On May 27, 2009, GNI participated in a roundtable discussion on civil society engagement at the 7th Chinese Internet Research Conference. This year’s conference was hosted by the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, and focused on “The Chinese Internet and Civil Society: Civic Engagement, Deliberation and Culture.”

Panel description:

As the GNI develops the implementation of its overarching principles and a collaborative action framework, it recognizes that constructive interaction with, and support from, diverse constituencies, especially local civil society, is a crucial component of effective promotion of freedom of expression and privacy rights.

Through moderated discussion, panelists will consider key challenges regarding meaningful outreach to local civil society groups in varied contexts, legal systems, cultural traditions and values across the world. As the GNI ramps up its global efforts, how can it gain the trust and input of the users–in China and elsewhere–whose rights it seeks to advance and protect? What are potential tools and approaches to support collaboration and partnership with local civil society groups? What are some local obstacles and challenges? How does GNI fit into a broader ICT ecosystem that includes policy-makers, users, business, and activists? We hope to solicit feedback and to engage in robust dialogue with audience members regarding effective strategies for engagement within the China context.

The panel was hosted by GNI member Rebecca MacKinnon of the University of Hong Kong’s Journalism and Media Studies Centre.

GNI panelists included:

  • Leslie HARRIS, Center for Democracy & Technology
  • Bob BOORSTIN, Google
  • Colin MACLAY, Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University

Additional participants included:

  • Ang PENG-HWA, School of Communication Studies, Nanyang Technological University
  • Isaac MAO, co-founder of cnblog.org

The event was blogged widely, including here.