China’s top diplomat had an interesting rejoinder to Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s call in Anchorage this month to “strengthen the rules-based international order.” Such an order already exists, answered Politburo member Yang Jiechi. It’s called the United Nations.
Russia is engaged in a brazen but little noticed effort to set new rules for cyberspace — even as it flouts the existing ones. Last week, in an encouraging step, a United Nations telecommunications body pushed back.
While the United Nations has deemed government-orchestrated internet shutdowns to be a human rights violation, Iran continues to push the limits
[news release] Never before has the Internet proven to be such a vital lifeline in maintaining economic and social ties, as the world is battling the COVID-19 pandemic. The high-level segment of the Internet Governance Forum opened today, with participants underlining the critical importance of digital technologies in supporting human resilience and building solidarity to respond to the challenges posed by the coronavirus.
The U.N. disarmament chief warned Friday that cyber crime is on the rise, with a 600% increase in malicious emails during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The International Telecommunication Unionâs (ITU) World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) concluded its Dubai meeting in some disarray last week, with 89 nations (with a collective population of 2.6 billion) signing the revised International Telecommunications Regulations (ITR) and 54 (with a collective population of 3.8 billion) abstaining and thereby effectively saying âNoâ. Ironically, the host nations of the next two ICANN meetings â China and South Africa â voted in favor of an ITR that appears to favor replacing ICANNâs multi-stakeholder Internet governance model with one that would cede far more power to governments that want to censor the free flow of information and commerce. The WCITâs conclusion inspired some predictions that a new virtual âcold warâ had commenced, with a real danger that ICANNâs vision of âone world, one Internetâ could be replaced by âone world, many Internetsâ.
U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer, in clear defense of ICANN, cited Internet governance as one of the five key reasons why the U.S. had abstained from approving the ITR: âNumber four, internet governance. In several proposals, it was clear that some administrations were seeking to insert government control over internet governance, specifically internet naming and addressing functions. We continue to believe these issues can only be legitimately handled through multi-stakeholder organizations.â www.state.gov/e/eb/rls/rm/2012/202040.htm
Now it will be several years before all the nations signing the ITR can actually get through their formal processes for doing so, and even if they do so it will not necessarily translate into a balkanized and censored Internet. So the jury is still out on the full ramifications of Dubai. And, even without the ITR, there is nothing to stop any government from trying to curtail its citizensâ free access to the Internet — and there are numerous examples today where they are doing so. The real danger would come if the Internet functions presently conducted by open and transparent multi-stakeholder groups became the exclusive province of governments operating with the authority of an international organization in which other stakeholders were relegated to the sidelines.
Given post-WCIT uncertainty of the Internetâs future course, and the divided opinion over whether ICANN is getting the Internet governance job done in an effective, balanced and trustworthy manner, it would seem especially important for ICANN to go about its work in a maximally criticism-proof manner. Yet today we are witnessing a fierce and unprecedented debate over whether ICANN is formulating policy in an even-handed and predictably consistent manner.
That present debate is over the âStrawman Modelâ that grew out of the recent Trademark Clearinghouse meetings conducted by new ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade. ICA has previously expressed its concern that these meetings were invitation-only, not publicly noticed, and provided for no remote participation or even observation. CEO Chehadeâs most recent ICANN Blog post on this subject can be found at blog.icann.org/2012/11/a-follow-up-to-our-trademark-clearinghouse-meetings/ , and in it he pledged, âI will be sending a message to the GNSO Council asking it for guidance on the Scope of Trademark Claims. In addition, the strawman model will be posted this week for public comment.â
He followed up on these commitments with a December 4th letter to the GNSO in which he stated âI am seeking policy guidance from the GNSO Council on two items as part of the next steps for the implementation of the TMCH, namely, the Strawman Proposal and the IPC/BC proposal for limited defensive registrations.â gnso.icann.org/mailing-lists/archives/council/msg13964.htmlAnd ICANN has posted a request for public comment on the Strawman Model at www.icann.org/en/news/public-comment/tmch-strawman-30nov12-en.htm, with an original comment deadline of December 21st now pushed back to January 15, 2013.
