THE U.N. AND THE INTERNET: Bizzyblog has a long, detailed, link-rich post about next week’s World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia — which has set the tone by shutting down dissident websites.
UPDATE: Here’s an oped by Arch Puddington of Freedom House that lays out the issues. Excerpt:
While ICANN functions on a charter from the Commerce Department, the U.S. government has followed a strict hands-off policy; ICANN’s actions are transparent and decisions are made only after extensive consultation with Internet companies, governments, techies and freedom-of-expression organizations. ICANN has contributed to the unique nature of the Internet as a creative and innovative means of communication that links people and ideas across national boundaries — for the most part outside the control of government.
But demands are growing for the “internationalization” of Internet governance. To this end, a number of countries are pressing to remove oversight from ICANN and place it under the auspices of a new organization that would be part of the U.N. system. Advocates of this arrangement make no claims that the current system is flawed. Instead, they focus on the supposed “injustice” or “inappropriateness” of a system overseen by an American agency. And there is an ulterior motive behind the clamor for change. . . .
Although U.N. officials deny any intention to broaden ICANN’s mandate, past U.N. experience suggests that a limited mission can gradually expand into unanticipated territory under the relentless pressure of determined member states. Some of the most shameful U.N. episodes — particularly regarding freedom issues — have occurred because the world’s democracies were outwitted by a coalition of the most repressive regimes — the very coalition that is taking shape over Internet control. Working with determination and discipline, this alliance of dictatorships has already left the U.N. Human Rights Commission a shambles, something that Annan himself has deplored.
Indeed. Read the whole thing, and keep the Internet free. Read this, too.