India Wants UN Body To Run The Internet: Would That Be Such A Bad Thing?

from the can't-go-on-like-this dept

The Internet is under attack ? but not, as politicians would have us believe, from hordes of cyber criminals, but from the politicians themselves. Alongside national legislation like E-PARASITE and international treaties such as ACTA, there is this proposal that a UN body should take over the running of the whole system:

The Indian government has formally proposed a government takeover of the Internet at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

In a statement sent yesterday, India argued for the creation of a new body to be called the United Nations Committee for Internet-Related Policies (CIRP) which would develop Internet policies, oversee all Internet standards bodies and policy organizations, negotiate Internet-related treaties, and act as an arbitrator in Internet-related disputes.

The CIRP would exist under the United Nations, comprise of 50 Member States, be funded by the United Nations, run by staff from the UN?s Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) arm, and report directly to the UN General Assembly.

Despite the proposal representing an extraordinary shift from the status quo to a single, purely government-run Internet body, India?s spokesman, Mr Dushyant Singh, argued that the proposal ?should not be viewed as an attempt by governments to ?take over? or ?regulate and circumscribe? the Internet.?

In a nod to the multi-stakeholder model of decision-making that currently defines much of the Internet?s processes – and where all actors from business to academia to the technical community and governments are given equal say in decisions – the Indian proposal foresees the creation of four ?Advisory Groups? that would represent civil society, the private sector, inter-governmental and international organizations, and the technical and academic community.

Those groups would provide recommendations to the CIRP. The CIRP would consider them, along input from the existing Internet Governance Forum, at an annual two-week conference at the UN building in Geneva and then present its own subsequent recommendations to the UN General Assembly.

As the author of that report, Kieren McCarthy, points out:

A very similar proposal to that proposed this week was published by a joint group of the Indian, South African and Brazilian governments just prior to the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Nairobi last month and caused some controversy when it clearly implied that the proposal came with the support of civil society and the technical community.

Its recommendations, which also foresaw all Internet organizations being pulled under the control of a new government-run United Nations body, were disowned by civil society and they then received a definitive thumbs-down from the broader Internet community during the IGF open session on ?critical Internet resources?, during which the Indian government representative stated that the paper had only been put out for discussion.

Despite the very negative response to that paper, however, the Indian government pressed ahead with discussions on the exact same lines at an IBSA Summit on 18 October in Durban, South Africa. And the result of that meeting was the proposal put to the UN General Assembly yesterday.

That would suggest that the Indian proposal doesn’t really stand much of a chance, and many will doubtless cheer that, seeing it as a dangerous attempt to “take over” the Internet ? despite India’s assurances to the contrary.

But here’s an interesting contrarian view from Jeremy Malcolm on his site Internet Governance Forum Watch:

If a UN Committee for Internet-Related Policies, adequately linked to multi-stakeholder public sphere, were able to set global norms for the Internet in an adequately open and inclusive manner, then neither the US government, corrupted by big-pocketed IP rights-holders, nor repressive governments such as China, would be able to regulate the Internet in isolation from these norms.

Now, some might say that governments have no role in setting policy norms for the Internet, even if it is in consultation with other stakeholders. In the long run, I agree: we should be able to develop a multi-stakeholder transnational governance mechanism that is not grounded in the nation-state. But we are far from that position now, and it is those most opposed to Internet governance reform who make this point most often, when opposing a norm-setting role for the IGF. They insist that the discussions at the IGF should merely inform norm-setting processes that take place at higher levels.

But where are those norms to be set, where no authoritative transnational institution already exists to set them? Unless an expansion of the IGF’s mandate can be considered, then clearly some new mechanism is required. This was recognised at WSIS [World Summit on the Information Society] in 2005 when an “enhanced cooperation” mechanism was mandated, and it remains equally true today. The Indian proposal for a UN Committee for Internet-Related Policies is the first serious attempt by any government to propose such a mechanism, and for this it is to be welcomed. Civil society ought not to fall into the trap of rejecting this proposal out of hand, if the alternative is to leave existing more narrow Internet governance hegemonies unchallenged.

It’s an important point: after all, the way the Internet is run and developed at the moment is hardly perfect. As Malcolm notes:

some of the most important areas of public policy online are not governed by multi-stakeholder networks at all, not even by any existing intergovernmental organisations, but by individual national governments and big businesses. The most blind to this seem to be representatives of technical community, who for practical purposes maintain a very narrow pre-WGIG [Working Group on Internet Governance] definition of Internet governance that excludes vital issues such as intellectual property enforcement, privacy and data protection, online filtering and censorship and network neutrality.

