U.N. Wants to Run Internet

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Bruce Kesler has been banging the gong of warning about the bid by world bodies to place the Internet under international control.

Some sources I read on this topic say not to worry; that the Internet can’t be controlled on the level that is being negotiated now. But Kesler feels otherwise. He quotes Arch Puddington, director of research for Freedom House:

Some of the most shameful U.N. episodes – particularly regarding freedom issues – have occurred because the world’s democracies were outwitted by a coalition of the most repressive regimes – the very coalition that is taking shape over Internet control….It is no secret why Iran, China and Cuba are lobbying so desperately to replace ICANN [the central technical hub – in the U.S. – for maintaining a worldwide web]: The Internet has proven a potent weapon against state repression…. It nullifies totalitarian schemes to monopolize the airwaves.

Issues beside political repression seem to be involved:

At the heart of this international political spat is the unique influence that the U.S. federal government enjoys over Internet addresses and the master database of top-level domain names–a legacy of the Internet’s origins years ago. The Bush administration recently raised objections to the proposed addition of .xxx as a red-light district for pornographers, for instance, a veto power that no other government is able to wield.

During a series of meetings organized by the United Nations, ministers from dozens of other countries have raised objections and demanded more influence. Suggestions that have been made include new mandates for “consumer protection,” the power to levy taxes on domain names to pay for “universal access,” and folding ICANN into the International Telecommunications Union, a U.N. agency. As far back as 1999, U.N. agencies have mulled imposing taxes on Internet e-mail.

Here’s a report from an earlier skirmish in this battle. You’re likely to be hearing more about this in months to come. It’s probably not too soon to bone up and form an informed opinion.

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