Saturday, November 05, 2005

The U.N.'s nose under the Internet tent . . .

Saturday, November 5, 2005, Kofi Annan says:

The main objective of the World Summit on the Information Society to be held this month in Tunisia is to ensure that poor countries get the full benefits that new information and communication technologies -- including the Internet -- can bring to economic and social development. But as the meeting draws nearer, there is a growing chorus of misinformation about it. One mistaken notion is that the United Nations wants to "take over," police or otherwise control the Internet. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The United Nations wants only to ensure the Internet's global reach, and that effort is at the heart of this summit.

Ensure the global reach of the Internet? But the U.N.’s proposal to take over the internet core functions doesn't do a damn thing to install the electronic communication infrastructure that let’s anybody get on the web in the first place, and it doesn't do a damn thing to reform thuggish governments' control of access to communications in the other first place. No, Kofi, it won't play. You aren't trying to help globalize the net; you want to own it. Just as feeding poor Iraqis in the Oil for Food program wasn’t your main concern. You have sticky fingers.

Strong feelings about protecting the Internet are to be expected. In its short life, the Internet has become an agent of revolutionary change in health, education, journalism and politics, among other areas. In the United Nations' own work for development, we have glimpsed only the beginning of the benefits it can provide: for victims of disaster, quicker, better-coordinated relief; for poor people in remote areas, lifesaving medical information; and, for people trapped under repressive governments, access to uncensored information as well as an outlet to air their grievances and appeal for help.

There are also legitimate concerns about the use of the Internet to incite terrorism or help terrorists, disseminate pornography, facilitate illegal activities or glorify Nazism and other hateful ideologies. But censoring cyberspace, compromising its technical underpinnings or submitting it to stringent governmental oversight would mean turning our backs on one of today's greatest instruments of progress. To defend the Internet is to defend freedom itself. (emphasis added.)

You got that right, pal. And defending the Internet and freedom itself is exactly what is being accomplished by declining to hand over control. Keeping the U.N. out of control is defending the internet from guys with sticky fingers and a global domination appetite who have demonstrated a pitiful lack of concern for freedom, itself, in Iraq and Africa, among other places, and who have demonstrated a woeful willingness to profit from the miseries of others by supporting people who don’t hesitate a minute to rape, steal, and murder. Globalization, hah!

Governance of matters related to the Internet, such as spam and cybercrime, is being dealt with in a dispersed and fragmented manner, while the Internet's infrastructure has been managed in an informal but effective collaboration among private businesses, civil society and the academic and technical communities. But developing countries find it difficult to follow all these processes and feel left out of Internet governance structures.

If it is difficult for the developing countries to follow all these processes, then why should they be involved in governance structures? You already said they can't do it. Oh, I know. To protect their delicate feewings. C'mon. Let them buy a computer and a modem and then they can join right in as soon as they develop the capability. It isn't as if the consortium is going around excluding capable people, organizations, or governments of whatever citizenship. Precisely the reason the net has been successful is because it is open and not monitored or governed.

Now, the U.N., on behalf of un-named developing countries, wants to step into the “Internet governance structures?” That means Kofi wants to control who gets domain names. The worry isn’t that people will be able to get on the web and read stuff. They worry a lot more that somebody can get on the web and publish stuff. And they should. It isn’t the traditional, mainstream governments that have been most active in directing attention to the U.N.’s “fellow travelers” profiting from the Oil for Food program, and opposing doing anything about the thug who was running Iraq.

The United States deserves our thanks for having developed the Internet and made it available to the world. For historical reasons, the United States has the ultimate authority over some of the Internet's core resources. It is an authority that many say should be shared with the international community. The United States, which has exercised its oversight responsibilities fairly and honorably, recognizes that other governments have legitimate public policy and sovereignty concerns, and that efforts to make the governance arrangements more international should continue.

For “historical reasons” the U.S. has authority? “Historical reasons?” The history is that the web was originally developed by the U.S. government for the security and defense of the United States of America. It was certainly not created for the entertainment and enrichment of the U.N. I guess in Kofi-speak, one owns one’s own property merely for historical reasons, those reasons being that at some time in the past you bought it and paid for it and unfortunately there is a record of purchase, so that makes it historical. Are we starting to get a little insight into how the U.N.ers view private property rights? You betcha. Your stuff is yours by a mere temporary accident of history, subject to correction by appropriation.