It is precisely those issues that are driving many of the recent ill-conceived legislative proposals around the world aimed at “taming” the Internet. Maybe we do need a new approach to Internet governance; whether or not the Indian initiative is the way forward, it is a at least raising some crucial questions.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and on Google+

Filed Under: , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “India Wants UN Body To Run The Internet: Would That Be Such A Bad Thing?”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Not the UN please

For what it’s worth, while I approved this post from Glyn, I’ll say that I think letting the UN run the internet is a dreadful idea that will create huge problems.

I agree that there are certainly some questions around internet governance today, but putting it under the UN is an almost guaranteed disaster of epic proportions.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Not the UN please


Nothing the UN has ever touched has ended up successful or even competent.

I’d also be worried about how such a ‘global’ system would work, with a group like the UN, which doesn’t necessarily recognize the expansive freedoms of speech, for example, that are embodied in US law.

What would happen if, for example, the UN decided to regulate ‘hate speech’ on the internet and its definition was more restrictive than that which is allowed under US law?

Would our constitutional freedoms regarding the internet become subordinate to the decrees of a UN governing body that we have no say in electing or voting out of office?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Not the UN please

…the decrees of a UN governing body…

Which is a more credible threat:

? UN black helicopters; or

? Your local PD, with a detective who’s taken a six-week course in ?cybercrime? at the community college, armed with a new state ?cyber-bullying? law passed by the elected morons down at the state capital.

Answer honestly. Which one really scares you.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Not the UN please

> > No one’s suggesting the black helicopters.

> From another comment under this article:
> Can you say “One world government”?

Okay, let me be more pedantic, since it’s apparently required here. *I* never suggested black helicopters, so asking me to choose between them and the local PD example, is a false choice.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Not the UN please

Both are equally dangerous, just in different ways. The bigger issue is the the Internet does not need to be regulated.

Anything ‘illegal’ that takes place on the net is just as illegal if it occurs in the back of a Volkswagen. The net is just another tool.

Laws regulate activities, not tools.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Not the UN please

For what it’s worth, this notion is so extreme that Masnick and I agree, except that I’d take out his wimpy “almost”.

And for those who don’t believe that global gov’t is being forged, doesn’t get any more explicit than this:

>>> “The Vatican called on Monday for the establishment of a ?global public authority? and a ?central world bank? to rule over financial institutions that have become outdated and often ineffective in dealing fairly with crises.”

BUT the article has a clever poison pill trying to hijack opposition to central banks and big banking; this will most certainly NOT please the core of the OWS movement:

>>> “The document from the Vatican?s Justice and Peace department should please the ?Occupy Wall Street? demonstrators and similar movements around the world who have protested against the economic downturn.”

That last sentence just means MORE of the same, only more out of reach of The People.

FuzzyDuck says:

Re: Not the UN please

The UN is basically run by an unelected elite that can act in impunity. There is no legal oversight, as they are above all laws, and not accountable to anyone. As a consequence it’s no surprise that they are totally corrupt.

The vast majority of member nations are either not democracies or aren’t true democracies. Don’t expect anything along the lines of protecting our freedom from them.

I vastly prefer the current system, each nation does it’s own thing, those that want to shoot themselves in the foot can do so. Not all nations will, and there will be many degrees of foot shootings. In the end those with the freest Internet will win out economically.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Not the UN please


?Seriously? is not a rational argument. It’s a statement of your emotions.

People who work with machines are often asked to set aside their prejudices, and think logically. Admittedly, it’s a very hard thing for humans to do.

Think this one out. All the way out. What is likely to happen? Not what you wish would happen. Not which political party you belong to. But just what is most likely to happen. What resources the UN has. What resources the IETF has. How much it really takes to run a mailing list.

Ah, well. You probably can’t think without emotion. Most people can’t. They’re ruled by their prejudices, and that’s just humanity.

CrushU says:


I also tend to agree…

It’s not a bad idea, if the UN actually worked as it’s supposed to. Having a multi-country alliance that spans the world deciding on policy, and arbitrating cross-country disputes, is actually a pretty GOOD idea… Just that the UN is not said alliance.

I suspect this would fall into regulatory capture if it were ever implemented. Still, the idea of One Group that could handle/settle internet issues, that doesn’t have to deal with physical borders, is tempting.

PrometheeFeu (profile) says:

I never understand this. The Internet basically works via consensus. The Internet is a network of networks. If a network does not play by the rules that have been mutually agreed upon, we don’t need a central agency to tell them to straighten up and fly right. The other networks will simply find it unfeasible to stay connected to the rogue network and drop them.

