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Moving Net Control From ICANN to Governments? 468

a whoabot writes "The BBC has a piece by Bill Thompson suggesting that "control" of the internet should move away from corporate groups(ICANN and the Web Consortium) and to governments. We previously had an article on ICANN and the UN World Summit on the Information Society. One quote: "We allow images of consensual sex in our cinemas, but not images of bestiality or child abuse. Why should the net be any different?" My personal answer: because the internet should not be another TV or cinema, it should be a free, user-as-peer and user-controllable media; a "reversible" media, as Baudrillard would put it; not user-as-consumer."
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Moving Net Control From ICANN to Governments?

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  • No, because... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    beastie porn is a small price to pay for free speech!
    • Re:No, because... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by qat ( 637648 ) <admin AT pleaseeat DOT us> on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:00PM (#8218425) Homepage
      In all reality, shouldn't beastiality be permitted? As long as no laws are violated in the hosting country, it should be legit. For example, if beastiality porn is hosted in Pakistan, and it's not considered illegal there, why should it be censored? Its global viewing is just a possibility, if the intent is to please the people of the local country? There are no UNIVERSAL laws, and that's the way it should be.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 08, 2004 @11:48AM (#8218331)
    or if not possible, any Scandinavian country. They have a very good culture of privacy. Plus nobody will ever tell the Swiss what to do or bomb them because everyone has their money there.
    • by Leffe ( 686621 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @11:56AM (#8218393)
      Sealand [] would be a better choice methinks.
  • by i_am_syco ( 694486 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @11:48AM (#8218332)
    The internet should not be the product of politics and debate. Absolute lunacy, and a totally stupid idea, as well.
    • by AllUsernamesAreGone ( 688381 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:06PM (#8218468)
      Bill Thompson is a regular at this one - check some of his previous missives to get a good grasp of his general tone. The only explanations I've been able to come up with are that either he is as naive as a concussed duckling and really, truly believes that governments aren't populated with liars, cheats and control freaks or he is being paid to put forward ideas that no rational computer expert would in the hope that the unwashed masses will support things like government control, palladium and so on.
      • Bill Thompson is a regular at this one - check some of his previous missives to get a good grasp of his general tone.

        Oh yeah, he's a prize idiot. His position is, basically, "governments should keep their hands off everything I do, and regulate everything that I'm not interested in anyway" and also "all corporations are evil, except the ones that make toys I like". I remember he also wrote an article calling on programmers to more more "professional", with his picture in the article, long unbrushed hair,
    • by Wanderer2 ( 690578 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @01:39PM (#8219085) Homepage

      Since when did 'debate' become a bad thing? What is Slashdot, after all?

      It's worth pointing out the line from the top of the article (I've not seen anyone quote it yet:

      Giving governments control of the net is the worst possible idea... apart from all the other ideas which are worse.

      This whole story seems to have sparked a "I don't trust the US government, the Chinese government or any other government" reaction from most people. But how many Internet users trust an American corporation? At least with politics, and debate, we have the opportunity to get involved.

      Bah: -1, Angry!

      • by sklib ( 26440 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @04:00PM (#8220042)
        Since when did 'debate' become a bad thing? What is Slashdot, after all?

        No offense to slashdotters out there, but I would not want the slashdot consensus to decide anything that would remotely affect me in any real way. For the things that matter (like who runs DNS, who runs the phone network, who verifies my credit card charges), I want either a unix longbeard who knows what's best, or a greedy corporation with everything to lose. The longbeard will do the smart thing by default, and a greedy corporation will do the right thing because they won't have a business model without a working product.
      • by mrogers ( 85392 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @04:37PM (#8220237)
        You support government control because it's preferable to corporate control, but perhaps there's a third option: no control.

        I'm talking about a completely decentralized network with no central body allocating addresses, with strong encryption at the link level and end-to-end, guaranteeing privacy and freedom of speech to anyone who can connect to it.

