UN: We Don't Want To Take Over The Internet... Just Fundamentally Change How It Works

from the tone-deaf dept

We've been covering how there are a number of troubling proposals before the UN's ITU (International Telecom Union), which has been trying to use its role as the global regulator of international telecom issues to insert itself into how the internet should work. So far, the leaks from the secretive process have really only served to highlight how various telcos are using this as an opportunity to get regulators to divert money their way from internet innovators, because they're jealous of the revenue that actual innovators can generate. Vint Cerf recently gave an insightful, if worrisome, interview with Jerry Brito about how the ITU is being misleading with its statements on the matter. Cerf notes that the ITU has been trying to insert itself into internet issues for many years now, recognizing that its existing mandate, covering telco issues, is becoming increasingly obsolete. Rather than do something useful, like disband, it's trying to gobble up internet issues, despite a very different view on them.

Cerf points out that the ITU is playing word games in claiming that it simply acts as a neutral platform for various proposals from different telcos, noting that it's pretty clear that it's been actively working in this direction for a while, encouraging proposals that would give the ITU much greater say in key internet issues, despite little familiarity with the basics of the internet (or, worse, thinking that it's no different than a standard telco network).

Of course, the ITU process is being condemned by a growing number of folks. The US government has a surprisingly unified voice on this issue, with both houses of Congress emphatically passing resolutions rejecting the ITU's efforts here. Of course, the worry is that the US is just one vote in the process, and many other countries see this as an opportunity not just to prop up telcos, but to better establish standards that would make it easy to monitor and censor the internet. Iran, China and Russia, for example, have all been quite interested in the upcoming ITU discussions. Now, the US is (not surprisingly) still a powerful voice in what happens here, so even as just one vote, it can exert influence... which it appears to be trying to do in a variety of ways.

Given the sudden and unexpected public interest in its activities, the ITU has been scrambling to respond, including having its chief, Hamadoun Toure give a talk at Columbia supposedly responding to "critics." Of course, as Larry Downes highlights, Toure and the ITU seem totally tone deaf in the way they've responded so far. For example, Toure seems to think that the complaints are all due to "sensationalist claims in the press," -- apparently ignoring governments, the public, internet companies, civil service, public interest groups and others. All the press's fault, apparently.
The ITU itself, meanwhile, is stepping up the rhetoric in its campaign to defend the transfer of at least some Internet oversight from today’s multi-stakeholder process to the U.N. Dr. Toure, for example, says that he hopes the WCIT negotiations will address issues “of real import,” including Internet security.

But “security,” in ITU jargon, is a loaded term, relating more to perceived threats to national security than to the security of network communications.

In that regard, the ITU has become dangerously close to associating itself with the overtly repressive goals of Russia. Last year, at a meeting between Dr. Toure and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Putin was characteristically blunt about his country’s aspirations for the ITU. Putin told Dr. Toure that he was keen on “establishing international control over the Internet using the monitoring and supervisory capability of the International Telecommunications Union.”
Toure, of course, is used to dealing with telco execs and some regulators, and simply hasn't been prepared for public scrutiny at all.
The ITU’s clumsy response has exposed just how uncomfortable the agency is in dealing directly with Internet users worldwide—a sure sign of the ITU’s inability to regulate a technology it doesn’t even know how to use.   The agency’s flurry of releases read like weird dispatches from Dickensian England, with lots of extra “distinguished guests,” “plenipotentiaries” “directorates,” and references to “civil society” thrown in for good measure.

In an unprecedented number of interviews and public speeches, ITU senior officials have tried to dismiss their critics as “scaremongers” and “paranoids.”  Dr. Toure has even called out FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, who first brought the threat of a free-for-all WCIT to the attention of Congress.

The agency also keeps the media at arm’s length or better.  Any journalist who wishes to cover the WCIT conference, for example, must first satisfy the ITU that they are “a professional journalist or analyst with a proven track record of reporting for bona fide media.”  Online journalists must be “registered to a media organization with a verifiable non-web address and telephone number.”  Bloggers can just stay home.

So not only does the group not actually understand the internet that it's looking to have much more control over... it doesn't even think that web-only journalists count as real journalists. Is this really the group that we want making decisions on core internet issues?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Alana (profile), Oct 2nd, 2012 @ 1:00pm

    Let's put stuff in control of people who don't understand it!

    That worked mighty well for the US government. [/sarc]

     

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  2.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Oct 2nd, 2012 @ 2:37pm

    Re: Suspect List

    I suspect they understand very well what they're trying to accomplish--if the internet doesn't become a one-way transmission of stupidity (akin to newspapers, radio, television, cable-tv & news) then it "the people" (are revolting) may soon be a deadly threat to the status quo.

