It’s a dangerous time for the Internet. A group of countries including China, Russia, India and the Arab countries have been pushing for UN control of those sections currently headed by the US based ICANN. If this happens, these dictatorships and free speech abusers (India included) will get to have a say in how the Internet is run and therefore make their practices seem legitimate.
As of now, such countries already restrict free speech online as required by their laws. But as long as the US is in control, such practices lack true International legitimacy when measured up against the US’s own high free speech standards. Giving them some control over Internet governance will endorse their behavior and wipe out currently prevailing expectations that the Internet is a free medium and one of the greatest achievements of mankind where the virtual world is free from geographic boundaries and from the gritty real world.
Some feel that it’s not good for one country like the US to govern the Internet. But let’s drop the political correctness here. The truth is that not all countries deserve control over the Internet. We tend to not pass judgment over certain cultures with outdated and backward policies, but we should! Mankind’s specialty is learning from others. There’s nothing wrong with telling other countries that they need to buck up and improve.
Saudi Arabia wants to implement a universal ID system that people will have to use when commenting on anything online including private blogs. China and Russia of course want the entire world to sanction their censorship regimes. Countries like India will demand that just because they cannot handle sensitive topics and offense against religion, the whole world must stoop down to their level and keep mum as well.
Let’s be clear that the US itself has hardly been an awesome steward of the Internet. The biggest problem with the US is its stand on copyright infringement and how it can sometimes go overboard in shutting down sites. But those sites can fight back through the courts. The US public is vociferous enough to make the government tread carefully. SOPA was a brilliant example of netizens in the US coming together to target their politicians. Will that happen if the Internet is under UN control? Will Arab citizens or Chinese citizens stand up for their freedoms and take to the streets to prevent a law from being passed? Never. We Indians of course are not at all involved in our democratic process. Crap laws will be passed and then maybe we’ll demonstrate against them. But a huge nationwide protest to prevent a law? Never.
The US is the devil we know. The UN is not answerable to ordinary people like us. Only governments get to vote. Even in a democracy, it’s difficult enough to get the government to listen to the voice of the people. How do you think it will be when a whole group of them have to be convinced? With democracies, bills are passed after public discussion. The text of the bill is put up so that people can read it. Even if they choose not to, it’s there. Resolutions in the UN are passed in closed door meetings. They don’t give a damn about what people think. And why should they? They’re not elected by people after all!
The openness and transparency of the Internet is precious. It crosses all borders and represents the peak of human civilization till date. It allows us access to everything. Individuals have to learn the skills of taking what they want and ignoring the rest. This is good. You can’t go crying to the government if you see something you don’t like. Close the page, or launch your own counterattack online. None of this government censorship crap.
The bottom line is that we’ve progressed tremendously over thousands of years and freedom of expression is one of the pinnacles of that development which gives the Internet its tremendous power. We have something precious and we can’t let backward and authoritarian regimes like China and Russia and emotionally immature governments like India have a say in how this precious resource is managed.