UN-Dermining the Net
There's mounting evidence that the Internet's good old days as a globalcyberzone of freedom—where governments generally take a "hands off" approach—may be numbered. [Last year] delegates from 192 countries met in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Geneva to discuss how the Internet should be governed and what steps should be taken to solve the global "digital divide" and "harness the potential of information" onbehalf of the world's poor. Also on the table at the session—the UnitedNations World Summit on the Information Society—was the question of domainname management and how much protection free speech and expression shouldreceive on the Net. The real issue, however, is whether a "United Nations forthe Internet" is on the way. The great advantage of the Net is precisely the ability to reach as many peopleas possible and overcome artificial restrictions on trade or communications attraditional geographic boundaries. The Web, whatever problems it has raised,has provided far more opportunity and freedom to mankind. The United Nationsappears eager to assume greater control over the Net, not because of itsfailures, but because it undermines members' authority. That sounds like thebest reason ever to make sure a United Nations for the Internet never becomes areality.