    They *know* what they're doing.

     

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  3. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2012 @ 2:51pm

    In that regard, the ITU has become dangerously close to associating itself with the overtly repressive goals of Russia. Last year, at a meeting between Dr. Toure and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Putin was characteristically blunt about his country’s aspirations for the ITU. Putin told Dr. Toure that he was keen on “establishing international control over the Internet using the monitoring and supervisory capability of the International Telecommunications Union.”

    So why Masnick do you continue to pander to Russia Today? It is an organ of the very government described here as an "overtly repressive regime" bent on monitoring and controlling the Internet. Yet time after time you appear on the program giving it further legitimacy. I can only guess that your shameless self-promotion is more important than taking a stand against a repressive regime bent on censoring the internet.

     

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  4.  
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    Zos (profile), Oct 2nd, 2012 @ 3:01pm

    Of course we don't want them deciding shit about the internet. Any more than we want any other asshole with a stake in maintaining the status quo making those decisions. The question is how do we stop them?

    the answer, luckily, so far seems to be "their own incompetence in regards to the technology". I'm not sure we can bank on that as a long term solution though.

     

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  5.  
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    Beech, Oct 2nd, 2012 @ 3:23pm

    My question is, how did we allow the internet to become a thing that someone can just "take control" over? When something gets to the point where governments are arguing over who gets to be in charge of it it's no longer a frontier. Come on guys, time to get busy on making internet 2.0! let's try to keep it anonymous and decentralized this time, k?

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2012 @ 3:28pm

    US out of UN

    How many countries in the UN are Muslim?
    55

    How many countries in the UN are Communist/sudo-Commnunist?
    5 / Many in S. America

    http://geography.about.com/od/lists/tp/communistcountries.htm
    Venezuela
    Brazil - see recent Techdirt article of Google Exec held
    Chile

    UK - Ha, ha. Orwell would agree.

     

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  7.  
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    FuzzyDuck, Oct 2nd, 2012 @ 3:30pm

    Re:

    Why wouldn't he talk to Russia Today or any other news outlet? As long as they report properly what he says, I don't see the problem.

    While Russia Today shouldn't be trusted for the news related to Russia itself, they do report critically on issues in Western countries that our media doesn't report very well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2012 @ 3:54pm

    is it any real surprise that Hamadoun Toure is ignoring all the criticisms and going down the route that all the bad mouthing is the fault of someone/everyone else? we can thank that fucking moron Ron Kirk for starting this sort of shit. ignore everyone except those you are being paid by to include and keep all meetings and results totally secret from the biggest body concerned, the people, until it's too late to stop or even change anything. then, after it has all gone completely tits up, run away and hide, refusing to take responsibility for the shit caused. it wont be too long now. all these various organisations and govts are doing their damnedest to screw with something they know too little about but are desperate to control. what is working atm wont be by the time they have finished. when that happens, the 'net wont be working good enough to be called fucked up!

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2012 @ 3:55pm

    "we don't want to kill you"

    "we just want you dead"

     

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  10.  
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    gorehound (profile), Oct 2nd, 2012 @ 4:10pm

    I do not nor should you support the UN in this.The ITU are just another voice for the Telco Industry.
    Would you really want let's say ATT in charge of the whole Internet ?
    Probably NOT !!!

     

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  11.  
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    Laroquod (profile), Oct 2nd, 2012 @ 5:52pm

    I'm acquiring a habit of skipping the first three paragraphs of almost every Techdirt article, making a beeline for the blockquote, and just reading the paragraph of two after that. Is that wrong?

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2012 @ 6:37pm

    it's pretty simple: The only way to make some worse is to put the UN in charge.

    In the case of the internet, the UN would likely put the Russians in charge of spam control, the Chinese in charge of network security, and let Iran decide free speech issues.

    Anything that you think is totally fucked can always be fucked worse when the UN takes over.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2012 @ 6:48pm

    Re: Re:

    The point is why lend legitimacy to a news (propaganda) organ of the Russian government? These are bad actors, on internet issues, free speech, privacy, you name it. Why anyone would lend their good name to help promote the respectability of a Russian government "news" organization is mystifying. Unless of course one is a total publicity whore who puts self-promotion above any other consideration.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2012 @ 7:30pm

    Re:

    When you skip the top, you miss all the good parts of the story.

    See, the first paragraph or two is where Mike tries to define his tortured logic, how he manages to twist things into a pretzel and come out claiming it's all straight. Without that information, you cannot understand just how hard he is trying.

    Now, if you read like you do (and I suspect most people do), you actually get more of the real story, and then you question where Mike was going with it, because his conclusions often don't seem to have much to do with the story, just what he made it out to be.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2012 @ 7:52pm

    The fundamental transformation of:

    Where have we heard this line before?

