Freitag, Oktober 02, 2009

Another Data Point For The Trend...V

This time it's ICANN.

The Internet Corporation For Assigned Names And Numbers is basically the core, the brains of the Internet (not the heart: that'd be distributed server farms). It's what guarantees the operational stability of the internet, and can remove servers and web sites by the simple expedient of ordering them removed from name servers: without access to these, you're not visible on the internet. This gives both petty tyrants and serious hard-core dictators serious hard-ons, as it means that if they can control or otherwise influence who gets on the name servers, they can suppress dissent by removing access to the internet for dissident web servers and the like. The Great Firewall of China serves only to protect Chinese state interests: it wouldn't be necessary if Chinese dissident web sites could be simply made to disappear by removing them from ICANN-controlled name servers. Vastly more elegant, and it is the key area where censorship can happen without anyone knowing about it. After all, if it's not on the Internet, it didn't happen, right?

So what has happened?

After many years of opposition to foreign control of ICANN - after all, the Internet is an American invention - the US government now has abandoned the principle of no foreign control and is giving control of ICANN away.

Oversight panels will be established for a number of technical areas, and this: "accountability to public interests."

Which is where the real action will happen, and happens to be the only area where the US wants a permanent seat.

While the US control of ICANN has been criticized that they run ICANN as a despot, it's been a benevolent despot, with little or no controversy about naming conventions and the granting of top level domains (TLD): they've refused, for instance, the .xxx TLD for pornography, pointing out that .com is perfectly adequate. The EU has complained that too much control is being exercised in such a manner that companies in the EU can't exploit the internet infrastructure for gain and profit.


Imagine the UN running ICANN: it means that dissident web sites, once identified, will be shut down (contrary to "public interests"); it means other countries will be able to constantly review internet sites and will campaign to have those contrary to "public interests" shut down when criticism is raised.

Imagine an internet that isn't anarchic, barely controlled and open to virtually unlimited cultural and political discussions, the chat room of the human race. Imagine instead a controlled internet, with state censorship reaching across borders and the repression of dissident opinions.

That's the future. Thanks, President Obama and the Obama Administration, for simply throwing this away.

It's not that the oversight panel for accountability to public interests has to be corrupt and perverse: given, however, the track record of, say, the UN Commission of Human Rights - where dictators dominate and the only country criticized in any way, shape or form is Israel - I hold little hope that the oversight panel won't be dominated by China, Russia, Iran and other sterling examples of free discourse of ideas.

ICANN should probably change its name now: "I can" will now mean "my government decides if I might".

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