Amazing invention, the internet. It’s been described as a modern day Gutenberg Press. A place where information previously not widely available suddenly is. It can be used as a communication tool, AND as a mode of commerce. It can be a repository of truth…and that same truth can be drowned out by the noise of the day as well as shielded, blocked and downright censored thanks to certain levels of computer programming in the search engines.
So, naturally, the fallen nature of man being what it is, there are all sorts of man-made entities out there trying to ban, censor and control the darn beast mainly because the country that actually invented the thing and has at least nominal control won’t. That would be the United States of America.
(See, we have this little thing called the First Amendment where our freedom of speech and of the press is guaranteed, and we believe in intellectual property rights. That puts us at odds with most of the rest of the world.)
During his time as Occupier of the Oval Office, Barack Obama has pledged his support of the idea that internet should be held by an entity other than the USA. To be TECHNICAL about it, the government doesn’t exactly own it, and the body that regulates the network, ICANN, has a signed agreement with the U.S. Department of Commerce to move control of the internet away from American governing and more “towards a multistakholder governance model.” (Check your pockets after that pontificating horse hockey.)
The general vitriol over THAT decision led to cries of “Obama surrendered the internet!” which might be technically true, but according to the Wikipedia timeline, the original surrender happened under George W. Bush. However, a couple months ago, an update in this space quoted a blog post from a Commerce staffer who said that the planned surrender was not going well, and could take some time to complete. As in years. Why this is the case was indicated as a breach the freedom of speech idea. (Go figure.)
Which makes Friday’s request from China – a country that censors information at will, pirates intellectual property at will, has been accused of hacking into U.S. government computers, yada yada yada – for the United Nations to take over the internet, all the more curious.
“It is highly necessary and pressing for the international community to jointly bring about an international code of conduct on cyberspace at an early date,” said Wang Qun, director-general of the Arms Control Department of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, in comments to the U.N. General Assembly.
Wang’s comments were reported by China’s main state-owned press outlet, the Xinhua News Agency.
“China, for its part, will continue to commit itself to establishing a peaceful, secure, open and cooperative cyberspace and pushing for an early international code of conduct acceptable to all,” Wang added.
Yeah, sure they will. At the bottom of the Washington Examiner piece from which this quote originates is this:
…at the same time, President Obama has been moving forward with a plan to transfer control of Internet domain name functions to a multi-stakeholder body. Along with Russia, China has been the most vocal in urging a quick conclusion to that process, and for a management structure that ensures governments retain power over private stakeholders.
Given that the Commerce Department and ICANN are trying to come up with a way to limit government control from ANY government of the internet, going to the UN to ask for them to simply take over what is more or less an American apparatus, in the end, is rather curious. To an outside observer, it sounds like they aren’t getting their way behind the scenes.
The UK Register offers another possibility: American spying on everyone as per Edward Snowden’s allegations. To solve this, uh, defense offensive, China proposed a “Code of Conduct”:
- Compliance comply with the UN Charter and other universally recognized basic norms governing international relations
- Respect for the cyberspace sovereignty of each state
- Resolution of international disputes in this field by peaceful means
- Cyberspace only to be utilized for activities for the maintenance of international peace and security
- Cyberspace should not be used as a means to interfere in the internal affairs of other states or to the detriment of the latter’s national interests.
To which any thinking American is going to say to China: you first.