In recent days our reader and frequent commenter Kepiblanc has talked about the coming takeover of local European internet governance by the EU. His latest mention of it was on yesterday’s Fjordman post:
Fjordman’s enthusiasm for the Internet may vanish when he realizes that the EU is about to take over control of the DNS (Domain Name System) from USA-based ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). A few years from now no European citizen will be able to read blogs like this one.
His comment piqued my interest, and I needed more information. Last night I emailed him with a question:
I need to pass more information about this on to the Europeans, particularly the Brits, in the 910 Group. Can you give me more details, or at least some URLs where you got your information?
His prompt reply was waiting in our inbox this morning:
The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) took place in Tunisia (!) November 2005. Prior to that (2003) a conference in Geneva had tried to make the UN a major player in the DNS system, but failed, mainly due to opposition from the US and EU — who both doubted, and rightfully so — that the UN bureaucracy was up to the task. The new conference was sponsored by the EU, who eyed an opportunity to weaken the US-based ICANN and grab control over the European part of the Internet.
Of course nothing was said in clear text, but camouflaged in diplo-speak and the usual EU mumbo-jumbo. For example, see this press release, where commissar Viviane Reding had opened the front in July (Luxembourg) with these words:
You will also be aware that Internet governance is one of the main topics on the agenda of the World Summit of the Information Society — a reflection of the importance that the Internet has in today’s world and of the need for common understandings between the main stakeholders.
Only a few weeks ago, here in Luxembourg, the EU Council of Ministers agreed on a common European approach to key elements of the Internet governance debate. Some of these relate directly to the various stakeholders assembled in Luxembourg now under the ICANN banner.
In particular, Europe agreed on the need for ensuring better the active participation of all parts of the world in decisions on crucial issues such as the domain name system, IP addresses, further DNS issues or security problems (spam, spy ware, etc.). It is indeed fully legitimate that governments want to ensure that appropriate answers be given to issues such as cyber crime, SPAM, intellectual property rights and development objectives. Furthermore, it is in everybody’s interest that all countries in the world feel committed to common basic principles on the Internet.
She — like everyone in the EU nomenklatura — is a true pupil of Humpty-Dumpty from Alice’s Wonderland: When she speaks out against “monopolies” it doesn’t mean Microsoft or LEGO, but — in this case — ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). That’s the independent board overseeing the DNS system, a basic “world telephone book” which enables you and me to type an address in our browser and have it translated into an IP address so that our machines can fetch exactly the page we want. If this system is broken or “regulated” everybody would have to know the exact IP number of i.e. The New York Times in order to read today’s front page. And if this system can’t translate “Gates of Vienna” into the relevant IP number (like 126.96.36.199) this site is out of business.
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So, rather than the tedious undertaking with human censors to cut out politically incorrect opinions or jail their authors, it’s much simpler just to erase their domain names from the “telephone registry” — DNS. As the Germans say: Keine Hexerei, nur Behändigskraft.
Here we have European Commissioner Erkki Liikanen (responsible for Enterprise and the Information Society) in his speech “Internet governance the way ahead”:
But Internet Governance means more than just ICANN. In the world of the country-code names supporting organisations (ccTLDs), the vast majority of operational and policy decisions are made by the ccTLDs themselves at local level. This is how it should be.
Country-code names supporting organisations (ccTLDs) should be responsive to the needs of their local Internet communities, including their local governments and ICANN’s role is to provide a mechanism for global co-ordination when problems cannot be dealt with at national level.
In many ways this is analogous to the political EU principle of subsidiarity only do things in the center when there is a clear need to. To a large extent, this also allows national governments to decide for themselves what kind of relationship they want with their ccTLDs. I note that in Europe a variety of models exist, with some governments running their ccTLDs and others maintaining an arms-length relationship with a private sector operator. Both approaches seem to work, which is a endorsement of the principle of subsidiarity in this area of Internet governance.
Translation: “The Internet can’t be allowed to govern itself anymore. Governments must take over.”
The Tunisia (!) Conference ended with the usual “declarations”, “intentions” and “conclusions”, but without any real action taking place — yet. The ICANN is still independent and located in California. But for how long ?
The US Government doesn’t interfere with ICANN — for the time being. It is however not immune to the temptations offered at the Tunisia (!) conference. Read the following headline from German Der Spiegel, October 3, 2006:
EU begrüßt Rückzug der US-Regierung
Die Internetverwaltung Icann soll ab 2009 unabhängig von der US-Regierung arbeiten. Die EU-Kommission zeigte sich erfreut über den Rückzug des US-Staats — und will die Icann dabei unterstützen.
Weniger Einfluss der US-Regierung auf die Internetverwaltung Icann — das hatte nicht nur die EU-Kommission gefordert. Auch Länder wie Brasilien und Iran zeigten sich immer wieder verärgert über die Vormachtstellung der USA in Sachen Internet. Die Internetverwaltung Icann durfte nicht völlig autonom entscheiden — das US-Handelsministerium hatte stets seine Hände mit im Spiel, wenn es um Grundsatzentscheidungen wie neue Topleveldomains ging.
Translation: Governance of the Internet must become independent from the government of the US. The EU Commission is happy for the retreat of the US — and will support the ICANN in this respect. Not only did the EU demand less influence of the USA, so did countries like Brazil and Iran, who regret the dominating position of the US on the Internet. The administration of the Internet must not be decided autonomously — the US Secretary of Trade always had a hand in the game with respect to decision of new top-level domains.
Let’s puff the smoke away:
Until now ICANN operated much in the original way of the Internet: self-regulating anarchy, cooperation on the grassroots level, and open communities working together on principles of freedom. Not even “Evil Empires” like Microsoft have been able to monopolize the Internet — no matter how much they tried to do so. But with the ever-increasing importance of the Internet the danger of same becomes apparent to totalitarian governments and their hired hands in the MSM. The Internet must not be crushed, but controlled, regulated and censored.
In this battle against freedom the EU is at the forefront — together with Iran and all the other Barbaristans, of course. To them freedom — especially freedom of speech — is the worst nightmare thinkable. Like the sharia law, the new EU “Constitution” aims to take control over every bit of human activity, including thinking. The EU alliance with the Muslim world is perfectly logical.
The question is not if, but when the Internet is amputated, mutilated, and disabled.
Thank you, Kepiblanc, for this lucid explanation.
For 910 Group members who are reading this: please post it to the forum in whatever you think the best place would be. Since the UK chapter is the largest European contingent we have, they may be the ones who will want to look into it.
The time to start planning is now, while we can still communicate. There may be hacking methods that can get around the future censorship of DNS servers.
If Kepiblanc is right, one morning our European readers will wake up and discover that http://gatesofvienna.blogspot.com and http://www.littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/weblog.php turn up a “404 — Not Found” page in their browser windows. We need to start thinking about contingency scenarios before that happens.