A Look Back at the MozCamp LATAM Policy Townhall

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As you’re likely aware, MozCamp EU starts this weekend in Warsaw, Poland, and we’re looking forward to soliciting feedback from our community on what the Mozilla Manifesto means to them. In April 2012, we hosted our first Policy Townhall at MozCamp LATAM, which turned out to be a catalyst for our current Manifesto evaluation. I felt it was worth recapping that session here to get everyone on the same wavelength before advancing the discussion.

The idea for our Townhall was to create a forum for open discussion on Net regulation (Internet governance, net neutrality, etc.), with a focus on issues being debated in Latin and South America. A key policy contributor in Latin America, Bruno Magrani, joined Mitchell Baker as a co-facilitator for the session. While we considered inviting local legislators or policy experts, we opted for more time for discussion amongst Mozillians

For MozCamp LATAM, we were fortunate to receive a slot at the end of the first day when all 150 attendees could be present. We had a local graphic artist recording the conversation in a SXSW-style mural that was projected onscreen during the discussion.

Takeaways from the discussion:

•Legislative proposals to regulate the Internet in the U.S. receives huge attention worldwide, as most servers are located in the U.S. and other countries tend to import American legislation. Also, the community mobilization on SOPA/PIPA showed that these issues have a global impact and are watched closely by the world.
• Internet and media companies are spending millions of dollars lobbying Congress and escalating their attempts to regulate the Web. This raised the question of whether Mozilla should do something to protect the interests of its users and its community.
• Mozilla has shied away from engaging in policy debates in the past, but when legislation has a deep impact on the basic structure of how the Internet works, Mozilla should voice its position and engage in the debate.
•There are three main ways for Mozilla to act: a) as a neutral advisor to the government, providing technical expertise on such issues; b) engaging on policy debates; c) providing technical training to judges and policy makers.
•Technical training provided to judges by the Center for Technology and Society at Fundação Getulio Vargas has had a great impact in Brazil (with judges quoting course materials on court decisions), and shows that similar initiatives would likely make a positive impact elsewhere.
•There is community interest in mobilizing people to engage on Internet policy issues. Mozillians felt that it makes sense to designate community members to address policy issues; perhaps as a subgroup within Mozilla Reps.

Going forward, we have broadened our scope to make Internet policy a component of a larger discussion of Mozilla’s values and how they are expressed in the Manifesto. On Saturday, September 8th, we will host an “Evolution of the Manifesto” session in the Grow Mozilla track at MozCamp EU, so please join us if you’ll be at the event.

Manifesto feedback: Principle #2

To continue our review of the Manifesto’s ten principles, let’s take a closer look at principle #2, which states, “The Internet is a global public resource that must remain open and accessible.”

What does this statement mean to you? How do you define “public”, “open” and “accessible”? Do these words suggest opposition to government censorship? What is the appropriate role of government for the Internet? What is the appropriate role for Mozilla?

We look forward to your feedback.