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The U.N.'s Threat to the Net

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, writing in The Washington Post, declared that it is a "mistaken notion" that the U.N. "wants to 'take over,' police or otherwise control the Internet." Unfortunately, neither the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), the WSIS' Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) or the Secretary General's column give comfort to those committed to cyber-freedom.

Despite Secretary General's assurances that the purpose of the WSIS is to "ensure that poor countries get the full benefits that new information and communication technologies...." taking over the internet appears a direct aim of the WGIG. One of the Recommendations from the "Report of the Working Group on Internet Governance" is to "Clarify the institutional arrangements needed to guarantee continuity of a stable and secure functioning of the root system during and after a possible period of governance reform." If that doesn't sound like a planned takeover of the internet what does?

The column also states that "To defend the Internet is to defend freedom itself." But many of the participants in the WGIG are contemptuous of freedom. The WGIS' membership includes representatives of Cuba, Saudi Arabia, China and Iran; countries that strongly suppress and punish of freedom of expression.

Mr. Annan urged "all stakeholders to come to Tunis...to build an open, inclusive information society that enriches and empowers all people." The Secretary General apparently didn't even see the irony holding a conference on building an open information society in a country that, according to Reporters Without Borders "cracks down ruthlessly on free expression. The government censors the Internet and uses alleged cyber-crime to justify arbitrary imprisonment. Nine young Internet users were sentenced in April 2003 to sentences of up to 26 years in prison for just downloading files deemed by the authorities to be dangerous."

Another of the WGIG's recommendations is that governments should "develop tools and mechanisms… to allow for effective criminal investigation and prosecution of crimes committed in cyberspace… addressing the problem of cross-border jurisdiction, regardless of the territory from which the crime was committed..." which sounds wonderful until you realize that the term "crime" is not defined. Virtually all free speech is a crime in some of the countries that are closely involved in the WSIS and WGIG. Do we really want Americans or the residents of any country to be internationally prosecuted for activities that are considered a crime in Cuba, Iran or Saudi Arabia?

The technical institutions that govern the internet are already international in character with strong participation from citizens around the globe. To defend the status quo is to "defend freedom itself."

By Bruce Levinson, SVP, Regulatory Intervention - Center for Regulatory Effectiveness
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Related topics: Censorship, Internet Governance
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Re: The U.N.'s Threat to the Net Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Nov 09, 2005 5:57 AM PDT

Virtually all free speech is a crime in some of the countries that are closely involved in the WSIS and WGIG. Do we really want Americans or the residents of any country to be internationally prosecuted for activities that are considered a crime in Cuba, Iran or Saudi Arabia?

Not that strawman again?

Since when or where has the internet conferred jurisdiction?  Even if all the doomsday scenarios come into place and the ITU forms a committee with China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Cuba controlling the root servers or whatever, that still doesnt change the situation

Cross border enforcement is, and has been, a fairly tough issue even with the current Internet.

Like Germany prosecuting Yahoo for hosting white supremacist neo nazi sites in the USA, and Yahoo declining to take the sites down as people ARE entitled to their first amendment rights to free speech if they're not doing anything else illegal - whether they are rednecks with white supremacist pages or leftwing bloggers with a "F*ck Bush" theme

Or there's that other case of China subpoenaing that journalist's name from Yahoo China (which is actually a Chinese portal called Alibaba.com, that uses the Yahoo brandname but is completely different from Yahoo USA, say) —

http://www.businessweek.com/technology...
http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily...

In case #1 - the German court could order German ISPs to block the racist sites from German users

In case #2 - the Chinese police could subpoena a Chinese citizen's data from a Chinese portal headquartered in Beijing, China, one that is using the Yahoo brandname, admittedly, but completely different.

Do you start to see a pattern here?  A country's jurisdiction within its physical borders is absolute. Law enforcement across borders is the subject of lots of complex treaties and agreements, with Interpol serving as an information clearing house and a place where agencies can meet to cooperate.

NOTHING about what the WSIS / WGIG / ITU / ICANN or whoever else is doing is going to change this situation one bit, or allow Fidel Castro to send a cuban beat cop over to DC to arrest Bush because the State Department designates Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism.

So, please find one of several other, more valid reasons, to criticize the process. 

--srs

Re: The U.N.'s Threat to the Net trinsic  –  Nov 11, 2005 4:43 PM PDT

NOTHING about what the WSIS / WGIG / ITU / ICANN or whoever else is doing is going to change this situation one bit, or allow Fidel Castro to send a cuban beat cop over to DC to arrest Bush because the State Department designates Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism.

So, please find one of several other, more valid reasons, to criticize the process. 

Italy and Switzerland Requested Indymedia's Server Seizure
09 Oct 2004 00:40 GMT

Today, October 8, 2004, Indymedia has learned that the request to seize Indymedia servers hosted by a US company in the UK originated from government agencies in Italy and Switzerland. More than 20 Indymedia sites, several internet radio streams and other projects were hosted on the servers. They were taken offline on October 7th after an order was issued to Rackspace, Inc., one of Indymedia's web hosting providers.

The reasons for the court order or who actually holds the servers now are still unknown to Indymedia.

According to Italian news agency reports and an Agence France-Presse (AFP) interview with FBI spokesman Joe Parris, the FBI acted on Italian and Swiss requests. "It is not an FBI operation," Parris told AFP. "Through a legal assistance treaty, the subpoena was on behalf of a third country." (1)

Earlier today Rackspace published a statement that they turned over the servers in response to an order under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). The MLAT establishes procedures for countries to assist each other in investigations regarding international terrorism, kidnapping and money laundering. The court prohibits Rackspace from commenting further on this matter. (2)

There you go, what else you got? Its clear that its possible for another country to impose there laws and regulations on other countries though international treaties.. How do you think its going to be different in this situation?

Re: The U.N.'s Threat to the Net Suresh Ramasubramanian  –  Nov 12, 2005 8:24 PM PDT

MLATs are the "normal legal cooperation" route that's completely independent of the internet, and concluded between law enforcement agencies in different countries

And at least for OECD economies there are several recommendations about how these should be applied - one OECD recommended test being "illegal in both countries"

Please go to http://www.oecd.org/sti/spam/toolkit/ and then take a look at their antispam law enforcement report - all of it builds on conventional and in several cases pre-existing agreements (MLAT = mutual legal assistance treaty) rather than having anything at all to do with the WSIS process http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/18/43/34886680.pdf

Like the earlier case where Yahoo USA refused to take down neonazi sites citing free speech issues .. things can go either way, and it depends on the parties to the case, the provider etc etc.

Right now I still dont see ANYTHING at all that the WSIS process has to do with this.

Anybody with an actual lawyer or law enforcement background want to comment on this?  My knowledge of the laws involved is simply as an interested observer from being an email provider with users around the world and offices in quite a few countries

-srs

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