In the beginning of December 2007, I had the opportunity to find myself in Beijing, China for a conference, whereby I presented a paper on the feasibility of a Consitution for the Internet.
The paper was well received, some interesting comments were made, but the target audience I was particularly aiming for to criticise my presentation was absent. Talking about a Constitution for the Internet in a country where the Internet is restricted only to 'permitted' sites is a bit ironic - thus, I was anticipating a bigger debate than the one I received. In my audience there were hardly any Chinese students, colleagues or anybody that would have been interested in the topics discussed there.
Is it that the Chinese are not interested or is that the issues discussed could have raised eyebrows within the Chinese culture? In light of this, I can safely say that this experience only made my belief that some sort of a Constitution, 'a framework of fundamental rights', 'an Internet Bill of Rights' - call it whatever you want - might be the only solution to the challenges that we currently face.
The Chinese seem eager to participate in anything that interest them and that can be seen from the latest Chinese experiment. I was discussing with a student from the univeristy of Beijing, who told me that 'Pop Idol' entered the Chinese market. Its popularity is massive and its ratings have hit skyhigh - and this is because of a very simple reason; for the first time in Chinese history people are given the opportunity to vote, to have a democratic process in place and determine an outcome based on basic and fundamental democratic processes.
For this reason, it is vital to have a set of fundamental rights and rules that will be applicable for all of us that use the Internet, Chinese, Europeans, Americans, Indians and all the other people of this world that see the Internet as a means of massive potential and communication. I suggest let's give users a voice and a chance to actually actively participate in the debate. Let's try to remove politics from the Internet and bring it back to its roots - a means of communication and an educational tool.