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2012 @ 8:59pm

    Re: Re:

    Ya let's let the UN fix it for us. We all know that would be for the greater good.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2012 @ 9:01pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    by the way, you're a bad troll, absolutely horrid at it. Go away.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 2nd, 2012 @ 11:02pm

    And to quote Doc...

    "No, we must have them properly indoctrinated, so we can't allow them to circumvent what we are trying to beat into their heads, we have to control the Internet... Just like every other communist and totalitarian country does..."

     

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  19.  
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    The eejit (profile), Oct 3rd, 2012 @ 12:26am

    Re:

    Napster.

    Limewire.

    CDs.

    DVDs.

    Blu-Rays.

    HD-DVDs.

    So, yeah.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 3rd, 2012 @ 2:31am

    Re:

    So why Masnick do you continue to pander to Russia Today?

    Define "continue to"?

    Can you name the last time I appeared on there?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    masquisieras, Oct 3rd, 2012 @ 3:31am

    But Why now?

    As you said, ITU has been trying for years but suddenly get a great push. What has happen?
    I think the main cause has been the EEUU take over some of the basic infrastructure of internet by means of judiciary due to the historic selection of the USA DNS instead of the UK DNS. The other governments are asking themselves if the USA can interfere with our companies internet presence why we can't?

     

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  22.  
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    Ninja (profile), Oct 3rd, 2012 @ 5:21am

    Re: US out of UN

    Brazil? Communist? Because of a single fact? Hilarious. Considering how much our politics bend to the private sector it's even more hilarious.

    The Google execs incidents are related to outdated Electoral Laws and fortunately they have been released and a proper trial will be held.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Oct 3rd, 2012 @ 6:46am

    Re: Re: Re:

    The point is why lend legitimacy to a news (propaganda) organ of the Russian government?


    Maybe because the propaganda machine of the United States always spins everything one sided to make sure they please their corporate masters?

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 3rd, 2012 @ 6:47am

    Re: Re:

    Let's see; you've appeared at least twice on Russia Today in the last year that I know of and within the last week you imbedded the Russia Today video of Assange in an article.

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120926/23522220526/us-military-classifies-wikileaks-as-enemy- united-states.shtml

    I really don't understand how you can justify collaborating with the news outlet of a government so diametrically opposed to your own stated position on the internet, freedom of speech, privacy, civil rights, etc. Lending legitimacy by appearing on their programs and promoting RT by embedding their videos in your own website is baffling. Why would you lend your good name (such as it is) to further the public relations interests of the Russian government?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 3rd, 2012 @ 7:03am

    Re: Re: Re:

    So, by your logic everyone who gets interviewed on Bill Maher's show is automatically agreeing with Maher's agenda?

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 3rd, 2012 @ 7:03am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Cheez Whiz, this is a laughable assertion, even for dreck like you. Comparing US journalism unfavorably to the state controlled media of Russia is simply preposterous. Are you truly such a unctuous lickspittle that you'd jump to the defense of your master with an argument so unbelievably weak?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 3rd, 2012 @ 7:21am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    icon
    Gwiz (profile), Oct 3rd, 2012 @ 7:24am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Comparing US journalism unfavorably to the state controlled media of Russia is simply preposterous.

    Where did I compare anything? Both are controlled. Just different masters, really.


    Are you truly such a unctuous lickspittle that you'd jump to the defense of your master with an argument so unbelievably weak?

    I wasn't "defending" anyone. Just making a counterpoint against your unbelievably weak argument that started this silly thread in the first place.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 3rd, 2012 @ 7:30am

    How about you leave it the fuck alone unless you're going to force service providers to actually upgrade their networks instead of sitting on their haunches and enjoying their monopolies.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 3rd, 2012 @ 7:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Bill Maher's show is not sponsored and controlled by the Russian state. We both know Masnick would not be criticized for appearing on Fox News, MSNBC or anything in between.

    What is even more puzzling is why Masnick continues to ingratiate himself with the Russians after their blistering mocking of his Inspector Clouseau-like reporting, stating:

    "Perhaps the worst example of such came from TechDirt's Mike Masnick. In his article Mr. Masnick, who has a history of factually incorrect reporting, didn't bother to check the facts and blatantly stated that there's no reason to suspect Netflix to be interested in cracking on Internet privacy since the company was "neutral" on SOPA."

    and linking to this scathing commentary on his failed comprehension skills:

    From the confused, chastising nerd department…

    A story published last week on RT America managed to generate a fair share of feedback regarding the content, as the matter at hand, downloading music, is something that most people with an Internet connection have done at one time or another. An article published on October 4 titled “Supreme Court legalizes downloading music” was met with responses from all corners of the Internet, but one particularly peeved reader, Tech Dirt’s Mike Masnick, took to his own site with a dare-to-be-daunting diatribe that aimed to be both scathing and scolding. Unfortunately for Mr Masnick, his retort fell short of actually bringing up a real point against our own piece.

