I’m not a fan of international bureaucracies. Simply stated, they routinely promote statism, which translates into less freedom and prosperity.
But not all international bureaucracies are created equal. Most of my ire is directed at the International Monetary Fund and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development for the simple reason that those two institutions actually have some ability to subsidize or coerce bad policy.
The United Nations, by contrast, is largely ineffective and corrupt (or absurd, as seen by the effort to make taxpayer-funded birth control a “human right”). So while its even more left-leaning than the IMF and OECD, it doesn’t do as much damage.
Though that may change if the UN succeeds in its multi-year plan to seize control of the Internet, something that may happen because of feckless choices by the Obama Administration (if you think his FCC scheme to turn the Internet into a public utility is misguided, you’ll love what’s now happening).
Let’s review the situation. Here’s some background information from an article by James Glassman.
…the Internet has been governed by the people who use it. In a bottom-up process remarkably free of political interference, the system brings together businesses, engineers, research institutions, civil society groups, and governments to make decisions by consensus. …this “multi-stakeholder model,” as it’s called, actually works, with real transparency and accountability. Rooted in the principles of seamless cross-border networks and freedom of expression, the Internet has been adopted faster than any other means of communication in history.
But the attitude of politicians and bureaucrats seems to be that if something works, it’s time to break it.
…the Internet’s good-governance model faces a serious threat. …the United Nations General…will consider new ways to govern the Internet, and authoritarian countries are pushing to give governments a bigger stake in decision-making. …Regimes like those in Russia, China, and Iran are themselves under serious threat, with their own Internet users criticizing government and uncovering corruption. What they want is a U.N.-style model, where every country has a vote, and those votes will boost the power of the governments casting them. One result could be a balkanized Internet where threatening speech, or commercial competition, is squelched at the border.
That’s not good news, as I can personally attest having been severely limited in my Internet access during a recent trip to China.
Surely the United States will oppose this agenda, right? That may have been true years ago, but not now.
…the United States has been a fervent supporter of the multi-stakeholder process. But last year, the Obama administration announced it would give up…now ICANN is up for grabs. It could end up being not just a manager of addresses but the main governing institution for the entire Internet.
And that means the heavy foot of government.
Consider the filing by the Group of 77 plus China — a coalition…that…says “… the overall authority for Internet related public policy issues is the sovereign right of States.” …Russia’s filing is even worse: “We consider it necessary [the document’s italics] to consecutively increase the role of governments in the Internet governance…”
The bottom line is that decisions by the Obama Administration have made it more likely that governments will compromise the efficiency and openness of the Internet.
In past meetings of this sort, the U.S. has managed to keep the authoritarians at bay, but the administration’s ICANN decision — another case of attempting to lead from behind — won’t help. ICANN is a tempting prize for China and other countries. …The real problem is that with WSIS+10, the United Nations has gained official acceptance as the arbiter of Internet governance. …the conference itself amplifies the danger of a takeover by forces that see a free Internet as an existential threat.
What’s happened over the past few months?
We have a new column in the Wall Street Journal by Gordon Crovitz, and the developments have been in the wrong direction.
Two years after President Obama decided to give up U.S. protection of the open Internet, his administration is now considering how to give away power to other governments, most of which want a closed, censored Internet. …The plan was supposed to ensure that U.S. control could never be replaced “with a government-led or intergovernmental organization solution.” Yet it does precisely that, giving foreign governments new powers over the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or Icann, and a path to full control. …Robin Gross…filed a dissent with Icann against upgrading the government role “from an advisory to a decisional role over Icann’s policies, operations and corporate governance matters.”
And here’s what this may mean.
The main risk of government control is to the root zone of the Internet, currently protected by the U.S. government through its contract with Icann. If authoritarian governments can get access to the underlying website names and addresses globally, they could disable sites they don’t like everywhere in the world, not just in their own countries. In secret planning discussions last year leaked to me, the Russian representative told other authoritarian governments that full government control over Internet stakeholders is a topic that “needs to be further examined” only after the U.S. withdraws, creating a vacuum of power.
So is there any way of stopping Obama from surrendering the Internet?
Crovitz explains that there is hope.
Congress has used budget bills to defund any action by the Obama administration to end the U.S. contract with Icann, at least through this September. …A new president should decide the wisdom of abandoning the Internet before it is given up with no chance of return. The Obama administration doesn’t like to acknowledge American exceptionalism, but the open Internet reflects the American values of free speech and open innovation. The Internet as we know it won’t survive if other governments get their way.
I suppose a key issue is whether Congress can extend the funding ban until next year, at which point there may (or may not!) be a President interested in protecting the Internet.
P.S. If the busybodies at the United Nations simply need a topic to keep them occupied, perhaps they should deal with the ongoing scandal of sexual abuse by their own bureaucrats.
Here are but a few of the recent examples of UN personnel abusing their position:
- Just in the last few weeks, more children have come forward to allege sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic.
- In Haiti, UN personnel traded goods for sexual favors, exploiting several hundred women and girls.
- In the Ivory Coast, ten UN peacekeepers reportedly gang raped a 13-year-old girl.
- In Liberia, UN peacekeepers gave goods and presents in exchange for sex.
- In Bosnia, some UN personnel not only patronized brothels featuring kidnapped women and victims of war, but also allegedly helped procure women for brothels.
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
P.P.S. I confessed years ago to a fantasy involving the United Nations.
P.P.P.S. But when I read about the UN’s efforts for gun control, global taxation, UN-imposed taxes, a world currency, the Law of the Sea Treaty, tax harmonization, restrictions on American sovereignty, and climate-change statism, my real fantasy is to raze the building.