        Freenet [] and the Freehaven project's second-generation onion router [] have laid a lot of the groundwork, but they're designed to be internet overlays. What we need is a truly decentralized packet-switching network, independent of the internet, capable of operating over an ad hoc collection of wireless, leased line, modem and (for the moment) internet connections. The internet can function as scaffolding but nothing in the new network's design should be internet-specific.

        It's already possible to build small networks of this kind - see Mute [], for example. Each machine's address is derived from its public key, and you find routes by broadcasting. But broadcasting every query isn't scalable, so in my PhD research I'm looking for scalable ways to route packets across a large, untrusted network with no address aggregation. If you have any ideas, please reply and I'll send you my email address. :-)

      • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @05:25PM (#8220546) Homepage Journal
        Giving governments control of the net is the worst possible idea... apart from all the other ideas which are worse.

        Good point. And we might note that there is an unstated presupposition at work here: The idea that the Internet should be controlled by some organization.

        We should be pointing out an alternative: Freedom of the Internet's users from control of their speech (with the qualification that we need ways of preventing people like marketers and politiciant from imposing their "free speech" on unwilling listeners).

        If we must have a single organization controlling the Internet, in much of the world that organization probably should be the government. In some parts of the world (the US, Canada, most of Europe, etc.), there are laws in place that protect people from the government. These laws include the right to speak and publish, the right to due process if charged with a crime, etc. Such laws aren't always recognized by the current ruling gang, true, but the courts generally do recognize and enforce them, when they can.

        At present, such protections don't apply in areas controlled by corporations. If you say something that offends a manager, you're out. You have no right to call home during work hours. You have no right to keep personal items in your desk. If charged with an offense, you have no right to a fair trial. You have no rights at all, except maybe the right to walk out.

        A year or so back, we saw reported here the case of an ISP in Arizona that was bought out by, and one of the things they did was to cut off email to anyone not running Microsoft software. And if you read Microsoft EULAs, you often find a clause stating that you can't publish anything critical of them or their software. These are the sorts of things that corporations have the legal right to do. Many governments don't have such rights, and you can challenge them in court if they try to force you to kowtow to a chosen corporation.

        I suppose we all understand that most governments can't be trusted very far, either. Even the best are not exactly known to be supportive of citizens who publicly criticise the government. But if we're on government property, at least we have some rights, and we can fight their attempts to control us. On corporate property, we have no rights whatsoever.

        Still, the best situation would be to prevent total control by any organization, government or corporate.

      • This whole story seems to have sparked a "I don't trust the US government, the Chinese government or any other government" reaction from most people. But how many Internet users trust an American corporation?

        Ah, but the Internet is not under the control of any one private corporation. There are many corporations, which do things such as running parts of the backbone, name registration, ISP services to businesses and individuals, search engines, etc. If any particular corporation was slack in its duty to

  • Worst. Idea. Ever.
  • government control (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 08, 2004 @11:48AM (#8218334)
    When its controlled by the government, it will be lobbied into a capitalist tool of consumer exploitation. Profit at its best.
    • What, like you don't get SPAM now?
    • As opposed to what? What Internet are you using right now? My Internet is flooded with ads.
    • by madpierre ( 690297 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @01:08PM (#8218889) Homepage Journal
      Er *which* government would this be then?

      The internet for the most part is a *world* resource.
      Eventually I expect each culture will end up cowering behind its firewalls.


      • You need to go back to first principles and examine the legal framework of the internet. A lot of people refer to it as "the public internet" or some sort of global resource.

        It is absolutely not.

        What it is is a network of networks. We all agree, implicitly by our use of a specific protocol suite, to interchage packets. But each piece is privatly owned. I own mine, you own yours, and every bit in the middle is owned by somebody else.

        None of it is publically owned or a public resource. It is a network of p
    • by rs79 ( 71822 ) <> on Sunday February 08, 2004 @03:13PM (#8219758) Homepage
      > "When its controlled by the government, it will be lobbied into a capitalist tool of consumer exploitation. Profit at its best"

      Wake up, it's already happened. At the end of one meeting 4 years ago the head trademark lawyer for IBM bragged they'd spend 2 years of their $30M a year Washington lobbying budget to make sure no new top level domains had been created to protect their intellectual property interests. Dave Farber was at that meeting (as was Vint "Darth" Cerf).

