Clean IT final symposium took place in Brussels

The Clean IT project came to an end on Wednesday 30 January with a final symposium in Brussels, in the presence of several speakers, participants and interested parties involved. Theo Bot, the Dutch National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security presented the Clean IT final results to Gilles de Kerchove, the EU Counterterrorism Coordinator, on behalf of all project partners. De Kerchove expressed his support and gratitude for the work done in Clean IT: “The CLEAN IT project fits into wider EU activities very well. The fact that the project has resulted in a set of ‘general principles’ that can serve as a code of conduct both for public and private partners is entirely in line with our thinking. The list of voluntary ‘best practices’, which remains entirely the responsibility of each organisation, is also a very pragmatic approach with a view to any future new legislation.”

Governments are still searching for new responses to the use of the internet for terrorist purposes. The goal of Clean IT was to explore possibilities in this area that do not infringe upon fundamental rights and freedoms of individual internet users, by way of public-private dialogue. In the two years of the project’s existence, a total of 110 persons from more than 15 countries participated in this dialogue. They came from ministries, security services, Internet Service Providers, ICT companies, non-governmental organisations, political parties, end user groups and academic institutions. German and Swiss branches of the Pirate Party were also represented. The distinguishing quality of the final document is that it was co-created by private and public parties together. Project manager But Klaasen stressed that this working method is new to the field of counterterrorism and has proved promising as a way of achieving lasting and supported solutions to highly complex problems.

According to Arda Gerkens, former member of parliament and currently director of computer society HCC, public-private dialogue is the only way forward. She emphasized the complexity of the subject matter and the need for an innovative approach. Anna Tsitsina, counterterrorism advisor at the Council of Europe, supported the Clean IT participants’ wish to give the dialogue a more permanent character. There is yet a long way to go, but the standards we are familiar with in our daily lives must be applied in cyberspace as well. The Clean IT working method was commended by Jovan Kurbalija, founder and director of the DiploFoundation, as well. The project strengthens his view that the European Union is a leading player in the field of internet governance.

Ars Technica journalist and critical Clean IT commentator Cyrus Farivar took the floor as symposium moderator. His provocative statements immediately highlighted the complexity of the matter. Maura Conway of Dublin City University asserted that there is a lot of confusion caused by a lack of fitting vocabulary for the phenomenon of terrorist use of the internet. She called to attention therefore the VoxPol project, which follows up closely on one of the Clean IT recommendations.

The afternoon concluded with at least one communal point of view: namely that cooperation in this field must be carried forward. Clean IT has come to an end in a technical sense, but many parties would like to see a continuation of the dialogue. Both public and private parties must first, however, be allowed to further study the Clean IT results. In any case, one thing is clear to all participants: when it comes to terrorist use of the internet, doing nothing is no longer an option.

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