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New Tool Sheds Light on International Net Governance

Publication Date: 
February 14, 2005
Stanford Law School

Stanford, CA and Cambridge, MA, USA; Geneva, Switzerland - As the UN's Working Group on Internet Governance grapples to draft recommendations on how international Internet governance is defined, what topics it includes, and how decisions should be made, Harvard and Stanford are trying to spur accountability and public input in this field.

Today Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society and Stanford's Center for Internet and Society (CIS) announced the launch of, a website that reports Internet-related decisions by international organizations, points to other useful resources, and provides a forum for discussion on individual initiatives. The announcement coincides with this week's meeting of the UN Working Group.

Net Dialogue is intended for the benefit of people in government, business, non-profits, international organizations, the media and the public at large. By consolidating information in one place, the site should spare people from having to sift through thousands of pages on sites of international organizations, and should enable them to appreciate the extent of Net governance.

In particular, the creators of Net Dialogue hope that the project will lead to greater consultation with technologists as international policymakers draft legal instruments. Lawrence Lessig, Founder and Executive Director of Stanford's CIS, explains: "It is imperative that the technology and international policymaking communities learn each other's languages and values. Net Dialogue seeks to foster this understanding as we head into the future networked world."

"Since these important decisions are being made at an international level, it's even more important that we work hard to make possible public understanding of the issues at stake," says John Palfrey, Executive Director at the Berkman Center. "We intend for Net Dialogue to offer a model for governments to follow, providing transparency and opportunities for public comment in international Net governance."

Net Dialogue is made possible by funding from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

About the Berkman Center and the Center for Internet and Society

Established in 1996, the Berkman Center is a research program founded to explore cyberspace, share in its study, and help pioneer its development. It represents a network of faculty, students, fellows, entrepreneurs, lawyers, and virtual architects working to identify and engage with the challenges and opportunities of cyberspace. The Berkman Center has a particular interest in projects that grapple with issues raised by the global nature of the Internet.

The Berkman Center investigates the real and possible boundaries in cyberspace between open and closed systems of code, of commerce, of governance, and of education, and the relationship of law to each. It does this through active rather than passive research, believing that the best way to understand cyberspace is to actually build out into it. Its diverse research interests cohere in a common understanding of the Internet as a social and political space where constraints upon inhabitants are determined not only through the traditional application of law, but, more subtly, through technical architecture ("code").

The Center for Internet and Society (CIS) is a public-interest technology law and policy program under Stanford's Law, Science and Technology Program. The CIS brings together scholars, academics, legislators, students, and scientists to study the interaction of new technologies and the law and to examine how the synergy between the two can either promote or harm public goods like free speech, privacy, public commons, diversity, and scientific inquiry. The CIS strives as well to improve both technology and law, encouraging decision-makers to design both as a means to further democratic values.