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November 16, 2005
Internet Dodges Dictators One More Time

American management of the Internet dodged another challenge at a UN-sponsored summit on information systems. The attendees voted to continue American oversight through ICANN of the Internet, avoiding a protracted legal and political battle over freedom of speech and a number of other issues:

Negotiators from more than 100 countries agreed late Tuesday to leave the United States in charge of the Internet's addressing system, averting a U.S.-EU showdown at this week's U.N. technology summit.

U.S. officials said early Wednesday that instead of transferring management of the system to an international body such as the United Nations, an international forum would be created to address concerns. The forum, however, would have no binding authority.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce Michael Gallagher said the deal means the United States will leave day-to-day management to the private sector, through a quasi-independent organization called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN.

It would be difficult to imagine a more costly setback to the cause of freedom than to allow the UN or a similary forum to gain control of the servers that run the Internet. Too many governments around the world would use that power to stifle dissent among their own people. The Internet, to the extent that the oppressed have access to it at all, provides the eye to the world that freedom fighters need to remain motivated to keep up the struggle and the contacts which can make the struggle successful.

The American laissez-faire attitude towards content creates many problems regarding spam and p0rn, but it also guarantees the broadest latitude for political speech and debate. Given the UN's rather strange ideas about committee assignments, it doesn't take much imagination to picture an "independent" international committee in charge of the Internet headed by China and including such free-speech lovers as Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Libya, and Cuba outweighing the US on critical access decisions.

The Internet is not the Panama Canal. We created it, and we should continue to run it. Any President who agreed to give it away should plan on keeping his or her bags packed and ready at the exit of the White House.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 16, 2005 5:34 AM

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