Jeremy Bernick: From ERP Sales to Internet Governance Advocate
Growing up, Jeremy Bernick always had an interest in human rights and social justice issues. It was during their time at University of Arizona that they began to explore this interest further through participation in various clubs. It was during college that Jeremy first learned about and became a member of the Internet Society, a global advocacy group for the betterment of the internet worldwide.
When Jeremy is not working to help fill the company pipeline of new customers and projects, they are writing thoughtful and considered pieces on digital rights, and occasionally taking a break to hike one Arizona’s amazing trails. Currently, Jeremy is making plans for a trip to Poland for the 2021 U.N. Internet Governance Forum where they will serve as a Youth Ambassador representing the Internet Society and may even get to rub shoulders with the U.N. Secretary General. We recently spoke with Jeremy Bernick to learn more.
Jeremy Bernick, can you tell us more about the Internet Society? How did you get involved with the organization?
The Internet Society is the original global civil society organization dedicated to the secure and consistent global operation of the internet. Started in 1992 by the “father of the Internet” Vint Cerf, the Internet Society was created as a policy, capacity building, and social organization for the early internet pioneers and standard setters. Over the 30 years of its operation, its grown into one of the dominant global bodies regarding policy and capacity building on major internet issues like encryption and universal access to the internet. Additionally, the Internet Society funds many initiatives in the global internet ecosystem, like alternative ISP models (community networks) and internet quality measurement tools.
The impetus for getting involved was a desire to engage with global internet issues affecting users more directly. I was tired of sitting on the sidelines and hearing about these persistent problems. I wanted a way to solve them in a hands-on way.
What are its goals and objectives and what does it mean to be a Youth Ambassador?
The goals of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) were initially set by the U.N. General Council in 2005 in the Tunisia Conference. The purpose is “to discuss public policy issues related to key elements of internet governance to foster the sustainability, robustness, security, stability and development of the Internet.” As the internet has grown tremendously since 2005, the IGF has become one of the more important global policy and governance conferences. During the year leading up to the Global IGF, there are several continental (Africa IGF), regional (EU IGF), and national (U.S IGF) Internet Governance Forums as well. At the global IGF, every U.N. recognized country will send a mixed team of ambassadors, technical experts, academics, and civil society representatives to take part in the discussion forums and policy process.
Being chosen as an ambassador has been a very humbling experience. Personally, I am still making sense of what the Youth Ambassador role means to me. It’s an exceptionally significant honor. Especially being the only U.S. ambassador selected, I feel a duty to represent many important institutions and to engage meaningfully with this opportunity.
The essay you submitted with your application to become a Youth Ambassador is about digital rights. Can you tell us more about digital rights?
Digital rights are a framework developed by the U.N. and other global bodies in the early 2000s to reflect the needed advancement of human rights practices into the digital world. While online, many of the traditional human rights laws and expectations set in the original 1948 declarations do not align cohesively with the way that we have found that people naturally interact online. As a result of this gap, a whole field of activism and scholarly work has emerged. From this collective push for a better internet for all, the field of digital rights was formed. In my experience, digital rights must be more integrated into the standards of all platforms and all users’ experiences online.
Do you think internet governance is akin to censorship? What are the main differences in your opinion?
I’d say one of the emerging issues that the field of global internet governance covers is censorship and the increasing role of autocratic and authoritarian uses of the internet as means of controlling people and society. One of the interesting developments of policy forums like the IGF and organizations like the Internet Society is that they’ve committed to a governance method known as multi-stakeholderism. This is a very fancy word to denote that everyone, whether technical or not, rich or poor, online or offline, should be granted a seat at the table in these discussions. At a multistakeholder event like the IGF, people from outside of government appointments are given a platform to speak and participate in these usually exclusive forums. Ordinarily, the U.N. and other intergovernmental bodies are multilateral meaning that only appointments from each government may attend and participate. Under other models of governance, we as users would ordinarily choose to elect representatives to argue on our behalf on these technical and societal matters. I find that the latter method is antiquated and irresponsible. I believe everyone should have a stake in the future of the issues that affect each one of us.
What do you hope to achieve in your role as a Youth Ambassador?
I hope to network and learn from other experts in the field. As one of the youngest members of this emerging academic and professional field, I’d like to get more focused on issues that I can spend my time engaging in deeply over the next few decades.
We understand that you will travel to Poland in December to attend the United Nations Conference on the governance of the future internet. What are you most looking forward to at the event?
I’m looking forward to meeting other internet activists and potentially grabbing a drink with the U.N. Secretary General to see if I can convince him of the urgency of acting against the catastrophic effects of climate change. And, of course, having a few delicious pierogis!
Learn more about Jeremy Bernick’s experience being an Internet Governance Youth Ambassador and whether they did get to have that chat on climate change. In the meantime, if you are looking to partner with Silverware and learn more about its services and the industries we represent, contact us here.