Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The UN and the Internet

It seems that the U.S. will remain in charge of the Internet:

By MATT MOORE, Associated Press Writer

TUNIS, Tunisia - A U.N. technology summit opened Wednesday after an 11th-hour agreement that leaves the United States with ultimate oversight of the main computers that direct the Internet's flow of information, commerce and dissent.

A lingering and vocal struggle over the Internet's plumbing and its addressing system has overshadowed the summit's original intent: to address ways to expand communications technologies to poorer parts of the world.

Negotiators from more than 100 countries agreed late Tuesday to leave the United States in charge, through a quasi-independent body called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. . . .
Libertarian purists will object that no government agency should be involved in the operation of the Internet. I would agree with that if the Internet weren't an international phenomenon. But it is, and that opens the possibility of overt or covert control by foreign governments. Faced with that possibility, the second-best option is to retain the U.S. government's oversight role.

It's bad enough that some nations try to control the content of Internet traffic within their own borders. But imagine an Internet in which the likes of Canada, France, Russia, China, Syria, and Iran had a hand in controlling the "flow of information, commerce and dissent" within the U.S. and between the U.S. and the rest of the world. We would then have to create a separate, U.S.-and-free-speech-partners-only Internet that could connect to the UN-controlled system only through special protocols and filters. What a step backward that would be.