Our Internet today - the time has come to make a change.

The speech below was given to delegates at NetHui 2019 - NZ's favourite Internet event. The speech was given by InternetNZ Chief Executive Jordan Carter - during the NetHui opening ceremony at 9:15am on 3 October 2019.

Jordan Carter Tēnā koutou, talofa lava, ni hao, bonjour, kia orana, namaste, shalom, as-salāmu ʿalaykum.

Nau mai haere mai ki tēnei hui ipurangi o te tau!

Ki te whare e tū mai nei, tēnā koe,

Ki ngā mana whenua o tēnei rohe, tēnā koutou

Ki a rātou kua mene ki te pō - haere, haere, haere atu rā.

Kāti, ki a tātou te hunga ora kua huihui mai nei i tēnei rā - tēnā tātou.

Ko Jordan Carter tōku ingoa.

Kia ora everyone, I'm Jordan from InternetNZ and I'm happy to see you all here at NetHui 2019!

I acknowledge the manawhenua of the rohe, and thank Te Papa, our whare for the next two days - for sharing their welcome, guidance and support.

I'd like to open this event by sharing this whakatauākī that was gifted to us by Takawai Murphy and it goes like this: "Kua rāranga tahi tātou he whāriki ipurangi mō āpōpō".

This whakatauākī is all about all of us, working together on the Internet, weaving it together for future generations. It speaks, I think, to the year we are in and the challenge we face.

Since 2011, this gathering has become the only forum in Aotearoa that draws together a very wide cross section of people from across the Internet - from network people to users to developers to policymakers - to think about its future.

This year, for us as a community, we are dealing with some difficult realities.

The terrorist attack on Muslim communities in Christchurch on 15 March was abhorrent in every way.

There are many aspects which matter - let me speak to just one.

This was an attack for the social media era.

Global platforms were exploited, and the murderous events of Christchurch were done in a way designed to set the Internet on fire.

The goal was to propagate a message of fear and hate, in the aid of an ideology that has only wrongness, conflict and pain to offer the world.

When the Prime Minister joins us this afternoon, we will have the chance to hear direct from her about the work of the Christchurch Call and the difference it has made.

But, just now, let me take a few steps back in time and remind us all of a few things.

Remember Cambridge Analytica?

Further back, remember Edward Snowden’s revelations?

The signs have been building for some time - the Internet we need is not the Internet we have.

Many people around the world working on Internet policy - many of us here - have been part of a technology community that argues that solving the problems of the Internet era can be done outside the Internet itself.

That the problems are with the use of the Internet.

We, at InternetNZ, have been passionate defenders of the open Internet:

the basic technologies that underpin it

the architecture that supports free flowing communication across it

the governance that means that the experts and users, together, are in charge.

I have argued that these things matter and should be protected.

I still believe that.

But in the wake of Christchurch, we have to go beyond that. By itself, it doesn’t give us enough. Openness as I’ve just set out does NOT mean open to anything - open to everything.

It doesn’t have to mean we ignore the downsides.

We need, not just in the technology arena but all of us, to be thinking more about the Internet we want.

The Internet developed mainly in a rational, academic world. Funded by defence research, it was built by and for people who often enjoyed power and privilege.

For a long time it claimed a place for itself outside of law, of politics, of society. Independence of a sort.

Things are very different today. Used by billions, many of the great and terrible aspects of our humanity play out online.

It is not credible any more to argue that the Internet that was built for a different era is the Internet we have - is the Internet we need or want.

Whether it is dealing with the challenges of terrorist and violent extremist content,

the fanning of the flames of reactionary and dangerous political ideologies, or

the manipulation of democratic political systems in growing numbers of countries -

the time has come to make a change.

To draw a line.

The status quo is not what we need.

The Internet was never designed to serve so many of us, in so many aspects of our lives.

And so we need to change it.

We have an immensely powerful tool.

We need to channel that power for good, and we need to tackle the situations where it causes harm.

That starts from the basics: building access to the Internet more widely, so that everyone can connect.

It means changing the way the Internet is governed - the way the rules are made - so the challenge of "doing good and tackling harm" is at the heart of Internet governance institutions and processes.

It means making sure that the concerns of peoples and communities all around the world are taken into account, not just the European and North American perspectives that are so dominant.

It means ending the false idea that there is no need for technologists or Internet governance to worry about what happens in the world - online or off.

It means joining with all those people and organisations and countries campaigning for the Internet we need.

It means effective control and regulation of the biggest organisations using the Internet - the search engines, the social media platforms.

It means declaring that we are not subjects of a surveillance Internet, but instead that we want to enjoy all the opportunities that the technologies allow without the downsides generated by today’s business models.

Changing all that isn’t going to be an easy ride. Vast power and wealth would be challenged by this direction. Not easy. Not much worth doing ever is.

What we need isn’t so much a revolution - it is an evolution - a change in the way the Internet is organised and the way that law and regulation deals with the firms that make use of the Internet to offer us so much promise.

There are seeds of this everywhere you look.

Tim Berners Lee, the man who invented the WWW, has a campaign for The Web We Want.

The Internet Engineering Task Force is working on broad based encryption across Internet services, and on putting users at the forefront of design concerns.

Various Calls and Declarations have been made, demanding change.

The Christchurch Call of 2019 is the latest and one of the most important.

It is leading to significant, meaningful changes by some of the biggest companies in the world.

Change led by New Zealand.

Our gift to the world, in trying to make sense and deal with some of the challenges put before us by what happened in Christchurch.

Closer to home, there is work going on in how to counter extremist content and politics both online and offline. Difficult policy debates are now under way. The role of censorship in an open society. Web filtering or content blocking.

In our very own .nz domain name space, a policy review is currently underway where one of the big issues on the table is how to deal with harmful content.

The simple fact is that an open communications infrastructure has to be well governed.

Wrongs must be dealt with.

I think the challenge before us here at NetHui, and for those of us who work on the Internet in any and every sector, is to work on answers to these two questions:

1) How can we deal with the harms that we create, in ways that protect the benefits we bring?

2) How can we influence the big players far beyond our shores to keep serving our needs without the downsides we see today?

If we can focus on how we do this, together, I know we can make progress.

Whether you are from government, from tech, from a big platform, from the community - you can’t sort this by yourself.

Together, we have a chance.

Our task isn’t perfection.

Perfect can’t be the enemy of the good.

Our job is to set the right direction. To ask the tough questions, and demand honest answers.

It is for all of us to be an intelligent voice in debates where passions are high and where both the country and the Internet need the creativity and insight that we all have to offer.

To be stewards not only of the Internet and what it offers, but of our country and its spirit - sharing our values and our determination with the world.

This is an important discussion.

It is a hard discussion.

We have to have it.

Make the most of this chance, at NetHui 2019, to help shape the Internet we want - the Internet we need.

Let’s get to it!