I have blogged a lot about the attempt to have a UN body given governance authority over the Internet. Some have seen it as US vs UN but this is incorrect. While the US does presently have policy authority over the root name servers, it actually has never used this except in relation to .us. Everything else is delegated to ICANN which is far far far from perfect (in fact deeply flawed in many areas) but does allow the non governmental sector a significant voice in running the Internet.
Compare that to what is happening at the WSIS conference, where China, Brazil and Iran managed to force the Chair to exclude all further civil society
and private sector participation in the drafting groups. The compromise that they could attend but not speak was not even acceptable to these countries that want to set policy for the Internet.
Luckily for InternetNZ, our Executive Director has been made a member of the official Government delegation, so he presumably has been able to stay in the room. But it speaks volumes about what role the private sector will play in the Internet policy if China, Brazil and Iran get to set the rules in future. None.
There was a period I was so disenchanted with ICANN I thought the ITU might do a better job of it. I still find ICANN hugely disappointing in many areas (yet happily for InternetNZ it is mainly the gTLD issues not the ccTLD issues they are stuffing up), but the more I observe about the motivations and actions of those pushing for ICANN’s role to be transferred or supervised by a UN body, the more I believe this would be one of the biggest setbacks for free speech worldwide.
Luckily there is nothing the Chinas and Irans of this world can do, to force a transfer of authority. However the risk is that at some stage a compromise is done which will start the process off. If the UN sets up a global Internet forum (sounds harmless eh) and it starts making recommendations on allowable content etc, ICANN could find it politically very difficult to not go along with such recommendations.
Key things to watch out for is what comes out of these meetings known as Prep Com 3, and what is recommended to go the big WSIS meeting in November where heads of governments will attend and ratify outcomes.Tags: Internet