Authoritarian Governments Still Trying To Seek More Control Over The Internet

from the well,-duh dept

There was plenty of attention paid to the failed WCIT meeting last year, in which some countries effectively sought greater control over the internet, leading many countries to refuse to sign on. There has since been plenty of reasonable concern that the end result of this is a fragmented internet, with one internet for those who believe in internet freedom and openness… and one for those who don’t.

And, of course, the whole ITU WCIT process was never going to be the end of such discussions. Eli Dourado, who has been following this stuff closely for a while, recently had a good report about how various authoritarian governments made a bit of a power play for more control over internet governance. The issue may seem bureaucratic and messy, but that’s also why it’s important to pay attention. Because mixed in with all that bureaucracy are some key decisions.

The short version is that countries agreed, nearly a decade ago, at the World Summit on Information Society, that governments shouldn’t have too much control over the internet. This was initially directed at the US, since it really did have an awful lot of power over the internet. So, an agreement was reached with the following language on a “multi-stakeholder model.”

“The international management of the Internet should be multilateral, transparent and democratic, with the full involvement of governments, the private sector, civil society and international organizations.”

As Dourado points out, “note the four classes of stakeholders.” They were chosen this way to avoid governments having too much power. Except that certain countries are using these various international gatherings to try to change the meaning of “multi-stakeholder” to basically minimize everyone but government, while still pretending to support the concept.

Authoritarian governments have been quick to remind the world that they are stakeholders, too. Since the Tunis Agenda urges all stakeholders to work together “in their respective roles,” the most illiberal countries have simply argued that national governments should have the biggest and most pre-eminent roles, while other stakeholders should have smaller subordinate ones. Russia in particular is aggressively pushing this definition for the role of governments. Its proposed edits to the multi-stakeholder opinion invites member states “to exercise their rights on Internet Governance … at the national level,” by which it means that national governments should preempt ICANN.

In other words, Russia — and its allies like China and Saudi Arabia — are adopting the language of multi-stakeholderism to support something rather like its opposite. The position they are advancing is virtually indistinguishable from one which accords no role to other stakeholders.

Dourado also points out that having governments make decisions on internet governance is a recipe for disaster in a number of ways, including the fact that current internet governance is earned through trust and respect — but governments swooping in don’t seem to care about any of that.

… it is worth reflecting on one fundamental difference between Internet institutions and sovereign governments. In the Internet technical community, authority is earned. Internet institutions have legitimacy because it is freely given by a wide array of stakeholders. For example, the non-governmental Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) maintains and develops the core technical standards that are the sine qua non of the Internet. People are free to disobey the recommendations issued by the IETF, but they usually follow them because it has earned its authority through competence, transparency, and inclusiveness. The system of state sovereignty is at odds with the earned authority of Internet institutions. Governments punish their subjects for failing to comply with their orders, and they do not accept challenges to their territorial authority. Governmental authority is not earned; it is imposed.

Neither the authoritarian regimes nor the ITU seem genuinely invested in earning the authority they are eager to assert on the Internet. Instead, they are using the vagueness of the nominal consensus on the multi-stakeholder model as cover to impose authority.

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Comments on “Authoritarian Governments Still Trying To Seek More Control Over The Internet”

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out_of_the_blue says:

WELL, the US gave up its control of the internet, and it got worse.

Not saying the US is or was well-intentioned, just that the early stated goals sound great — like “don’t be evil” — but the goal is always absolute control. Always.

“Authoritarian governments” is redundant. I think the extra word there is key to understanding how scams are put over: most people are naturally trusting, and it’s always misplaced. Always. And yet the few with clear vision who try to warn the dolts are always reviled and jeered at.

“Instead, they are using the vagueness of the nominal consensus on the multi-stakeholder model as cover to impose authority.” — It’s pointy-headed academic vagueness like that there larded-up sentence which is another part of the problem; why not just say plainly: “The Rich and their gov’ts are lying to us yet again. They’re only after power. Don’t trust ’em an inch, ever.”

Guess I’ll conclude with tagline appropriate to the “well,-duh dept”:

Techdirt’s official motto: This isn’t surprising.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: WELL, the US gave up its control of the internet, and it got worse.