Anyways, the only thing that needs to be agreed upon is IP. Everything after that can be point to point communication without any further cooperation except between the clients.

PrometheeFeu (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Oh, I am sure. I just don’t understand how they will do that barring outlawing electronic communication that has not been approved by the body in question. (not that I would put it past law-making-critters) If you break the internet, we will just invent MP, the Multinet Protocol which will bind the Multinet together. Sure, re-writing the software will be a pain, but we can always get around that.

kenichi tanaka says:

When nobody has ever served as Secretary General of the United Nations, now the U.N. and other countries want the United States to relinquish its control?

Pardon me for asking, but who is it that created the internet? Oh yeah, Americans created the internet. Al Gore created the internet.

The United Nations is trying to set itself up as a World Government. Ain’t gonna happen. Ever.

xenomancer (profile) says:

Re: Individual countries were bad enough

I find your ideas intriguing, but your newsletter has been taken down via copyright claims and I heard you’re being sued over an Intellectual Ventures patent (“telling other people things using a format”). Fortunately, it looks as though Righthaven forgot to meet the arbitrary deadline of “whenever” to get in on the action, but unfortunately your unique ideals have inadvertently triggered the CCFA and E-PARASITE acts (don’t worry, by the time the trial is over, an overzealous DA will make the second one kick in too) concerning some sort of “intellectual-property-cyber-terrorism-WMDs”. I don’t think this bodes well for my subscription. Then again, now that DNSsec is about to be prison raped, I suppose I should be able to find your thoughts intriguing in blogs such as this, if I can ever connect to the site I try to look up and not some dumbass Nigerian fund porn scam or premium useless cable channel.

Anyway, your thoughts were insightful, and thankfully that hasn’t been overtly outlawed yet.

sehlat (profile) says:

"Stakeholder"? What is a stakeholder?

Well, that depends on who you ask. Biden thinks it’s only the Big Media people. And others have their own definitions, none of which approaches the true answer: everybody. After all, “You can’t trust THOSE (x) to do it right!” for some chosen value(s) of (x).

It’s times like this that make a real case for anarchy.

Mary Ann Ludwig says:

Not only not the UN...

Where is cyberspace? Who owns it? Does it have a government? does it need one? The answers are that cyberspace isn’t anywhere. No one owns it. It does not have nor does it need a government! It runs itself rather well, thank you very much. The more various governments try to regulate, claim ownership or whatever of the internet, the more technology will push back. There will be an underground internet in response to all attempts to usurp the current internet. The only reason that any government body wants to “govern” the internet is so that they can levy huge taxes and decide what content will be “allowed”. Well, no thanks!

Anonymous Coward says:

“That would suggest that the Indian proposal doesn’t really stand much of a chance, and many will doubtless cheer that, seeing it as a dangerous attempt to “take over” the Internet ? despite India’s assurances to the contrary. “

Call me old fashioned but I don’t trust any government’s assurances on anything.

Anonymous Coward says:

The way politics work today is how the financial institutions screwed up badly and we all know what it happened there, this is the future of the internet under any government body probably.

Politicians start diluting the risks of legislation by inserting those bad laws into good laws to get them passed and when you get to see what happened is to late.

Just like banks made bundles of good loans and started to put bad ones in the middle with the thinking being that if others just loose a bit of the portfolio nobody would care, and at some point the little bit started to be the majority of the bundle.

Is like an Apple that has just a tiny bit of it rotten you can just cut it out and eat the rest but as times passes the rotten part grows and grows and the only good part left is not that appealing anymore.

John Doe says:

Can you say "One world government"?

I can and I don’t like it. Don’t get me wrong, I think the US is heading in the wrong direction with its attempts to control the internet, but it would be magnified 1000 times if everyone got there hands on it. It would be governed to the lowest common denominator. Whatever is illegal in any country would be banned from the internet. No thanks.

CharlieM (profile) says:

I dont know, I think it could work...

Think about it – the UN is probably one of the most toothless organizations on the planet. They can’t get anything done, and no one agrees (Russia will Veto UK, China will veto US…)

Perhaps letting the UN run it is the perfect solution… I mean, is there a chance in hell ACTA or this E-PARASITE bill would EVER be passed with the UN calling the shots? I think not!

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: I dont know, I think it could work...

i dunno… this seems like the one thing they Would agree on: greater control by the elites over the general populace’s day to day activity.

doesn’t matter what ideology one purports to subscribe to, nor what nation one owes one’s allegiance to, governments will do that unless they’ve had a very recent and very real taste of the downside (and whoever ended up running things was the sort to do something about it rather than just become the elites…)

Beta (profile) says:

how to tell good plans from bad

I’ve read over this several times and still can’t understand what problem it is intended to solve, or what good thing it could do better than the current system.