And hey, wait a minute. Just when did the United States “recognize” that “efforts to make governance arrangements more international should continue?” Did I miss the memo? I think Kofi is saying that "No" doesn’t mean "No."

The need for change is a reflection of the future, when Internet growth will be most dramatic in developing countries. What we are seeing is the beginning of a dialogue between two different cultures: the nongovernmental Internet community, with its traditions of informal, bottom-up decision making, and the more formal, structured world of governments and intergovernmental organizations.

And I guess we know "culture" side the U.N. is on, and it is not on our side.

The Internet has become so important for almost every country's economy and administration that it would be naive to expect governments not to take an interest, especially since public service applications in areas such as education and health care will become even more widespread. They need to be able to get their Internet policies "right," and to coordinate with each other and with the Internet community. But governments alone cannot set the rules. They must learn to work with non-state stakeholders. They, after all, are the ones that have played critical roles in building and coordinating the Internet, and they will remain the driving force of further expansion and innovation.

Okay, so Kofi recognizes that it isn’t governments that added the World Wide Web to the Internet, and turned this into something great. But, governments are now inviting themselves to the table. Get used to it. Governments, with Kofi at the forefront, intend and expect to share the rule making process, and the “non-state stakeholders” will remain the “driving force of further expansion and innovation,” that is, non-state stakeholders will continue to do any of the actual work.

At the summit two years ago in Geneva, discussions on Internet governance reached a stalemate. So the U.N. member states asked me to establish a group to examine the issue further. This Working Group on Internet Governance presented its findings in a report that reflects the views of its members, but not of the United Nations. It proposed creation of a "new space for dialogue" -- a forum that would bring all stakeholders together to share information and best practices and discuss difficult issues, but that would not have decision-making power.

The group also offered several options for oversight arrangements, with varying degrees of government involvement and relationship to the United Nations. None says that the United Nations should take over from the technical bodies now running the Internet; none proposes to create a new U.N. agency; and some suggest no U.N. role at all. All say that the day-to-day management of the Internet should be left to technical institutions, not least to shield it from the heat of day-to-day politics. These and other suggestions are being considered by U.N. member states.

In other words, the U.N. camel sees the tent, and requests very politely if it would be okay if it could slip just the tiniest bit it its nose into the tent.

Everyone acknowledges the need for more international participation in discussions of Internet governance. The disagreement is over how to achieve it. So let's set aside fears of U.N. "designs" on the Internet. Much as some would like to open up another front of attack on the United Nations, this dog of an argument won't bark. I urge all stakeholders to come to Tunis ready to bridge the digital divide and ready to build an open, inclusive information society that enriches and empowers all people.

Nonsense. Kofi demands nothing less than for "stakeholders" to show up in Tunis and hand over control. He says that any opposition to his scheme is an attack on the U.N.

Hey, the internet works precisely because there’s no authoritarian government structure. On the other hand, authoritarianism and corruption is precisely all that Kofi's little band of second-raters offer. And if you don't think the U.N. will screw this up if they ever get their hands on it, just take a look at which countries are running the human rights show at the U.N. Take a look at the U.N.'s record at preventing genocide in several locations in Africa and in the Balkans and in Indonesia.

And notice what Kofi didn’t say. He didn’t say what the U.N. would do differently to make access and use of the web any more widespread.

C’mon, now, access isn’t that tough. I get this blog site for free – thanks Google. And I have my own domain name (junewick dot com)and a web host for a price that’s low enough that I can do it just to fool around if I want to. I don’t have to get anybody’s permission to publish pretty much anything that comes to my mind. It isn’t as if access to the internet is difficult.

So, just what does Kofi propose to do to make access easier? Give all third worlders their own domain name? Add servers and bandwidth? What? (Google probably has plans to do it already, and to do it better.)

I think we all know the answer. The U.N. wants to dole out bandwidth and domain names to their friends and large contributors. There is money and power at stake here. We have it; they want it, and they are counting on the “conscience” of our own collectivists to see to it that they get it. And like any commodity, the “value” of the internet access will increase when the demand for the resource exceeds the supply, whether the supply is restricted by lack of production or a political constriction.

As it now stands, some governments feel threatened by the internet because increased use leads to increased freedom of citizens who might use their increased freedom to throw out the bums presently running their country. To such countries, it might be worth the cost of having the U.N. in charge of bandwidth and domain names. But I don’t think anybody else would be benefited by the U.N. taking over the web – except for the Kofi and sons family corruption business.

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