Why the UN should not control the Internet

Sometimes, my posts write themselves. Let’s look at two recent AP articles. The first, dated Sept. 29th, is about the U.S. refusal to give control of the Internet to the United Nations:

GENEVA (AP) – A senior U.S. official rejected calls on Thursday for a U.N. body to take over control of the main computers that direct traffic on the Internet, reiterating U.S. intentions to keep its historical role as the medium’s principal overseer.

“We will not agree to the U.N. taking over the management of the Internet,” said Ambassador David Gross, the U.S. coordinator for international communications and information policy at the State Department. “Some countries want that. We think that’s unacceptable.”

Many countries, particularly developing ones, have become increasingly concerned about the U.S. control, which stems from the country’s role in creating the Internet as a Pentagon project and funding much of its early development.

The second, written a day earlier, reports on the UN’s upcoming summit on Internet access in the developing world:

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Facing heated protest, the United Nations on Wednesday defended Tunisia’s hosting of a U.N. summit about Internet access in the developing world, even though the north African nation has been repeatedly accused of rights abuses that include blocking Web sites it dislikes.

Earlier this week, a coalition of human rights groups known as the Tunisia Monitoring Group issued a report that declared Tunisia unfit to hold the World Summit on the Information Society, set for November, because of reports that the government has stepped up attacks on the press and civil society.

The group, which has frequently criticized the selection of Tunisia as the host country, said the government has blocked access to Web sites belonging to Reporters Without Borders, other human rights watchdogs, and the independent press, while police monitor e-mails and Internet cafes.

“It does question to some extent the U.N.’s credibility that a world summit on the information society is taking place in a society where access to some Web sites is restricted,” said Alexis Krikorian, of the International Publishers’ Association. “It’s amazing that such a summit would take place in a country like this.”

Hypocrisy, thy name is United Nations.

But of course, it gets better. Because the UN bends itself into all kinds of twists to justify holding a summit on the Internet in a nation that does not allow open access to it.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said the summit could help pressure President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Tunisia has long been accused of human rights abuses, while Ben Ali, who took power in a bloodless palace coup in 1987, has repeatedly won landslide electoral victories tainted by charges of fraud.

“These kinds of international conferences can be beneficial to the people in the country hosting them,” Dujarric said. “It opens up the country to the outside world and such a spotlight of attention gives the government strong incentives to try to meet international standards, including on human rights.”

Dujarric said that at the time Tunisia was selected, countries had wanted a developing nation to host the summit as a way of showing the importance of bringing Internet access to the developing world. He would not say if the United Nations or Annan had urged Tunisia to curb abuses ahead of the summit.

One would think that Tunisia will do what all dictatorships do: Use the summit as a great PR moment to brag about how forward-thinking Tunisia is, while brutally clamping down on protesters and its citizens who try to defy the Internet laws.

The summit Web site includes a message in which Ben Ali calls the summit an opportunity to help bridge the digital divide and bring about “an Information Society that is balanced and accessible to all.”

Whoops, look like he already is. And to think, I didn’t even have to read to the end of the article to predict that. Seen one dictatorship, seen ’em all.

I suppose it could be worse. Yahoo might be giving Ben Ali the emails of reporters and dissidents.

By the way, some of the sponsors include Samsung, Microsoft, Alcatel and Ericsson. I suppose it could be worse. Yahoo could be supplying emails that Ben Ali would use to send people to prison.

Sure, let’s give the UN control of the Internet. I say we mark our calendar for the day Hell has a temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

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14 Responses to Why the UN should not control the Internet

  1. Ben F says:

    Meryl–Are you suggesting that the US’s attitude towards the Internet is hands-off? Different countries target different content, that’s all.

  2. Sabba Hillel says:

    Sorry, even if the temperature is 32 degrees fahrenheit, it would still not freeze over, The temperature must go sufficiently below for there to be a total freeze.

    Besides, according to Dante, the lowest circle (where Anan would go) is frozen.

  3. un.org still says “Copyright, United Nations, 2004”

  4. Ben, I do believe my words are pretty easy to understand. No hidden meanings, no subsets. If I didn’t say it in the post, then I didn’t imply it using weasel words.

    I’m a straight-shooter, for the most part.

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  7. Michael Lonie says:

    If you are talking about pRon Ben the internet is rife with it. I remember the first time I and a friend tried to surf the web for sites on topics of history. All we got was endless lists of pRon sites. No doubt there are people who would want to restrict pRon, but they don’t seem to have had any effect, or even induced the US government to try.

    As for the sort of political persecution Tunisians would face, and which people in other places like China do face (thanks a whole heap Yahoo) no such thing exists in the USA. Even the twits at DU are not afraid to spew their bile even though they could be tracked down by any moderately efficient secret police, of the type they fantasize exists in Bush’s Amerikkka. The people who whine about tyranny in America would not have the courage to open their yaps if this was the sort of country they pretend to think it is.

    The UN is a cesspool not only of corruption but of enabling tyranny and genocide. Those are the last people to entrust significant responsibility to. Give administration of the internet to the UN and the whole thing will end up like China’s, at best. Most likely it would collapse because the bureaucrats there had skimmed off the money meant to buy more servers to meet the demand.

    This is one area where the US ought to have the unequivocal moral high ground. That won’t help of course, because Kofi and his pals are looking to help out their tyrant chums, not enable free information flow. In this matter you’ve got the choice between the USA and tyranny. Which way will you vote?

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  14. Amelia says:

    “Besides, according to Dante, the lowest circle (where Anan would go) is frozen.”

    OMG! So funny! ROTFL
    Anan does belong in the traitors’ section of hell!

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