[bestbits] Multi-stakeholderim, Civil Society and Astroturfing/Stakeholder Capture

michael gurstein gurstein at gmail.com
Sun Dec 23 17:39:04 EST 2012

One, among the many thoughts that arise from listening to the ISOC/USG
post-mortem is the role and significance of multi-stakeholderism in Internet
governance. This was mentioned by all of the discussants--the US Ambassador,
ISOC and someone who identified themselves as  speaking from civil society. 


Both in this discussion and more broadly, as the significance of the WCIT is
discussed and blogged
won/>  there is emerging the broad understanding of the central role that
Civil Society of necessity plays in multi-stakeholderism--i.e. that without
an active, engaged Civil Society there can be no "multi-stakeholderism". 


There is also emerging a further recognition of the central role (through
multi-stakeholderism) that CS has going forward in overall global Internet


As everyone knows there are huge, even overwhelming financial (and other,
for example, security) interests involved in these global Internet
governance processes and their outcomes.


The experience has been that where such interests/outcomes are involved
there are likely to be attempts by various parties to influence these
processes and their participants in both legitimate and illegitimate ways.  


One of the illegitimate ways for exerting such influence, that has fairly
recently found a name is what is being called "astroturfing" defined as
"apparently grassroots-based citizen groups or coalitions that are primarily
conceived, created and/or funded by corporations, industry trade
associations, political interests or public relations firms".






Another such process is called "regulatory capture" -- although in this
instance it might be renamed as "stakeholder capture". This is defined:
"Regulatory (stakeholder) capture occurs when a regulatory (stakeholder)
agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the
commercial or special concerns of interest groups that dominate the industry
or sector it is charged with regulating. Regulatory (stakeholder) capture is
a form of government (multi-stakeholder governance) failure... "




I think that it is quite likely that CS will become a venue for such
astroturfing and attempted "capture" (if this hasn't already been occuring)
and including by governments who will look to create or enable what appear
to be CS stakeholder organizations but which in fact, function rather as
non-formal spokespersons for national and/or corporate interests.


For multi-stakeholderism and particularly for CS to have an effect and role
in independently representing the public interest some effective means will
need to be established (and quickly) to ensure that participants in these
processes purporting to "be" or to "represent" Civil Society are neither
captured nor astroturfed. In the absence of this, the much praised
"multi-stakeholder global Internet governance model" will die stillborn,
lacking any form of credibility or legitimacy.



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