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Nations Urge U.S. to Relinquish Internet Control to U.N.

Nations such as China, Brazil, India, Cuba, and the European Union are now pressuring United States to surrender its unilateral control over the Internet.
( [email protected] ) Oct 27, 2005 09:59 PM EDT

Nations such as China, Brazil, India, Cuba, and the European Union are now pressuring United States to surrender its unilateral control over the Internet.

Until now, the Internet has been managed by a non-profit organization called Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), contracted to the U.S. Department of Commerce in 1998. U.S. maintains veto power on all decisions made on the international advisory body of the organization. The contract is expected to expire next year.

Recently several countries, developing nations in particular, have grown discontent over U.S. control of Internet activities and are pressing for the jurisdiction of internet under an international body such as United Nations. The nations argued that no one should have sole control over the Internet.

The issue was intensified in August when the U.S. government requested ICANN to table an initiative to add a new domain for pornography websites. The move brought thousands of complaints from the conservative Christian groups and the Department of Commerce was pressed to remove its support for the initiative at the last moment.

Late last month, the European Union has announced its plans to end U.S. control by establishing a new international "forum" that would set policy principles for ICANN and adjudicate complaints. Preparations are underway for the upcoming World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia to propose the body into action.

David Hendon, director of business relations for UK's Department of Trade and Industry, asserts that the motion will only focus on "issues setting the top-level framework." Yet others are not so confident.

Professor Jonathan Zittrain of Internet governance at Oxford University said that such "cantonization" would diminish the value of Internet as a global, interoperable tool.

"There has been a misconception -- and a helpful one -- among many government bureaucrats that the Internet is a non-geographic phenomenon," said Mr. Zittrain. "But it can be reworked to correspond to national jurisdictions and boundaries."

Christian groups such as the Christian Compass have addressed concerns over human rights issues in countries known to censor Internet content such as China and Tunisia on the matter. Last month, China announced new rules of restrictions on unhealthy Internet contents, which include certain religious contents suspected of criticizing the government policies on the matter.

"We need to better regulate the online news services with the emergence of so many unhealthy news stories that will easily mislead the public," an unnamed spokesman of China's State Council Information Office said, according to an article in China's official state-run news agency.