-Offtopic reply-
I cannot comprehend how you seem to wield such a great disdain for this website, its articles, its authors and its readers and yet still manage to frequent it as often or more often than some of its more fanatical followers.
This comment isn’t about the legitimacy of the blog or your comments but rather a question to why you even bother if it is so undesirable to be here.
You seem to be a very negative person and I worry for you.

velox (profile) says:

Re: Re: WELL, the US gave up its control of the internet, and it got worse.

If history is any predictor, eventually ootb will get tired of losing arguments, and we’ll gradually see less of him. Then at some point he fades away… like angry dude and darryl. Even Average Joe has become much less frequent here than 2-3 years ago.

Strafe says:

Re: Re: Re: WELL, the US gave up its control of the internet, and it got worse.

They probably learned how all that anger and stress can potentially shorten their lifespan, possibly by a lot if they don’t live a healthy lifestyle to combat it. Seriously, is trolling really worth giving up a year or more of your life? On second thought, troll away ootb, bob, horse with no brain! :-p

horse with no name says:

Re: Re: WELL, the US gave up its control of the internet, and it got worse.

I tend to feel the same as ootb does much of the time. I find that much of what is discussed here is covered or treated in the same manner that Fox News might treat an Obama press conference. There is disdain, arnger, and yes, a whole bunch of cherry picking on facts and slant.

The funny part is that almost everything on Techdirt is true, or has a fair bit of thruthiness to it. However, the same can be said for the guys who claim you don’t have to pay taxes, or that the the world will end on a given date. All of those claims generally work on using plenty of carefully selected facts and factoids to try to paint a given picture.

What is funny is watching many of the regulars here trying to censor or shut down ootb’s point of view. For a site that is about being open minded and ‘information wants to be free’ you guys seem to spend a whole lot of time trying to shout down the other side and bury it in the ground.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: WELL, the US gave up its control of the internet, and it got worse.

This is the level of comments you want encouraged on the site? Charity comments and blatant admissions that a person never reads the articles?

I can see why you don’t want people to read the articles, because then less people would read about how Prenda’s getting their comeuppance. You’re mad that due process is enforced and you’re furious that Otis Wright hasn’t been punished.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: WELL, the US gave up its control of the internet, and it got worse.

There are indeed times in which I, and from what I have glanced there are others too, agree with OOTB’s point of view.
Respectfully though, it becomes exponentially harder to take someone serious when they end every good point with a baseless ad hominem attack against the author…or can’t help themselves from throwing in a snarky comment about Google. These are traits I have observed from the poster under the moniker Out of the Blue who utilizes the ‘classic’ OOTB signature.
While I’m sure he or she could say the same about a few of the Techdirt regulars, that doesn’t really help his or her case.

But back on topic. You are correct. There are always multiple sides to every story and I’m sure Techdirt authors like to sway the story to their point of view the same as any other news agency, however that being said, Techdirt often posts relevant citation to support their stories and/or viewpoints. That lends them a little more credibility than “Could your water really kill you? Find out what teenagers are doing and how it could make them murderers tonight at 9.”

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: WELL, the US gave up its control of the internet, and it got worse.

What is funny is watching many of the regulars here trying to censor or shut down ootb’s point of view.

Ignoring the fact that nobody’s being censored, what people object to is not ootb’s (or any of the other troll’s) viewpoint at all. It’s their personal attacks, insults, off-topic rants, and general derailment of actual conversation and debate.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Authoritarians Exist, We don't call them out enough

“Authoritarians” exist everywhere. Teachers, Cops, Government officials, Business People, Security Guards, Gang Leaders etc… Usually “entitled” folk, entitled to lord over others, because they are the authority.

We should call them what they are… Authoritarians.
Or we could ignore that we are just another subordinate to them. Make excuses for them, effectively do PR on their behalf by reasoning the abuse of authority and helping them create laws to give them more authority and enable abuse.

Like cops and tazers.
Cops now have the authority to tazer for any reason. Rationalize, make excuses and promote the authoritarian position. Don’t respect the authority of a cop and you will likely get the tazer. Doesn’t matter about the conduct of the cop and if he is being unreasonable, bullying, abusing his position of authority or even acting illegally.

Authoritarians bend/break the rules for THEIR Authority’s sake.
It’s up to us subordinates to expose them for what they are.