ICA will of course comment on the substance of the proposals being considered, but for now we want to dwell about more about concerns arising from the process by which this purported âSolutionâ has been created. Rather than expand on our earlier thoughts (see internetcommerce.org/LA_Straw%28Man%29 ) weâd like to cite some comments recently made by others that we find of particular merit.
Our prior post had cited the critique issued by Robin Gross, head of ICANNâs Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group, in which she forcefully stated, âWe have the same obligations to accountability to the community, transparency of process, and equality of participation among impacted stakeholders in the development of policy at intercessional meetings that we have at other policy development meetings. Neither executive decisions nor private negotiations among select parties fulfill ICANN’s commitment to the bottom-up multi-stakeholder policy development process.â (Emphasis added/ see www.circleid.com/posts/20121119_icanns_11th_hour_domain_name_trademark_policy_negotiations/).
More recently, the recently departed head of the GNSO Council itself, StÃ©phane Van Gelder, expressed concern that the manner in which the Strawman Model had been developed constituted a direct attack on ICANNâs multi-stakeholder model, âThe basic premise of the ICANN system is simple and fair: get all parties to work together, give everyone an equal voice, and act on whatever consensus emerges. ICANN insiders have coined this the “multi-stakeholder, bottom-up, policy development process”â¦ But to some, this system has a major flaw: it doesn’t always allow them to get their way. Because ICANN policy making is based on consensus, any progress has to rely on some measure of give from parties. It can’t all be takeâ¦So what to do when the outcome isn’t exactly what you wanted? Most accept the result and console themselves with the knowledge that doing so strengthens this new governance model. But some never stop looking for any opening to push through their views. Even though by doing so, they are actually endangering the system as whole.â (Emphasis added/ see www.circleid.com/posts/20121102_attacking_the_multi_stakeholder_model/)
Likewise, long-time ICANN participant and current principal of leading gTLD program applicant Donutsâ Jon Nevett wrote a detailed explanation of his concerns about the Strawman process and proposal, expressing these concerns, âThe ICANN community is ever closer to realization of its goal to bring long-overdue consumer choice and competition to Internet naming. Regrettably, but perhaps predictably, reliance on the Final Applicant Guidebook (AGB) is being challenged at the last minute by recent proposals from the Business and Intellectual Property Constituencies (BC/IPC), which demand “improvements” to the already extensive trademark protections that will be part of the new gTLD landscape. Equally disturbing is ICANN staff’s apparent willingness to accommodate the demands with an end-around process that may grant intrusive changes. The end result could be one that violates ICANN’s accountability principles and its commitment to marketplace fairness, and scoffs at the community’s extensive collaboration on the issue of rights protections.â (Emphasis added/ see www.circleid.com/posts/20121129_new_gtlds_last_minute_end_arounds_and_fundamental_fairness/)
A great deal of the debate over the Strawman Modelâs elements concerns whether they are mere implementation tweaks of existing rights protection mechanisms (RPMs) developed for the new gTLD program, or new policies that require full multi-stakeholder and GNSO consideration under established policy development procedures. For our part, we have great concerns about any process that allows a select and non-representative slice of the broad ICANN community to plant the seeds of any new policy, when following standard procedures might have produced a very different starting point â or a decision to not begin at all.
