Sat, Oct 28, 2006 - Page 9 News List

If the Internet ain't broke, do not try to fix it

While the US wants to release the agency charged with managing the World Wide Web from federal oversight, the UN wants to bury it under layers of bureaucracy

By Alec van Gelder

Anything unacceptable to some might soon be off-limits for all -- from political comment to religious discussion -- and affect users around the world under the pretext of banning hate, child pornography or terrorism sites.

A UN Department of Information spokesman Edoardo Bellando said the UN could start acting as the "Internet police" and ensure tighter Internet security, Lehigh University's student newspaper reported him saying in a campus lecture this month.

The EU has, so far, supported UN interference because it would like to tax Internet transactions. Some democratic countries justify interference because of the problems of criminal and civil jurisdiction, of spam and of cyber crime. These, however, have nothing to do with ICANN's role.

The stable and open countries of the UN must now insist that the IGF ignore the ideological obsessions of its more nefarious members and retain ICANN with its proposed new private-sector board.

ICANN should remain the quiet manager of the Internet if it is to remain the resource that we cherish in today's information-driven world.

We can expect UN management to be as successful as its campaigns for peace in Darfur or curbing sex slavery.

Right now, if you have a problem with ICANN, you can go to a civil court in California, but it is impossible to imagine such redress against an international bureaucracy.

The Internet became what it is because of its freedom. For it to continue as the vital resource that it has become, we must keep it free from political control and interference.

Alec van Gelder is a research fellow at International Policy Network, a London think tank.

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