Is this not Democracy ?
The people have to be the authority…. that the Government, Cops, Business People, Security Guards, Teachers etc… listen to.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Authoritarians Exist, We don't call them out enough

you know, i used to wonder about the thought processes of a lot of nekkid apes who appeared to be supportive of inhumane, anti-human, unfair laws and policies…
(and which -perversely enough- would affect their lives deleteriously!)

however, a number of years ago, i read an article which discussed how about 25% of the population of the world are ‘authoritarians’… that is, 25% do not want to be Big Daddy, they WANT a Big Daddy to slavishly emulate!

as i pondered this sad state of affairs, it occurred to me, of course the lazy, the stupid, the clueless, the timid, the weak WANT a father-figure to follow and monkey-see, monkey-do:
he drinks from this water hole, then his followers do the same (not knowing why that particular water hole is his preference); he eats those berries, so they do too; he paints his face this way, well they will too…

for the incompetent, makes for a pretty good survival mechanism: don’t have to ‘know’ nuthin’, just do whatever that smart, fat, glossy-haired nekkid ape does…

i think of them as speed bumps on the road of life…

art guerrilla
aka ann archy

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Re:

OOTB is in fact three different trolls.

OOTB 1 is the original, a woman with a girl-boner for Mike who fears the Reds under the beds. Obsessed with FUD over communism and socialism, she freaks out over Google and FOSS as “Collectivist” and sees IPR maximalism as the solution. I know her real identity and have outed her here. She’s very keen on ad hominem attacks against Imaginary Mike, a construct she’s created to attack that bears little or no resemblance to Real Mike. She’s not the only one who does that.

OOTB 2 bangs on about “the thieving rich” and appears to be the polar opposite of OOTB 1. Nonetheless, he/she/it sees IPR maximalism as a solution to all our woes, or something. Also hates Google.

OOTB 3 blathers about “Unearned income” and is apparently Libertarian-leaning, hates the government and sees Google as Obama’s BFF or something, and therefore mistrusts it on principle. He/she/it also sees IPR maximalism as a solution for artists and creators to earn an income, forgetting that they’re not usually the ones who own or hold the rights to their work (see “works for hire” for details), which, of course, negates his/her/its arguments, but why let facts get in the way of a good rant?

Hope that helps.

Anonymous Coward says:

China did and is still doing it’s best to keep as much of the Internet at bay by restricting sites that citizens can access. the USA is doing it’s best to keep as much of the Internet at bay by restricting sites that citizens can access THAT THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRIES SAY ARE INFRINGING ON IT’S COPYRIGHT AND HARMING IT’S DECADES OLD BUSINESS MODEL. the difference from what i can see is that the restrictions in one place are from the state and from the other are from a third party that want to control the Internet so as to have it benefit only it’s interests at the detriment of all others. after that is achieved, THEN the state will put in place it’s restrictions! now which one is worse? let me see, ummmmmmmmmmmmm?

Anonymous Coward says:

The current system is corrupt as hell, but since it is to the advantage of american and british companies, fuck that fact…

When that is said, no reasonable alternative have gotten any real support. ITU had some before Russia and China hijacked it.

Autocrats are in 100% support of ITU since it would give them the most extra possibilities for cracking down on people. ITU is, hence, dead from a western point of view.

It doesn’t change the fact that ICANN is a rathole in the same degree as IOC while W3C is far too easy to stear by company interests.

Loki says:

“The international management of the Internet should be multilateral, transparent and democratic, with the full involvement of governments, the private sector, civil society and international organizations.”

Governments = (increasingly) Corporations
Private Sector = Corporations
Civil Society = Corporations ( thanks to Citizens United)
International Organizations = (Multinational) Corporations

See, the problem has already solved itself.

special-interesting (profile) says:

Democracy does not make sense in many an analysis. It’s a young (200 years is nothing) and unique concept that still needs special attention/investment by its citizenry to flourish. In many ways its like a brilliantly conceived start up company that still needs encouragement to take off in a freedom-profitable way.

In the historical sense individual freedom does not make sense to any Monarchy, Religious or Authoritarian government. Most if not all see Vassals and Serfs only as tools to be used and thrown away as needed. This is fully exampled by the suffering and cruelty imparted on people during the Dark Ages where millions died if only for reasons of control.