Neustar Vice President and GNSO Council member Jeffrey Neuman shared his views on this critical distinction: âThe real issue is that new reliance on the terms “policy” vs. “implementation.” Â This is the issue that should receive top priorityâ¦when one group wants something in place without using the policy process, they call it “implementation.”Â Those that oppose it, call it “policy.”â¦ The now infamous New gTLD “straw-man”:Â For the record, I was a part of the group that discussed the straw man in Brussels and LA over the past few weeks.Â I found those discussions very useful and appreciate the efforts being made by the new ICANN CEO, who I have a tremendous amount of respect for.Â I believe he truly will make a huge positive impact on ICANN for many years to come.Â But, now the debate has turned into what is policy and what is implementation.Â The IPC/BC and their representatives have called all of their proposals “implementation”.Â Â The NCSG, Registries, Registrars and Applicants have called much of it policy.Â ICANN staff has now weighed in on their thoughts and have classified certain items as implementation (thereby negating the need for GNSO policy development), and other items as policy, thereby requiring extensive involvement from the GNSO communityâ¦ I believe we all need to take a step back from the issues immediately and decide once and for all an agreed upon bottom-up multi-stakeholder definition of what is “policy” and what is “implementation.”Â Or at the very least a framework for making that assessment when issues ariseâ¦ I believe the future of the GNSO, and even the multi-stakeholder model in general hinge on the definition of these 2 words.â (Emphasis added/see gnso.icann.org/mailing-lists/archives/council/msg13890.html)
Finally, ICANN Ombudsman Chris LaHatte recently announced that âI have received a complaint about the process used in the recent Trademark Clearinghouse meetingsâ. That prompted ICANN veteran and law professor Mary Wong, who played a key role in designing the current RPMs, to post a comment stating in part, âIn short, and possibly regardless of the actual motivation for or outcome of these meetings, the fact that they were held and, more particularly, how they were conducted, naturally gives rise to some concern on the part of the rest of the ICANN community â especially those who have limited means or connections within âICANN-landâ but who are deeply concerned about many of the issues worked on by the GNSO and other groups â as to their ability to meaningfully participate in ICANN policy development and decision making.â Â Â https://omblog.icann.org/?p=827#comments
We know all these people, as well as many others who have deep reservations about the deviation from standard procedures that resulted in the âStrawman Modelâ, and we know that they, like we, strongly support ICANN and its multi-stakeholder process. If ICANNâs strongest adherents begin to doubt its commitment to a transparent, fair, and consistent policy development process, then its ability to fend off future attacks, whether from the ITU or other quarters, will be substantially diminished.
We have been favorably impressed by CEO Chehadeâs first months in his position, and we admire his âhands onâ approach to meeting commitments resolving challenges as expeditiously as possible. But itâs clear to us, not only from the process by which the Strawman was developed but by some of its component parts, that repeating this approach in the future would be a very large mistake that would risk substantially weakening ICANN as an organization and even jeopardize its long-term viability.
No one can get everything they want in a multi-stakeholder process. Letâs hope that every stakeholder remembers that pursuing repeated end runs and workarounds in single-minded pursuit of the last possible scrap of policy success risks the very future of ICANNâs multi-stakeholder model. Â
Note: To see a list, as well as a map, of the nations that did and did not indicate they would sign the WCIT ITR agreement see www.techdirt.com/articles/20121214/14133321389/who-signed-itu-wcit-treaty-who-didnt.shtml
A Russian proposal to transfer the internet addressing role that the US government currently delegates to the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is being opposed by the US.
The Russians are currently working with a number of other countries at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) that concludes Friday in Dubai on a compromise that would see the mission of the United Nations agency extended to the internet. But the US has signalled it is not interested.
However there are many countries siding with the US, including most Europeans and some other advanced economies, who want to limit the ITU to oversight of international phone calls and other means of communication.
And the ITU has said there must be consensus for any change to occur.
To read more, check out the following reports:
Russia backtracks on internet governance proposals
Russian-backed proposals calling for 193 countries to be given “equal rights to manage the internet” have been pulled at a UN conference in Dubai.
Compromise emerges in global talks on Internet oversight
Hopes rose on Tuesday for a compromise agreement that would keep intrusive government regulation of the Internet from being enshrined in a global treaty.
WCIT goes dark: deadlock hits key telecoms conference
The WCIT is going dark with just one day left to rewrite the international telecommunication regulations (ITRs) and a number of significant issues remaining unresolved.
