Thursday, March 20, 2014

Well, It Was a Good Run While It Lasted

I've ignored the issue of the United States getting ready to give up the control of the internet domain naming group up 'til now, but this one gets to the heart of problem.

Will Transfer of Control Over the Internet to Non-US Hands -- Including Some Authoritarian and Freedom-Hating Governments -- Wind Up Destroying It?
Charles C.W. Cooke doesn't quite put it like that, but he does see reason for worry.
There is no plan to put the internet under the control of anyone, not per se at least. But the plan is to allow those threatened by free expression to share control over the basic structure of the internet -- which would give them leverage, should they wish to exert it.
Which, of course, they always do.
The “DNS’s authoritative root zone file” is effectively a master directory of website addresses, kept in one place to avoid duplication and to guarantee that when everybody types “” into their browser, they get the same page; “IP addresses,” to put it oversimply, are the Internet’s “phone numbers,” assigned to each computer (or router) so that they can be contacted by others; “protocol parameters” inform the basic architecture by which the Internet operates — variables such as which characters may be used, and in what form commonly used services such as e-mail and Web pages are to operate. You get the idea.
As you might imagine, it matters a great deal who is in charge of this compendium, for whoever controls it can use the thing essentially as a global on/off switch. As it stands, a tyrant is able to restrict access to certain parts of the Internet in his own country, but he is unable to make a page or a server or a service disappear completely....
Consider how different the story might have been had the system’s guts been controlled by someone else — even by a relatively free country such as Britain or Canada, where the government is benign but speech is curtailed by law. Is it not possible that the temptation to bring the Web into line with “reasonable” limits on expression would have been too much to resist? Can one not imagine a pressure for “common sense” reform building from inside and outside — and leading to censorship of language that gave offense to, say, gays, or Muslims, or police horses? If so, imagine what less amiable nations might seek to impose. . .
Will this result in the end of the internet as we know it?  Probably not; that genie will be pretty difficult to fully put back in the bottle.  Will it become less free? Almost certainly.  Less freedom loving national government will no doubt want to control content and traffic to suit their own purposes, and they will be able to collude together through the UN and get what they want.

Do you want the U.N.'s General Assembly deciding what websites you can create or visit? Not me.

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