Should the UN regulate the internet?

The rise of platforms like Wikileaks has certainly shaken up how the future of the internet may operate and maybe these are the golden years and darker times are ahead?

Based on the issues that Wikileaks raised it was only a matter of time before the issue of controlling and censoring the internet would be raised, so with some detail John Hilvert covered it in his article on thoughts around if the UN should move to setup an inter-government working group that seeks to harmonise the global efforts to regulate the internet. Initially it seems the group would outline global standards for policing the internet challenging platforms like Wikileaks to operate freely which would please many governments who have been exposed via Wikileaks.

The concerning factor is that governments are starting to bring about a Draconian future where global infrastructure and free speech may no longer be possible, so would a UN working group challenge this or facilitate this Draconian world that might have already begun? Recently as part of the US governments move to stamp out piracy 82 domains were seized and the sites were shut down which challenges the role ICANN had to offer a single DNS system with root name servers.  ICANN stands for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers and was created to provide a not-for-profit public benefit group that is dedicated to keeping the internet secure, stable and interoperable.  ICANN is not meant to stop spam or deal with access to the internet but to promote competition and develop policy around the internet’s naming system but would that change if the UN working group was created?

ICANN Organisational Structure
ICANN Organisational Structure

The interesting point raised by Professor Bambauer at Brooklyn Law School is that the US might have actually created a precedent by seizing the domains before the court was able to rule on if they were infringing on copyright issues and opens the door for any other country in the world to do the same. There has been moves to consider if an open and distributed DNS platform could solve the issues of ownership and reduce the impact of governmental censorship as last month China was able to briefly divert around 15% of the world’s web traffic through Chinese servers.  While the incident which occurred way back in April 2010 only lasted 18 minutes it affected US military, US government, and US corporations showed the problem with a single government or company having control of the web.  The Chinese redirect highlight the possible weakness of the current routing tables for the web which still has not been addressed, which was first exposed at 2008 Defcon hacking event but remains unfixed even with all the current organisations and committees watching out for internet users which I doubt a UN working group would be able to solve any quicker.

Will the move to have a UN agency devoted to regulation speed the resolution of takedown notices or allow a shield for inter-government departments to rule on aspects such as Wikileaks? The United Nations charters already includes 6 principal organisations, 15 agencies, committees, subsidiary bodies and several programs so do they really need more roles? There are already semi-government supported platforms such as the Internet Government Forum who assist the UN Secretary General in carrying out his/her mandate from the World Summit on the Information Society which promote web accessibility standards set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). There is also the ITU which is already a UN agency for information and communication technologies that could assist ICANN and the IGF around what could be done but there needs to be a stronger focus on transparency and independence from government and commercial interests.

Within Australia there has been pressure from the Government around Cybercrime which lead to a review into the Governance of the .AU domains and auDA’s role to ensure Australia’s internet infrastructure is stable and reliable, so they have requested expression of interest into the Governance of .AU which can be downloaded. The rise of Wikileaks has certainly shaken up how the future of the internet may operate and maybe these are the golden years and darker times are ahead and censorship looks to be on the up…. maybe we should UNregulate the internet?

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