Americaâs two main political parties do not agree on much. But one thing they do agree on is âthat the United Nations … should not be given control over a globally interconnected network that transcends the geography of nation-states,â writes Rebecca Mackinnon in Foreign Policy. âThe Internet is too valuable to be managed by governments alone. Yet there is less agreement over how well the alternative âmultistakeholderâ model of Internet governance is working — or whether it is really serving all of us as well as it might.â
Mackinnon notes the immediate threat is the âWorld Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) scheduled for December in Dubai by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a U.N. body whose remit has thus far been limited to global telephone systems. Members meet behind closed doors.â
Proposed policy changes were leaked recently and published on the WCITLeaks website revealing âhow a number of governments — in league with some old-school telecommunications companies seeking to regain revenues lost to the Internet — are proposing to rewrite global international telecommunications regulations in ways that opponents believe will corrode, if not destroy, the open and free nature of the Internet.â
Mackinnonn writes that only a few people have heard of ICANN or âthe collection of regional internet registries that coordinate IP addresses, or the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).â
But she also says âthis governance ecosystem has worked astonishingly well in managing the Internet’s exponential growth, largely because the system is so open and decentralized that any person anywhere on Earth with engineering or software-programming skills can invent new software applications, devices, and other networked technologies that can all interconnect with one another without needing to obtain permission or buy a license from anybody.â
But will they succeed? Mackinnon examines efforts to govern the internet, including the USâs attempt of regulation, with âsome libertarians argue that the U.S. Congress — with legislative efforts like SOPA — is arguably as much a threat to the internet as the United Nations.â
Mackinnon concludes that âhistory has shown that all governments and all corporations will use whatever vehicles available to advance their own interests and power. The internet does not change that reality. Still, it should be possible to build governance structures and processes that not only mediate between the interests of a variety of stakeholders, but also constrain power and hold it accountable across globally interconnected networks. Right now, the world is only at the beginning of a long and messy process of working out what those structures and processes should look like. You might say we are present at the creation.â
To read this essay in full by Rebecca Mackinnon in Foreign Policy, go to:
US bodies that oversee the internet’s technical specifications and domain name system are at the heart of speculation over a push from largely developing nations, and in particular the BRICS countries, for control of the internet to be put under the United Nations, reports the BBC.The bodies that currently oversee the internet include ICANN who operates at arms-length from but officially under the remit of the Department of Commerce.The report notes that “there has been speculation that other nations will push for a change later this year, but they cannot force the US to comply.”But suggestions the US would support such a move were dispelled when the House of Representatives “voted unanimously [414-0] on Thursday to approve a resolution aimed at preventing any efforts to hand the United Nations more power to oversee the Internet,” reports Tech Daily Dose.”In many ways, this is a first-of-its-kind referendum on the future of the Internet,” Rep. Mary Bono Mack said in a statement. “Today’s unanimous vote sends a clear and unmistakable message: the American people want to keep the Internet free from government control and prevent Russia, China and other nations from succeeding in giving the U.N. unprecedented power over Web content and infrastructure.”Support for change has come from Russian President Vladimir Putin who has signalled Russia’s final submission could go further than the leaked copy of their current submission to the International Telecommunication Union. The BBC reports Russia saying in their submission the ITU could become responsible for allocating at least some of the internet’s addresses as well as the “determination of the necessary requirements”. And then in 2011 he said he was keen to discuss “establishing international control over the internet using the monitoring and supervisory capabilities of the International Telecommunication Union”.Support for this position is also reported to have come from China and India, but for any change to happen to the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITR) treaty, it requires unanimous support from the 178 nations.”The ITR is a 1988 treaty which set out rules for how traffic should flow between different telecom networks, and how to calculate charges for traffic exchanged between carriers in different countries,” the BBC reports.”The rise of the internet and mobile devices has led to calls for it to be revised, but countries are expected to disagree over the changes needed.”But that unanimous support is highly unlikely with the United States’ State Department in their submission saying:
The U.S. will carefully monitor and study the proposals submitted by other countries. The U.S. is concerned that proposals by some other governments could lead to greater regulatory burdens being placed on the international telecom sector, or perhaps even extended to the Internet sector — a result the U.S. would oppose.”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,” Ambassador Terry Kramer said. “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.”Dr Hamadoun Toure, the ITU’s secretary-general told the BBC that some countries were unhappy with the way ICANN had looked after the DNS.”Some people are saying the governments are not consulted enough,” he said.But he played down the idea in the interview that there would be a serious effort to seize control of its functions and pass them to the ITU.”Has anybody suggested to take responsibility from ICANN? No, it’s never been done. I truly believe there is a complementarity involved between our work – we can work together.”