      Roger Cochetti, then a VP of IBM, helped Ira Magazier pick the "interim" ICANN board in secret - when that was supposed to have been done by the internet community. Cochetti is now an NSI VP and figures prominently behind the scenes of ICANN.

      The IFWP [] effort, started in Becky Burr's (US Department of Commerce who have oversight over ICANN) office at the suggestion of Kathy Kleinman and Mikki Barry and had 3 meetings worldwide - Reston Va, Geneva, Singapore to determins consensus points [] to use as guidelines to create bylaws and elect a board for the organization that would replace IANA. While this was going on Cochetti and Magaziner were running around in secret getting the likes of Ether Dysan and Mike Roberts on board. Mike Single handedly tanked [] the IFWP effort [] (notice he has Farbers ear) and became the first president of ICANN and his organization was the recipeint [] of the "intellectual infrastructure fund" [] - the domain tax fund that we all paid into back then, and and .edu. Nice little payoff. Esther was by her own admission clueless about the whole thing and did nothing. It's probably just a concidence she was in IBM commercials at the time.

      (" Esther Dyson says that she was approached by Roger Cochetti of IBM and Ira Magaziner in Aspen, Colorado and asked if she would be interested in joining the ICANN Board. The IFWP wrap up was finally completely derailed by ICANN's refusal to participate in the meeting." []

      ICANN was created to do one thing: make new tlds at a time when it seemed (at least to the US government) the US government had to step in to solve the war between the IAHC camp (who had just been shut down) and the alt root camp (who seemed to be making progress). Magaziner met with us all and created the "white paper" [] that was going to create 7 new tlds immediatly. Trademark lawyers and the EU freaked and when it was revised as the "green paper" [] it had punted to "ICANN will create a method to elect a board and a process to create new tlds". Instead they spent 3 years futzing around with the UDRP and other things trademaek laywrs wanted and didn't get round to new tlds till the fall of 2000 and it must have had all of ten minutes thought put into it and was intentinally lame as hell. To this day the new tlds that were picked are still viewed by ICANN as a "feasability study" to deteremine the effect of net stability when adding new tlds. Never mind in that period 100 new cctlds were added almost all of which were commmercial in nature.

      Then you have the "Government Advisory Committe" the well named GAC of ICANN. Governments of the world get to meet in secret and "advise" ICANN.

      Govrernments and the Tradmark Lobby have already coopted ICANN. It's foolish to worry that the ITU/UN will let this happen if they're in control, it's already happened.

      So, don't move control of the internet to ineffective treaty organizations, move it to you
  • adam smith (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mr_tommy ( 619972 ) <tgraham@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Sunday February 08, 2004 @11:48AM (#8218337) Journal
    Even Adam Smith 200 years ago realised that companies control important objects of society was a poor idea; the incentive for profit and exploiting the system for the benifit of the companies and their shareholders is just too much.

    If it were up to me, i'd give it to a UN body. The last people i'd want to give it to is the US government, not because i'm anti US, but because i don't think one country should have control of such a multi-national object. The arguement that "we made it" doesn't hold any water.
    • Re:adam smith (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by tealover ( 187148 )
      It does hold water. The only way the US will let the UN take control is if the US doesn't exist anymore. And if we don't exist, you don't exist.

      This whole concept of a world government holds no water with American people. It never will. If people from other areas aren't content with the internet...implement your own. It's as simple as that.

    • Re:adam smith (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NeoThermic ( 732100 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @11:58AM (#8218404) Homepage Journal
      >>If it were up to me, i'd give it to a UN body.

      And why do you think the UN body would do better?

      Its a bad opinion to say that a Gov. of any type or description should control the web. Look at china, where the Gov. tries to control what is read and seen on the net. What has it done? Its only created the need to bypass what prevents them from doing so.

