developed during these multi-stakeholder meetings are still valid today.

Actually, it sometimes felt mind-bogglingly tiresome to discuss over and over again that well-established principles of freedom of expression offline are also valid online. The number of attempts to re-negotiate the human right to freedom of expression simply due to the emergence of a new infrastructure never ceased to surprise me. Web 2.0 and social media evolved and made it even easier to share information and participate in public discourse.

“The people formerly known as the audience,” as NYU professor Jay Rosen put it in 2006, suddenly began to produce their own content, adding a new dimension to the public debate and forcing traditional journalism to re-define its role. Increasingly, corporations such as Google, Twitter and Facebook begin to assess their roles and responsibilities in safeguarding online freedoms. No one knows the direction the Internet and its applications and tools will take.

In 2006 no one would have guessed that a service which allows you to send messages of not more than 140 characters to anyone and no one in particular will have a billion dollar IPO only seven years later. Two things, again, seem safe to say, however: The Internet is not free by nature, but by design and by enlightened decisions of legislators, the technical community and users. There are parts of the world already today where the Internet does not resemble at all the free infrastructure we learned to cherish. Also, technology is not just a value-neutral set of tools and never was. “Code is law,” and both legislators as well as engineers are shaping the Internet of the future.

Which brings us to the second point: Freedom of expression online is not guaranteed. Defending the Internet whole and free is a continuous struggle, that needs to be led both online and offline. It includes regulation, technical infrastructure, security, access and content and cannot be left to one stakeholder only, but requires hard work by governments, industry, academia and civil society.

Sometimes maybe the Internet is even best left alone by governments; the Net has always worked best on the principle of “running code, rough consensus.“ Let the people figure out how they would like to make use of this infrastructure – and be it by sending out messages of no more than 140 characters. —

*“From Quill to Cursor”, edited by Christiane Hardy and Karin Spaink, is the title of the first publication on media freedom on the Internet of the Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. Available at www.osce.org/fom/13834.

In memoriam of my former boss and friend Christiane Hardy († 2013).

Facebook Government Request Report

Facebook hat heute den ersten ‚Global Government Requests Report‚ veröffentlicht: Im ersten Halbjahr 2013 haben deutsche Behörden demnach 1.886 Mal die Herausgabe von Nutzerdaten bei Facebook gefordert.

Deutschland liegt damit bei der Zahl der Anfragen weltweit an vierter Stelle nach den USA, Großbritannien und Indien.

Der Bericht enthält Angaben darüber,

  • welche Länder Daten von Facebook gefordert haben,
  • die Zahl der Anfragen aus diesen Ländern,
  • die Zahl der Nutzer bzw. Nutzerkonten, die in diesen Anfragen enthalten waren sowie
  • den Anteil der Anfragen, denen Facebook tatsächlich gefolgt ist.
Photo: Christian Möller/ theinformationsociety.org

Photo: Christian Möller/ theinformationsociety.org

In Deutschland hat Facebook nach eigenen Angaben in 37% der Auskunftsersuchen der deutschen Behörden – also in knapp 700 Fällen – Folge geleistet.

Facebook folgt mit dem Report dem Beispiel von Google, das bereits seit 2009 einen Transparenzbericht zur Zahl der Auskunftsersuchen zu Nutzerdaten oder auch Forderungen nach der Löschung von Inhalten durch staatliche Stellen nachkommt.

Internationale Studie zu DVB-T veröffentlicht

Die Medienanstalt Berlin-Brandenburg (mabb) hat die Studie  „Terrestrisches Fernsehen und Free-TV in Metropolen – ein internationaler Vergleich“ veröffentlicht, die theinformationsociety.org im Auftrag der mabb durchgeführt hat. StudieIm Auftrag der mabb hat theinformationsociety.org im Zeitraum von April bis Juni 2013 die Versorgungssituation mit terrestrischem Fernsehen in internationalen Metropolen verglichen. Digital-terrestrische Fernsehübertragung steht weltweit im Wettbewerb mit den Übertragungsarten Satellit, Kabel und IPTV. Ergebnis der Studie ist, dass insbesondere zwei Faktoren über die Nutzerakzeptanz von DVB-T entscheiden: Der Marktanteil der analogen Terrestrik vor dem Umstieg auf DVB-T sowie die zur Verfügung stehende Sendervielfalt. Je stärker Fernsehen schon vor der Abschaltung der analogen terrestrischen Ausstrahlung über Antenne genutzt wurde, desto häufiger blieben die Haushalte auch bei dieser Übertragungsart. Unterschiede gibt es vor allem zwischen ländlichen Regionen und Ballungsräumen. Für die Konsumenten ist zudem ausschlaggebend, welche Inhalte sie in welcher Vielfalt und mit welchen Funktionalitäten zur Verfügung gestellt bekommen. Weniger relevant sind die entstehenden Kosten. Die komplette Studie findet sich auf den Seiten der mabb unter http://www.mabb.de/digitale-welt/dvb-t.html. Ein Mitschnitt der Vorstellung der Studie durch Christian Möller im Rahmen des Symposiums „WebTV statt DVB-T – Das Internet als mediale Basisversorgung?“ der Medienanstalt Berlin-Brandenburg (mabb) am 18. Juni 2013 in der Kalkscheune in Berlin ist auf Alex TV zu sehen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SStj-BYWQ2E. Die Präsentation ist bei Slideshare verfügbar unter http://de.slideshare.net/theinformationsociety/terrestrisches-fernsehen-und-freetv-in-metropolen-ein-internationaler-vergleich.

Video: DVB-T in Metropolen

Mitschnitt des Vortrages „Terrestrisches Fernsehen und Free-TV in Metropolen. Ein internationaler Vergleich“ [Slideshare] von Christian Möller beim Symposium „WebTV statt DVB-T – Das Internet als mediale Basisversorgung?“ der Medienanstalt Berlin-Brandenburg (mabb) am 18. Juni 2013 in der Kalkscheune in Berlin auf Alex TV.

Alle Videos des Tages finden sich im Youtube-Channel von Alex TV.Mitschnitt des Vortrages „Terrestrisches Fernsehen und Free-TV in Metropolen. Ein internationaler Vergleich“ [Slideshare] von Christian Möller beim Symposium „WebTV statt DVB-T – Das Internet als mediale Basisversorgung?“ der Medienanstalt Berlin-Brandenburg (mabb) am 18. Juni 2013 in der Kalkscheune in Berlin auf Alex TV.

Alle Videos des Tages finden sich im Youtube-Channel von Alex TV.

DVB-T in Metropolen

Die Medienanstalt Berlin-Brandenburg (mabb) lud am 18.06. in die Berliner Kalkscheune zum Symposium „WebTV statt DVB-T – Das Internet als mediale Basisversorgung?„.

Die Präsentationen sowie die Ergebnisse der Studie „Terrestrisches Fernsehen und Free-TV in Metropolen – ein internationaler Vergleich“, die von theinformationsociety.org im Auftrag der mabb durchgeführt wurde, finden sich auf der Webseite der mabb sowie hier: