Wednesday, November 30, 2005

ICANN: Master of Our Domains?

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is a nonprofit based in California that assigns and manages all the internet domain names. At a recent summit (The World Summit on the Information Society) held in Tunisia, other countries expressed their dismay that the United States will not "share" control of the internet with them. Specifically, the other countries (China, France, India, wanted to internationalize or "multilateralize" the oversight of the internet.


The US made a persuasive argument at the summit that allowing the U.N. to control the internet would "inevitably lead to censorship." Because we know how much the U.N. loves to take control, do the right thing, and not care about upsetting its totalitarian members, right? Like, a vote of some ICANN Council of the U.N. couldn't just vote 5 to 4 to disable all of, say, Israel's domains, could it? A North Korea-China-Russia bloc wouldn't want to have any say at all in what content could be published, right? It is for reasons such as this that the US claims we are best able to ensure "the security of the virtual world."

Of course, as I write this, I am reminded that blogging was illegal when I was in China, and now both Google and Yahoo (American corporations) have agreed to filter content for just that market, as well as deliver information to the government on email addresses from which "traitorious" messages are sent.

So--how can the US remotely credibly argue that we are best-suited to the work of ICANN when our very own corporations collaborate with totalitarian regimes? And why does it seem like no one is talking about this? We are supposedly in the middle of a war to bring democratic freedoms to Iraq. So why are our very own corporations suppressing any hopes for it in China? And why are we silent?


Chief of Staff said...

...there are only 7 Americans on the Board of Directors (out of 20), and the organization functions in collaboration with public and private interests internationally (kinda sounds like a UN-ish entity, as is? Except that it's based in California instead of NY). To me, the big issue is that there is no need for the UN to get its meaty hands on the Internet when an independent organization already exists that represents global interests.

misterfed said...

Just to play Devil's advocate -- well, maybe more than that -- why can't they make their own internet? The doohickey was created and built by American institutions, public and private, in America, and exploded into mega-activity chiefly through private American commerce. Why should anyone else have a right to a piece of it? Should the UN demand a right to control NYSE, because it is such an important engine of commerce to the world?

Nothing stops other countries from making their own net. It would take some catching on, certainly, but they could then run it any way they want.