Should the control over the Internet pass to the United Nations? That’s the question that could arise when the U.N.’s International Telecommunications Union hosts its World Conference on International Telecommunications this December.
While it might be hard to imagine anyone jockeying for control over something as vast and amorphous as the Internet, word has it that the matter will be pushed to the fore at the event, when conference principals are expected to review the International Telecommunications Regulations. (Apart from a modification in 1988, the somewhat antiquated regulations go back nearly 25 years.) In other words, it could mean a major shift is coming in how the Webs are stewarded.
As it stands, several U.S. non-profit organizations manage the lion’s share of the Internet’s technical inner workings (like ICANN’s dominion over domain registrations, for instance), and the U.S. wants to keep it that way. If there’s any move to re-orient these responsibilities, the nation says it will oppose it. Of primary interest is the free flow of information and content, which is cited in a fact sheet posted online by the Department of State:
We want to preserve the flexibility contained in the current ITRs, which has helped create the conditions for rapid evolution of telecommunications technologies and markets around the world […] We will not support any effort to broaden the scope of the ITRs to facilitate any censorship of content or blocking the free flow of information and ideas[.] The United States also believes that the existing multi-stakeholder institutions, incorporating industry and civil society, have functioned effectively and will continue to ensure the health and growth of the Internet and all of its benefits.
Seemingly the major concern is the prospect of foreign regimes or tightly controlled governments (like China) having more of a say in how the Internet evolves.
What do you think? Should the administration of the Internet remain within the United States, or should the Webs be governed by the U.N. or another international body? There are many nuances to this debate, so if you’re interested in how the finer points, be sure to hit up the source link.