On the business side one might side with socialist values and try suppress individuality, freedoms and property ownership in an attempt to maximize total profits and efficiency. Historically this usually ends up with a totalitarian government likely associated with communism or dictatorship. Hence one cannot just sum up the running/operating of a democratic government ‘as a business’.

Additionally, on the business side, we have the difficult to abolish concept of Slavery. Slaves are assets not to be removed from the accounting books just because of some remote concept like respect for life, individuality and freedom.

In spite of all historical precedent and business/socialist analysis Democracy grows wildly and thrives wonderfully. Its citizens are the happiest and most productive and outperforms any other form of government.

Of course this is just stating the obvious but this background build up seems to be a basic necessary lesson that the last few generations have skipped out on history class. The greater majority of current politicians and world leaders included.

Despite all the political degrees and education of politicians it still seems that they are illiterate in terms of Democracy. Its likely a shame that some college Political Science textbooks have the word ?Elitism? in the title.

Technology is the double edged sword that cuts both ways and as such any authoritarian leaning Democratic government must be forced by its citizens to limit its use and especially abuse.

Power and control exercised through traditional force and modern Internet surveillance opportunities is its own goal. Profit, however inefficient or coerced, is funneled by and to the controllers of power. Its an Ageless formula used by all the Monarchies, Religious and Authoritarian governments in history. (Its even so boring that writing this essay is hard because of the apparent background needed.)

So now we have WCIT meetings about global Internet policy. Its no surprise that the various world governments had to make their own play for power and whatever profits such control can squeeze out.

However. This is complicated by the US/EU/other’s current problem with the badly phrased concept of Intellectual Property and the mistake of titling ideas as assets to own and sell. Ownership valued above freedom of expression in the form of, again extremely badly phrased, ?Performance Rights? laws only make implementation of such control all that much easier.

Lately the term ?Intellectual Property? has morphed into Intellectual Property Rights? which is likely the worst term ever coined by malicious-special-interest-groups. (MSIGs)

Combined with eternal copyright terms this is a control formula any Monarchy, Religious and or Authoritarian government would drool over. In short… We (the citizens of US/EU and other malformed treaty signers) are the greatest threat to Democratic society in the world today.

Its so much of a problem today that the power and respect that American voice is totally lost on the world today. With diplomacy waged with drone attacks rather than Democratic values its easy to understand the when the US President speaks… the message is garbled amid the current authoritarian tendencies.

Fear and threats seem to speak louder than reason and democratic rational these days. Its a very unhealthy problem for a supposedly Democratic Society to deal with.

Democracy is something that we know it works and does so wonderfully. Keeping in mind that it is a cool concept still in its infancy and that even its own citizens know little about… Its a Democratic path that must be followed regardless of the careful rationalizations and cunning lies that power seekers spew.

The well phrased Public Domain Rights, Fair Use Rights and other Intellectual Freedoms cherished by all Democracy’s citizens are under attack by the usual mess/group of control-freeks/power-seekers.

A good step in the defense of Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Association concept of Public Domain in the average citizens eye/mind needs to be elevated to Public Domain Rights. In this same way Fair Use needs to be elevated to Fair Use Rights.

Retraction of current, effectively eternal, copyright term limits to something reasonable like the original terms set forth in the original Constitution would be of great benefit to Democratic culture and society.

Its important that the US/EU/other countries are not torn apart by the same forces that were unleashed by the Gutenberg Press invention. Its Democratically insane that any entity could think it can control such forces. If the Church were able to go back in time they would certainly change their policy of killing anyone who printed the bible to making them saints if only for their own power and glory.

If history is any lesson/precedence then… Todays ?bible? is not just one book but ALL the books/music/films/video/knowledge made available on the Internet. (Including the bible of course)

ckhung (profile) says:

Taiwan proposes China-style block

Hi Mike, (and hello fellow readers) can you please report this: Several polls show that more than 99% of the people are against the proposal, and new articles challenging the proposal are written everyday, but the government seems determined to go ahead. We need international support to fight this coming censorship.

Thanks for running techdirt. I frequently summarize stories from techdirt in my blog (in Traditional Chinese)

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