Sunday, November 14, 2004

Evil is afoot

United Nations Establishes Working Group on Internet Governance

Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced today the members of the United Nations Working Group on Internet Governance, which is to prepare the ground for a decision on this contentious issue by the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society in 2005.

I'll not mince words - the last thing that I want the United Nations to get its slimy claws on is the internet. This "working group" isn't actually going to do anything, mind you - its purpose is to make preparations for preparing for any action. And just what sort of eventual action do they have in mind? Well, funny you should ask - the preparations for preparations suggest that they don't really know, but they seem certain that it's vital that the U.N. get involved anyway. The article credits the working group with the responsibility to

- Develop a working definition of Internet governance;

- Identify the public policy issues that are relevant to Internet governance;

- Develop a common understanding of the respective roles and responsibilities of governments, international organizations and other forums as well as the private sector and civil society from both developing and developed countries.

In other words, before the World Summit on the Information Society can really get started they need to determine how much power to grant themselves. But wait - it gets worse.

"There is a general convergence of views on the need to treat Internet governance from a broad perspective and to build on what has been done elsewhere," said Markus Kummer, the Swiss diplomat who heads the Geneva-based secretariat of the Working Group. "Issues that we expect to address include the management of Internet resources, network security, cyber-crime, spam and multilingualism." [emphasis mine]

Resource management, network security, and multilingualism have never had their best solutions come from government. These are technical issues that are best left in the hands of the technical people who provide the solutions; government involvement is a hindrance here, not a help. When you get a herd of bureaucrats, who know about the technology only what they hear from a pet geek they consult once or twice a month, together to make decisions about technology it's poison. They don't know what they're doing, and it routinely shows. They don't need a working group to examine this, I can already tell them how much power they should have over these issues - not one iota.

Criminal law is another matter; that's expressly government business. Cyber-crime and crime-related laws in the U.S. have been evolving all along, but at a snail's pace. Junkware has been infecting and crippling the computers of millions of unsuspecting users for a few years now, and there is finally some discussion of perhaps seeing if we can get some effective law together concerning that. Even though spam has for even longer been clogging inboxes and costing service providers staggering amounts of money annually, we're only recently seeing useful anti-spam laws. The alacrity with which government got out in front of that one being typical of government's ability to keep pace with technology, I can't imagine any scenario where a U.N. commission handles a problem before it's been replaced with 6 more that are worse. An independant -- and selective -- body would be much more efficient for developing international criminal law. Wait - don't we already have those? Well, I guess you just can't have too many.

But perhaps I'm just being too alarmist again. I'm sure we can all rest easily and trust in the sage wisdom of the United Nations to make the internet a harmonious experience for all. Judicious restraint in granting power over the governance of the internet is certain to be applied smoothly and efficiently when the panel includes representatives from China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Iran. I'm sure that they well understand that "information wants to be free", and will make decisions with our best interests foremost in their minds. Really.

(Cross-posted to The Left Right Debate)


Blogger Tom said...

What a gigantic waste of time. I think what the UN is up to is trying to get the US and Europe to provide subsidies to third world countries so that they can build out Internet infrastructure. The theory is that lack of Internet services hinders their developmemt. This 'working group' is an attempt to do this by end-run. It doesn't look that way in the beginning but will head toward subsidies in the end.

The UN, like so many others, mistakes the cause of third-world poverty. As Adam Smith could tell them, its not due to lack of "things", but to political socialism, corruption, and cultural attitudes towards work.

12:50 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

You know, I really wouldn't have a problem with US and European subsidies to expand infrastructure - as long as that indecorous band of hooligans is smitten for even thinking of trying to attain any measure of power over it. ICANN's doing fine - if the UN thinks it should have any manner of authority instead, they'd best proffer a damn good reason.

3:30 PM  
Blogger andy said...

This post has been removed by the author.Hey Doug, did you really remove that comment or....has....the...UN ALREADY started monitering the internet????? That's what they mean by "Governance"!

10:28 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

If it were, I would be busily preparing for the second major pile of rubble to appear in New York.

3:20 AM  

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