Debates over which country or international body should control the Internet are nothing new, but yesterday's announcement by the UK concerning the future of Internet governance could force a showdown between those who favor the de facto US-centric control system (namely the US) versus those who don't (just about everyone else). As the Guardian reports, the EU has apparently decided to "end the US government's unilateral control of the internet and put in place a new body that would now run this revolutionary communications medium."
What isn't clear, however, is how the EU (or the UN body certain EU countries propose to form) would actually compel the US to turn over Internet control. The Guardian article glosses over this point, stating only that "faced with international consensus, there is little the US government can do but acquiesce." Given the United States' historical willingness to act against international consensus, I'm not certain the Guardian has reason to conclude the matter closed as confidently as it does; Ambassador Bolton isn't likely to endorse the concept of an international Internet governing body.
One real concern the Guardian article raises is how human rights would be protected under an international organization. Political pressure from countries that heavily monitor Internet usage, such as China, could impact and twist the development of new communication standards. Such pressure, if applied, could force an emerging standard to include surveillance or tracking capabilities that would otherwise be unacceptable.
Personally, I don't see the US bowing to international pressure on this topic anytime soon, and I can't imagine what'd do more damage to the Internet than to turn its governance over to a UN committee. I'm all for giving other countries fair and free access to the Internet—but not at the cost of its efficiency and ability to open new channels of communication for the otherwise oppressed.
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