Nations Chafe at U.S. Influence Over Internet
December 8, 2003
Nations Chafe at U.S. Influence Over Internet
By JENNIFER L. SCHENKER
International Herald Tribune
PARIS, Dec. 7 - Paul Twomey, the president of the Internet's semi-official
governing body, Icann, learned Friday night what it feels like to be an
Mr. Twomey, who had flown 20 hours from Vietnam to Geneva to observe a
preparatory meeting for this week's United Nations' conference on Internet
issues, ended up being escorted from the meeting room by guards. The
officials running the meeting had suddenly decided to exclude outside
Mr. Twomey's ejection may underscore the resentment of many members of the
international community over the way the Internet is run and over United
States ownership of many important Internet resources. Although Mr. Twomey
is Australian, Icann - the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and
Numbers - is a powerful nonprofit group established by the United States
government in 1998 to oversee various technical coordination issues for
the global network.
Icann and the United States government are expected to come under heavy
fire at the conference, which begins Wednesday in Geneva and will be one
of the largest gatherings of high-level government officials, business
leaders and nonprofit organizations to discuss the Internet's future. An
important point of debate will be whether the Internet should be overseen
by the United Nations instead of American groups like Icann.
"I am not amused," Mr. Twomey said via a cellphone outside the conference
room Friday evening after he was barred from the planning meeting. "At
Icann, anybody can attend meetings, appeal decisions or go to ombudsmen.
And here I am outside a U.N. meeting room where diplomats - most of whom
know little about the technical aspects - are deciding in a closed forum
how 750 million people should reach the Internet." Mr. Twomey said that
others were also kept out, including members of the news media and anyone
who was not a government official.
Although more than 60 nations will be represented in Geneva by their
leaders, only a handful of industrial nations are sending theirs.
President Bush will not attend, although other United States officials are
scheduled to participate.
During the conference, an expected 5,000 representatives from
intragovernmental, business and nonprofit organizations, will try to
create an action plan for the next phase of the Internet. They are set to
tackle thorny questions like how to close the so-called digital divide
separating the rich and the poor; how to supervise the Internet; and how
to deal with issues like spam and pornography on the Web.
Because the Internet first took root in the United States, it may be
understandable that American interests have tended to prevail. The
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, still has more
Internet addresses than all of China, according to Lee McKnight, an
associate professor at Syracuse University and an M.I.T. research
By 2007, though, more than 50 percent of Web users will be Chinese,
according to some forecasts.
"The world should be grateful to Uncle Sam for creating the Internet,"
said Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, a Jordanian businessman who is vice chairman of
the United Nations' Information and Communication Technology Task Force.
But, he said, it is time for the rest of the world to have a larger voice
in Internet governance.
To that end, all countries participating in the conference agreed early
Sunday that a working group should be formed under the auspices of the
United Nations to examine Internet governance, including whether more
formal oversight of Icann by governments or intragovernmental agencies is
necessary, said Markus Kummer, the Swiss Foreign Ministry's Internet envoy
and the leader of the conference's working group on Internet governance.
Mr. Abu-Ghazaleh, who is also chairman of an important International
Chamber of Commerce committee, said he planned to present a proposal for a
new, more international management of Icann at a private meeting Tuesday.
That meeting is to include leaders from six African, five Middle Eastern,
four European and two Asian countries as well as Kofi Annan. the United
Nations Secretary General, and Erkki Liikanen, the European commissioner
charged with overseeing information technology issues.
Conspicuously absent from the invitation list are representatives of Icann
and the United States government. But some well-known Internet figures,
including Nicholas Negroponte, Esther Dyson and Tim Berners-Lee, are
expected to attend the meeting Tuesday. So are senior executives from a
variety of multinational companies, including America Online, Microsoft,
Boeing, Siemens, Alcatel and Vodafone.
At the heart of the discussions will be what role government and
intragovernmental agencies should play.
"The U.S. government position is that the Internet is coordinated and led
by the private sector and should be private sector led," a State
Department spokesman said last week. "But we are committed to assuring
that Icann remains balanced amongst all stakeholders."
Mr. Abu-Ghazaleh, though, said he planned to propose that Icann be placed
under the umbrella of a United Nations communications task force that
gives equal status to government, private sector and nongovernmental
Under his plan, the United States would have permanent presidency of an
Icann oversight committee. Other permanent members would include the
International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations agency; the United
Nations Conference on Trade and Development; the World Intellectual
Property Organization; and the International Chamber of Commerce. Each
continent would have one representative on the committee, elected by the
countries from the continent they represent.
Under the Abu-Ghazaleh proposal, Icann would continue to be based in the
United States and governed by United States law, and the same people who
do the technical work would continue in that role.
Icann's Mr. Twomey said he saw no reason to change the current set-up,
pointing out that nearly 100 governments are already represented on
Icann's advisory committee. He said Icann planned to open regional offices
in Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia in 2004.
Icann's role is limited to technical matters like the format of Internet
addresses, Mr. Twomey said. "If governments think they can really find a
place to discuss spam and child porn and e-commerce, we would probably
welcome it," he said. "These things are not in our charter - it is not
what we do. So we want to assure everyone involved that we are not
standing in the way."
But, he said, when it comes to the technical underpinnings of the
Internet, Icann should be allowed to continue its work, Mr. Twomey said.
"It is not broken, so why fix it?"
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
I think it's kind of cute the way the world makes a futile attempt to resist our domination. You will be assimilated. End transmission
We built the damn thing. If they don't like it, let them build their own.
I agree. It reminds me of the BS with the Panama Canal a few years back. The USA built it, and just gave the fvking thing away at the end. $HIT!
Originally Posted By Johnny_Reno: We built the damn thing. If they don't like it, let them build their own.
Interesting that the story doesn't point out that the governments making the biggest noise over who controls the net are those that allow their subjects the least amount of access to information. Guess the Chinese spend too much money keeping the NYT in line.
Maybe they would take Al Gore instead? CW
[blue][size=6]UN[/size=6][/blue] = [>(]
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If they only knew!!!!!!!!!! The most important site on the web goes down for a week and they think WE CONTROL the internet?!?!? No one controls the internet. Not even Goatboy.
The UN wants to run the internet now! Just what we need … UN control over one of the last free places of information exchange there is. Maybe they will decide that ARFCOM promotes the illicit small arms trade and try to shut us down; they have already tried to mess with our RKBA. The internet should remain free and in the private sector. This probably will not result in any changes, though. When the people who do have the most influence over it don’t even participate in the meeting, the UN can make all the statements they want, but they won’t mean anything.
It's bullshit. The US hasn't done hardly anything to "control" the net (besides corporate greed misusing DMCA - but that only impacts inside the US). Other countries have put up firewalls (China), demanded that their citizens be denied access to certain sites (France), have ruled that deep linking is illegal. It's about prestige and control, nothing more. Do you REALLY want the UN in control of Web standards? Do you REALLY want the UN in control of Root Servers? Fat fucking chance. The goddamn thing would be crashed and burned inside of a year. We built it and opened it up to the entire world to play with and prosper with it. They can fucking go build their own system if they want something to control, just like Europe is doing with their new GPS.
You know, if they are unhappy with their participation, we could probably figure out a software solution that would block them from the internet for good then they wouldn't have to worry about it...
Once again they feel impotent when they try to compare themselves to the USA. I think I'm feeling especially "potent" again. It comes naturally, being an American. I can hardly wait for work to end so I can go home and demonstrate my "potency" with my wife.