Vint Cerf is critical of plans by various countries over a battle for the internet that is opening at the International Telecommunications Union in this opinion piece in the New York Times.Cerf writes that the ITU “is conducting a review of the international agreements governing telecommunications and aims to expand its regulatory authority to the Internet at a summit scheduled for December in Dubai.””Such a move holds potentially profound — and I believe potentially hazardous — implications for the future of the Internet and all of its users.”Cerf says the secret of the internet’s success is that “governments — for the most part — allowed the Internet to grow organically, with civil society, academia, private sector and voluntary standards bodies collaborating on development, operation and governance.””In contrast, the ITU creates significant barriers to civil society participation.”Cerf goes on to say that “while many governments are committed to maintaining flexible regimes for fast-moving internet technologies, some others have been quite explicit about their desire to put a single U.N. or other intergovernmental body in control of the Net.”Some of the proposals for ITU governance have surfaced from within the organisation, including that “several authoritarian regimes reportedly would ban anonymity from the Web, which would make it easier to find and arrest dissidents. Others have suggested moving the privately run system that manages domain names and Internet addresses to the United Nations.””Such proposals raise the prospect of policies that enable government controls but greatly diminish the ‘permissionless innovation’ that underlies extraordinary Internet-based economic growth to say nothing of trampling human rights.”Cerf encourages people “to take action now: Insist that the debate about internet governance be transparent and open to all stakeholders.”Vint Cerf’s article, Keep the Internet Open, can be read in full on The New York Times website by going to www.nytimes.com/2012/05/25/opinion/keep-the-internet-open.html.There have also been a couple of articles in Forbes on the issue. One, is by Scott Cleland, President of Precursor LLC and Chairman of NetCompetition, a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests and who during the George H.W. Bush Administration, Cleland served as Deputy United States Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy.Cleland writes that “any attempt to remake the Internet in the ITU’s image – “the ITUnet” – is pure folly. The essence of the Internet is that it is voluntary; no entity mandated it or controls it. People, companies, entities and nations all voluntarily have chosen to use the Internet because it is the best at what it does.””The folly here is that the ITU does not understand the voluntary nature of the Internet or how the Internet really operates and evolves – because the bottom-up collaborative Internet is the antithesis of top-down governmental command and control.”On the domain name system, Cleland says it “rapidly became universal precisely because people voluntarily recognized its essential value and adopted it. No country owns, controls, or approves Internet’s addresses; it’s a collaborative, consensus-based, multi-stakeholder process. The World Wide Web became the third voluntary leg of Internet universality, because it offered a universal application to enable people to get to and display most any kind of Internet content available. With the Internet, the best ideas and innovations win on merit not coercion.””Those imagining the ITU can assert authority over the Internet simply don’t understand how the Internet works. They desperately want to believe the Internet operates like last century’s telephone networks because that’s what they know and that’s what they want it to be, so that they can tax and regulate it to redistribute revenues.”Cleland’s article, The ‘ITUnet’ Folly: Why The UN Will Never Control The Internet, is available to be read in full at www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2012/05/24/the-itunet-folly-why-the-un-will-never-control-the-internet.However taking a contrary view of the ITU’s intention, also in Forbes, is Adam Thierer, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University where he works with the Technology Policy Program.Thierer writes that “in the short term, however, this threat is somewhat overstated. There’s no way the U.N. could “take over the Net.” It’s a technical impossibility. The Internet’s infrastructure and governance structure are both too decentralized for any one global entity to take control.”To read Thierer’s Forbes article, Does the Internet Need a Global Regulator?, in full, go to: