green party’s internet policies

The Green Party, reports Michael Geist, put out it’s policy document.

Have not looked thru it yet, but there’s support for network neutrality:

Supporting the free flow of information

The Internet has become an essential tool in knowledge storage and the free flow of information between citizens. It is playing a critical role in democratizing communications and society as a whole. There are corporations that want to control the content of information on the internet and alter the free flow of information by giving preferential treatment to those who pay extra for faster service.

Our Vision

The Green Party of Canada is committed to the original design principle of the internet – network neutrality: the idea that a maximally useful public information network treats all content, sites, and platforms equally, thus allowing the network to carry every form of information and support every kind of application.

Green Solutions

Green Party MPs will:

* Pass legislation granting the Internet in Canada the status of Common Carrier – prohibiting Internet Service Providers from discriminating due to content while freeing them from liability for content transmitted through their systems.

and free/open source software:

Open source computer software

As computer hardware improves, it is important that software programs are readily modifiable by the people who buy and use them. Developing alongside the proprietary software sector is Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS). This software is generally available at little or no cost, making it very popular in the developing world. It can be used, copied, studied, modified and redistributed with little or no restriction. Businesses can adapt the software to their specific needs.

Under the free software business model, vendors may charge a fee for distribution and offer paid support and customization services. Free software gives users the ability to work together enhancing and refining the programs they use. It is a pure public good rather than a private good.

Our Vision

The Green Party supports the goals and ideals of Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) and believes that Canada’s competitiveness in global information technology (IT) will be greatly enhanced by strongly supporting FLOSS.

Green Solutions

Green Party MPs will:

* Ensure that all new software developed for or by government is based on open standards and encourage and support a nationwide transition to FLOSS in all critical government IT systems. This will make Canada’s IT infrastructure more secure and robust, lower administration and licensing costs and develop IT skills.
* Support the transition to FLOSS throughout the educational system

I’d say it would be worth asking them what they think of civic access to canadian government data.


  1. Erigami’s avatar

    I’ve been involved with the Greens for a number of years, and I had the pleasure of working on the 2004 platform. I don’t know the Party’s exact position on civic access but I can definitely say that the Greens support free and open access to (government) information.


  2. hugh’s avatar

    thanks erigami, it’s a good gauge of the visibility of an issue to see it in a federal party platform, even if the greens are an outsider party, they are attracting many frustrated votes from people i wouldn’t expect to vote for them (my mother, for instance!). so, it’s nice to neutrality and free/open source in there. but obviously civic access to data is still not to high on people’s consciousness.

    more work to do here 😉

  3. Craig Hubley’s avatar

    One has to question how seriously that party takes this particular policy and more importantly what policies should be advocated in other parties which will have seats after the next election. Frankly, that above policy is not very good and does NOT reflect the actual positions that most Greens hold. Certainly not if you ask them the tough questions.

    I was involved with this party in various capacities and helped them get their policy debate and citizen question answering system working well enough to support the 2004 election. At that time, the Green Party of Canada was definitely the leading party in North America in the use of the Internet: The quality of its policies directly reflected that reality.

    Since that time, many disastrous organizational choices and abuses pretty much destroyed that policy infrastructure which is now fragmented into many competing forums, none of which are authoritative. Internet policy suffered from this rather badly. Eventually, a few ideological individuals at odds with most of the party pretty much took control of the platform and presentation of policy – which is inexcusable in any party that claims to offer “participatory democracy”. The policy cited above was written by a few uninformed people whose overall influence in the party is relatively low.

    With the policy debating system crippled and abandoned and chilled, and this issue not having figured prominently at the 2006 policy convention, and the party’s “Shadow Cabinet” now issuing documents that do not match at all the historical policies nor the actual mandated policy of the party. Today, utter incompetents without much credibility nor policy or outreach skills are running the party’s internal information systems. So it isn’t likely that any of the policy cited above would have influence in practice.

    You’d be better off to ask what policies had been tested by presentation to a policy convention of actual members, what policies have likewise been tested in the provincial Green Parties, and what the personal opinions of Elizabeth May are. Since May is the only individual who has any chance to hold a seat after the upcoming election, and uses her media access wisely to achieve that and to highlight issues that the Greens can appear to lead on, one can be excused for questioning that she’d ever bring this issue up.

    If she did, there are basic problems with the above stated “policy” that has not been tested or created in accord with the constitutional mechanisms of the party. And which, in some particulars, defies the party’s own principles, and definitely contradicts positions taken in the very recent past, i.e. 2004.

    Civic access to data definitely *was* on the agenda then, in fact it was considered the TOP ISSUE, before these above mentioned usurpations and hijackings and mass departure of individuals who created the policy consultation mechanism. Many of those were serious operational managers or consultants with a long history of deailng with difficult issues in public and private industry. The “information technology FAQ” of 2004, a collective work created in a wiki (the way everything was debated at that time), contains the following clear-as-day section on civic access to data:

    “The Green Party supports using open source software to increase overall transparency in government operations.

    However, of *FAR MORE IMPORTANCE* (emphasis mine) is the release of publicly funded research and documentation in usable forms, under licences that prevent distortion and inaccurate republication, but which do not restrict commentary or improvement or added-value activities.

    For some activities, notably those involving international connectivity and use of low cost recycled hardware, free software should be used to help close the “digital divide”.

    Non-open software should generally be under parametric licenses like the many Creative Commons variants, or, tested under a trademarked test suite which applies rigid interoperability standards, such as Java or POSIX.

    For any research or technology of use in resource extraction, warfare or crime, or with reasonable extensions useful for same, Green governments would likely apply “non-open, non-free” clauses (for instance new clauses added to Creative Commons specifying “green” or “peaceful” use only – see green license and peace license for more on this potential) to forbid use of publicly funded code or data in projects that harm Earth’s biodiversity or human bodies. In some cases, the copyright violations might be the most effective way to force some governments to comply with the restrictions on the illegal behaviour. Also, the signal should be clearly sent that code is not harmless, and not all of it should be “free for any use” whatsoever.

    Increasingly, political positions are reflected in the code itself, and power concentrates there in its architecture, at least according to legal scholar Lawrence Lessig. We agree with him, and therefore are as concerned about software as about genes or some “better” land mine design. Software is sometimes a weapon against the planet, against people, or against infrastructure. We must be aware of that.”

    Notice that these terms start to resemble pro-human-rights licenses such as the TESLA, which specifically forbids use of software for violating human rights, and details the implications of this in the license itself. That’s fine for “open content” or “share alike” or “consortium” projects but it clearly is in absolute opposition to Eric Raymond and the Debian OS guidelines, who take the position that no possible harm could be worse than refusing to let a total scumbag take your improvements private and patent them. 😉 In practice, most Greens would not and do not approve of paying for software to be developed that is available for the US Department of Defense to not only use but improve, patent and forbid use of the original to the innovator. Yet that is exactly the implication of a policy equating ‘open source’ to free software or share-alike licenses, such as the one posted up there.

    The party had actually consulted Lessig who approved of the terms of use used in the Living Platform, which specified CC-by licensing of materials that any participant contributed, regardless of whether they were party members or not, and CC-by-nc-sa licensing of materials created using the Living Platform methodology, to ensure maximum takeup by NGOs and a continuing access to any for-profit media or publishing useful in fundraising. Notice that this cannot be understood as satisfying either the “open source” or “free software” movement’s ideologies, but certainly does forward the “share alike” and “open content” and “green” movement’s goals. Notice also that a strong position was taken at that time in favour of free software and open content licenses that do not satisfy, say, the Debian guidelines (as neither GFDL nor CC-by-nc-sa do, by careful design).

    The section in Educational Use of Internet Materials notes a desire to expand the definition of “fair use” and “fair dealing”, more or less as Geist has argued. But more importantly to the goals of data libre:

    “Governments should also be full participants in open content projects, like the various GNU Free Documentation License or Creative Commons licensed knowledge bases. (see GFDL corpus and Common Content for more on these open content knowledge bases). Government funding can in some cases be made conditional on the release of research through these “copyleft” – ( Share Alike to everyone) – licenses.”

    Obviously, if government funding is conditional on Share-Alike terms as per Lessig and Creative Commons, you have the open access that you’d like, though possibly subject to some reasonable conditions such as commitment not to abuse the materials, obscure or alter attribution, add the word “not” to make a reasonable-seeming document look like the original, cause interoperability or reference aspects of the document to fail, and perhaps other clauses depending on the material. For maps, say, one would be forbidden from distributing altered copies of maps that misled and caused chaos but were otherwise indistinguishable. Yes, other laws cover those abuses, but the criminal and civil systems practically can’t do a damn thing to prevent it whereas withdrawal of licenses is a powerful tool.

    Because of the decline in the internal quality of IT skills in the GPC, as noted above, their later positions on “net neutrality” proved to be plain nonsense, including transparent propaganda with no reference to Green values or the actual detailed policies that real Green Party members would support (if and when asked). Saying that “the Green Party of Canada is committed to the original design principle of the internet – network neutrality” is pure propaganda for instance. As Karl Auerbach and many others have repeated pointed out, the Internet Protocol does include room in the actual IP packet headers for “type of traffic”! So certainly it was never the intent of its original designers to never route traffic based on this type. The statement as it stands in the policy is absolutely indefensible and historically absurd, and obviously so. But that’s politics, I suppose.

    Now, many ideologically minded Internet users do believe “that a maximally useful public information network treats all content, sites, and platforms equally, thus allowing the network to carry every form of information and support every kind of application.” However the definition of “equally” isn’t technical, is it, it’s political and social. No one in the Green Party of Canada who pays any attention to its principles would argue that bittorrent porn or pirate movies should always necessarily move at exact the same rate and with exactly the same priority as text and email traffic between poor users in the developing world paying precious pennies per second for their access. Nor would they argue that voice over IP should literally never work and that voice providers must permanently be saddled competing with this non-real-time traffic. The policy only asserts this because no one has ever seriously examined it.

    Ask typical Greens, or anyone really, the questions above, and you’ll find the original “information technology FAQ” from 2004 was pretty dead on. That’s neither coincidence nor genius but the value of really listening and working collaboratively. It’s astonishing to me that Living Platform was allowed to die and rot. Dan King referred to that event once as “the single worst destruction of value I have ever seen”, given the thousands of hours of dedicated volunteers that was literally thrown away when it ceased to be the party’s mandated policy development forum, in favour of cronies and insiders and the typical characters that just make up policy inside parties. I submit the above as proof to you that parties that don’t work openly don’t deserve your support, and that at least some people know how to get the policy that works, into the policy book. If not yet into the laws of Canada.

    More on the events in the GPC available at and . Due to constant abuses and attacks by the persons responsible for the events above, the database begun by Living Platform is being copied over into the UK at

  4. Hugh’s avatar

    thanks for that craig… i’m gonna have to read it again now!

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