      If you give the control to a Gov. body, weather it be from any of the offical 192 countries (192? i think its about that many...) in the world, you destroy the point of the web, which is what it is now, its avaiable to all those who can find it.

      Its not restricted, confied, censored, or banned to the masses of users (unless you happen to be under control of a admin or netnanny style software). And it should stay that way.


    • Re:adam smith (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:00PM (#8218428)
      Giving control of something to the UN is the best way to insure it'll get censored and controlled the most in the near future.

    • Re:adam smith (Score:4, Insightful)

      by another misanthrope ( 688068 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:05PM (#8218462)
      It's really wonderful that the United Nations wants to help one- armed chicken farmers in Bangladesh surf the Web. But maybe these sanctimonious bureaucrats should focus on more pressing issues - like providing plumbing, electricity and medicine - before obsessing over whether malnourished children in Ethiopia have DSL access. Besides, the only Macintosh a starving North Korean wants to see is the bright red fruit. And what good does a flat-panel monitor do if reading the opinions expressed thereon gets you hanged from the nearest apple tree? As with most U.N. summits, there is a dark side to this all-expenses-paid cocktail party in Geneva. Countries like China, Egypt, Syria and Vietnam are lobbying hard to wrest control of the Internet from the United States. Despite ICANN's weaknesses, giving U.N. bureaucrats the key to the Internet's chastity belt would be a certain disaster. For starters, if the United Nations had to pass a simple resolution stating "the cyber-sky is blue," it would take three years and include a condemnation of Zionism. Getting scores of U.N. member states to agree on complex technical standards would be next to impossible. But there's a much bigger problem with giving the United Nations regulatory control of the Internet. Despite the sunny charm of countries like Cuba and Iran, the United Nations is populated with many despots who strive to censor anything that might enlighten their own people. They regard freedom of speech and individual rights - which are the life-blood of the Internet - with contempt. In some countries, sending the wrong e-mail can get you killed. These tyrannical regimes would love to regulate cyberspace through the United Nations. But the Internet doesn't need their help. It already works splendidly well. Indeed, for many of the world's oppressed people, the Internet is a source of liberation, where they can access uncensored information. Ruled largely by free-market forces, the Internet has become one of the miracles of our times. Sure, cyberspace has its problems. But if you think pop-up ads and spam are annoying, wait until China and Syria start meddling with your e-mail.
      • by Vagary ( 21383 ) <jawarren@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Sunday February 08, 2004 @01:53PM (#8219215) Journal

        While I agree with you that the UN General Assembly suffers from a lack of moral clarity, I think you are confusing the GA with the entire UN System of Organizations.

        It is highly unlikely that if the UN were given administrative control of the Internet that the General Assembly would be dealing with day-to-day policy. Instead, the GA would draft a charter for a UN organization, which would then be given somewhat free reign to manage and implement those policies. UN organizations are frequently endowed with very strongly pro-human-rights-and-democracy charters and are not obviously controlled by any particular country.

        So while I agree with you that the UN is an imperfect organization, its track record is largely positive (which, of course, isn't newsworthy) and therefore I would be more comfortable giving control of the Internet to them than any other body proposed so far.

    • Re:adam smith (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Felinoid ( 16872 )
      If it were up to me, i'd give it to a UN body. The last people i'd want to give it to is the US government, not because i'm anti US, but because i don't think one country should have control of such a multi-national object.

      Being anti-US may not be your primary reason but it would automaticly blind you to the flaws in your argument.

      The United Nations is there to resolve disputes and prevent wars. Obveously the current anti-US sentament is due in large part to the recent tendency to go to war instead of
    • by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:59PM (#8218832) Homepage Journal
      Apparently no one.

      The UN is the last place you want with any control over the internet. Why you ask? Simple, outside of the Security Council the UN is proof of what is wrong with a pure democracy. Piss-ant countries have votes of equal strength of large countries. This allows them to band together to punish countries which adopt ideals they don't like, have flourishing economies, complain about the piss-ant countries human rights violations, and etc.