    To fail short would be an understatement. Rather, it seems that Mr Masnik’s attempt to discredit our content only exposed that he either did not make it through the story at all or has the reading comprehension skills of a prehensile-tailed primate.


    http://rt.com/usa/news/download-supreme-court-music-339/

    I particularly like the suggestion that Masnick, "has the reading comprehension skills of a prehensile-tailed primate."

    This of course makes him look even more ridiculous and desperate for appearing on Russia Today after being characterized as a complete imbecile. What could you be thinking Masnick? You still collaborate with the Russians even after they publicly humiliate you? Do you have no self-respect whatsoever?

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, Oct 3rd, 2012 @ 8:56am

    The Reality of Cables and Sea Control

    Look at a map of undersea cables. You will note that the overwhelming majority of cables run to and from the United States, and that many of these cables tend to stop off at outlying American islands, viz. Guam, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and St. Croix/St. Thomas. The main drag of the world telecommunications system runs from Western Europe to the United States, across the United States, and from there to Offshore Asia, ie. Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Australia/New Zealand. There are just enough other cables that you can avoid an American routing if you really want to, but, without American backing, you cannot control the world telecommunications system. The internet is of course built on top of the world telecommunications system.

    The United Nations consists overwhelmingly of countries whose territory is not traversed by significant telecommunications cables. Their representatives in the United Nations, and the International Telecommunications Union can make all the fine speeches they like, but these are meaningless in the face of an American "no." The United Nations may claim to own the seabed of the North Atlantic, but the reality is that the United States Navy lies in possession.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 3rd, 2012 @ 10:02am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I hope you aren't suggesting that the US's news media is any better.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 3rd, 2012 @ 10:22am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Let's see; you've appeared at least twice on Russia Today in the last year that I know of and within the last week you imbedded the Russia Today video of Assange in an article.

    Um. So? How does embedding the video mean anything?

    You're completely reaching.

    And, yes, I've appeared on their a few times, giving commentary, the same commentary I give here.

    You're really stretching for something to smear me with. Your life must be so fulfilling.

    I really don't understand how you can justify collaborating with the news outlet of a government so diametrically opposed to your own stated position on the internet, freedom of speech, privacy, civil rights, etc.

    "Collaborating"? Really? Providing commentary is collaborating?

    When I appeared on a panel in Hollywood that the MPAA helped organize, was that automatically "lending legitimacy" to the MPAA?

    If I was working for them, presenting their points of view, you might have a point. But I wasn't. So you don't. But you're a DC hack, and all you do is know how to attack people by falsely smearing them.

     

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  34.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 3rd, 2012 @ 10:24am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    This of course makes him look even more ridiculous and desperate for appearing on Russia Today after being characterized as a complete imbecile

    Two simple points on that. First, I stopped appearing on RT before that article came out. So you're wrong. As usual. Second, their report was completely false and ridiculous as I showed in my initial report.

    The only ones imbecilic were them, which was, in part, why I stopped appearing on RT.

    You still collaborate with the Russians even after they publicly humiliate you? Do you have no self-respect whatsoever?

    Except I haven't. Once again: you are full of shit.

     

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  35.  
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    Laroquod (profile), Oct 3rd, 2012 @ 10:24am

    Re: Re:

    You're impressively delusional, please keep it up. Trolls like you are basically a gift to all copyfighters everywhere.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
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    cosmicrat (profile), Oct 3rd, 2012 @ 11:54am

    Good suggestion

    "Rather than do something useful, like disband..."

    The same could be said of the MPAA, RIAA and U.S. CoC as well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Oct 3rd, 2012 @ 1:15pm

    Re:

    how did we allow the internet to become a thing that someone can just "take control" over?


    Because we allowed a couple international corporations to be the ones in control of the backbone.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 3rd, 2012 @ 3:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Do you have no self-respect whatsoever?"

    Except I haven't.

    It seems not. What an embarrassing douchenozzle you are.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 3rd, 2012 @ 3:36pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    It seems not. What an embarrassing douchenozzle you are.


    Awesome. You have so much irrational blind hatred that you pretend I was answering a different question than you know I was.

    You, sir, need serious help.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 3rd, 2012 @ 4:32pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    hahahaha.... lighten up Chubby. Take a couple of shots of Stoli, dance a kalinka and try not to get your трусики in such a twist, Comrade.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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