If an internet run by such a body were more attractive than a wild one, that is if people would choose it over the one we all know, then it would have happened by now. It would have started small in the University of Calcutta, grown fast, and we’d all be using it today. How many such experiments have there been over the years?

If it would be more of a social good than what we have now, and yet individuals would choose to use what we have now over it, then it’s one of those Prisoner’s Dilemma deals, where we’re being assured that if we all give up something nice — and eradicate it — then we’ll all be better off. There are a couple of examples of this that I like (such as environmentalism and the rule of law), but many more that I don’t like (e.g. communism, theocracy, political correctness), and three common threads I see among the bad ones are 1) they are unrealistic, 2) their chief goal is a “good” that I don’t want (which often takes the form of banning an “evil” that I either don’t care about, or quite enjoy), and 3) when a limited experiment fails miserably, their proponents say “it will work if we just make it bigger“.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: how to tell good plans from bad

i think it’s meant to be more attractive than where things are currently heading, which is functional US corporate control strangling large parts of how things are currently set up, and various restrictive governments adding to the problem.

kinda, the problem would be solved by leaving it alone, but those able to affect it refuse to do so, so here’s a way to make them. or some such.

… i figure, it seems like a good idea, but has so much potential to go wrong that it’s not worth it, but no one has a better way of preventing where we’re currently heading, which is also not good.

or something.

kenichi tanaka says:

Thing is that the U.N. has also been trying to wrest control of ICANN away from the United States, as well. The United Nations is on its own power trip.

Let’s see:

1. The United Nations has been trying to get the United States to give up control of ICANN and place it under U.N. jurisdiction.

2. The United Nations has been trying to gain control of the internet and take it away from the control of the United States and place it under United Nations jurisdiction.

3. Then, the United Nations also passed that “Religious Freedom Resolution”, which they wanted to impose a new law on all countries that would basically prevent anyone from making fun of (parody) or mentioning Islam in the same sentence or context with any other religion. Apparently, “freedom of religion” or “freedom of speech” is an alien concept that the U.N. has not grasped.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Apparently, “freedom of religion” or “freedom of speech” is an alien concept that the U.N. has not grasped.

In the United States, federal judges have a much easier time ignoring international agreements than they do domestic law. A U.S. federal judge can look at a U.N. bureaucratic diktat, snap his fingers, and say ?Congress didn’t say ?Simon says.??? OTOH, when Congress treads on free speech and a free press, that same U.S. judge must presume that Congress wouldn’t pass an unconstitutional law no matter how much the lobbyists bribed them, and then search for arcana like ?compelling interests.? Basically, a ?compelling interest? is a magic incantation that turns ?no law? into ?some laws.?

Salman Awan (user link) says:

UN's Past Performance

What is the previous performance of UN? were they able to settle any disputes? Dispute of Kashmir right under the nose of India has been there for nearly a century now.

And what about UN success rate in stopping wars in the whole world.

This will definitely not make political activists around the world happy, cause internet is one major medium for them to have control free communication.

I believe this is a motivated move towards “One World One System”, which is absolutely against Human Nature if we study History.

teresa smith says:

UN running with the internet

I see multiple hazards and pitfalls with having the UN run the internet. The UN has major problems of it’s own, corruption among them,
At the very least, the Internet could be supervised by an impartial international board. To rely on an impartial board is unrealistic and would never remain true to it’s goals. The internet needs to be free for all. Who gets to decide? Answering that question seems next to impossible and implausible as well.

Mike Bushnell says:

UN takeover of the Internet

While the greed of the current controllers of the Internet
is obvious. The total lack of any concern for the citizens by any given government, you can rest assured that this is nothing but a takeover by the powers that be. And the fact that any common sense by any of the current governments including that of India is simply nonexistant, totally negates any need for U.N. control for anything much less the Internet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Considering how screwed up the political system is in India, I wouldn’t ever use them as a reasonable judge of who should run anything. They can’t run themselves, they have massive class issues, caste system, and social problems galore that they can’t seem to “solve”. Their opinion on who should run something is really, really humorous.

It should be pointed out as well that India is one of those places where scams and scammers often some from, and I would suspect that at least part of moving the internet to the UN is a move by India to NOT take responsibility for the issues that exist within their own country, regarding phishing scams, knock off (and often dangerous) pills, and so on.

Glyn, how could you even run with this?

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...