Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Hoping the EU fails

Only somebody as idiotic as an EU Commissioner could possibly think it would be a good idea to entrust the internet to the UN. Thankfully the EU rarely gets anything done, and the thing seems to be fizzling out. Here are some reasons why this is a terrible idea:

As the author notes, the advertised reasons for this proposal - increasing access and receiving global input - seem to be masking some less noble motives and outcomes:
Censorship. Despite having made a declaration of support for freedom of speech, many WGIG members come from nations that severely curtail this right; China, for example, has one of the most restrictive and sophisticated Internet control mechanisms in the world. Just as other UN bodies have been "co-opted" by non-democratic governments, "an 'International Internet Commission' chaired by China might not be far off," Rasmussen observed.
Taxes. Since the Internet's infancy the UN has crafted detailed proposals to tax online traffic. Rasmussen calculates that one 1999 plan for a "bit tax," adjusted for today's number of Internet users, would raise 12 trillion dollars this year - roughly equal to America's Gross Domestic Product. Even less ambitious money-raising models such as the independent, Switzerland-based "Digital Solidarity Fund" could feasibly be transformed into future collectors of compulsory Internet taxes and fees.
Bureaucratic Corruption. Given recent oil-for-food scandals, UN-style Internet agencies would present the inherent risk of "giving ruling members of regimes in the developing world shiny new computers rather than furnishing the poor with Internet access," Rasmussen said.
Although the US State Department (and more recently federal lawmakers) are moving to oppose a UN Internet takeover, and ICANN officials are advocating privatization, the author contends that vigorous opposition to WGIG's plans from taxpayers around the world is vital.

Here is a thoughtful interview on the subject in Foreign Policy. The Economist is also against UN control. And Tunisia is doing its part in underlining the potential problems. Well done.

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