      Look at the crap that goes on in the GA concerning Israel. No one takes the GA seriously anymore. Armnament comittees and Human Rights committees are routinely stacked with the worst abusers if not directly chaired by them. The Iraq Oil for Food program was a cash cow for the UN. The admin fees were exhorbinant and when some countries complained they got bought off.

      If anything the net should be controlled by a publically controlled body. Something that people can get a hand on. Governments and world governments make businesses look like saints.
  • by DarkFencer ( 260473 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @11:49AM (#8218342)
    The problem with government control is 'which' government? How do they agree? A lot of governments wouldn't want anything opposing the dominant political group/party/mindset. Other governments wouldn't want any religious references to anything other then Jesus/Buddah/Muhammed/etc.

    If a government wants to impose restrictions on servers in their own countries, fine, but not outside.
    • by starm_ ( 573321 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:29PM (#8218599)
      I agree. What I would like too see is a totally decetralized internet. The internet protocol should should force that decentralization. No computer should be of central importance on the internet. I wonder if it would be possible to implement it like that?

      IANANE (network engineer) but from what I can see the internet is already partially decentralized. The important gateways are scattered around the world. What I don't understand is how they decede who gets the ip adresses. Class A B C. And how they force all the gateways and routers to point a the right networks.

      Is it just a general agreement between the owners of the gateway that they will follow a certain rules set by a group??

      What if an owner of a lot of important high level gateways decided it wanted to redirect traffic to the wrong adresses. That is give some adresses to a group that was not agreed to by everyone. Would your connection depend on the fact that you go through these gateways or not? Would there be like a conflicting internet were there would be two adresses for one computer??? And since packets can take different routes, would some packets go to one machine and some to the other? Is the internet vulnerable to such an attack by owners of high level gateways? Or does the internet protocol contain something that prevent that kind of chaos by one organization? Is there something in the protocol itself that makes sure that 1 ip asdress = 1 computer??

      Just wondering how robust the internet is to an organisation that would try to take it over.
    • Whether it's the UN, the US government, certain companies, or even the Slashdot membership controlling the Internet, there is always the possibility of abuse. That's why we need a constitution of sorts. Just as with the constitutions of nations, if there is a clear set of rules about what those in power can do and especially what they cannot do, then I for one would have a lot less issues with handing over control to a government or even a company.

      The question then becomes: who will write this constitu
      • No. Just no. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by rs79 ( 71822 ) <> on Sunday February 08, 2004 @03:48PM (#8219973) Homepage
        We need a way to translate names to numbers, not a new world government.

        This takes a clue, and a willingness to cooperate.

        Look at how usenet is managed. Without the central point of capture DNS suffers from (the root zone) usenet cannot be controlled and it's administration is a boring technical fact, not an object of a power grab by bored Swiss political wonks.
  • Then Corporate @#$@#!@%$s can buy their way into controlling it.
  • by bc90021 ( 43730 ) * <bc90021&bc90021,net> on Sunday February 08, 2004 @11:52AM (#8218352) Homepage
    The articles author starts out with "How to control what is online..." but never asks the question if it should be controlled. (To a very limited extent, yes, but certainly not to the degree he's suggesting.)

    Then, he goes on to give an example of a woman who was killed by "someone whose fantasies of killing were nurtured, if not engendered, by the pornographic images he found so easily on the web". I find it difficult to believe that someone went from being a perfectly normal person to a killer sjust he viewed some internet porn. (If that were true, half of Slashdot readership could turn into killers! ;) )

    Then, his solution to all this is to let the government control the internet, and to "change" it to support that control. There are two problems with that:

    1) The government is not some giant parental figure who's supposed to protect us from harm, no matter how much liberalism would like us to believe that. ;) We're responsible for our own actions.

    2) Since he suggests "changing" the internet, but provides no plan on doing that, I have to question whether he has any idea of what would be involved. Market-driven forces are the only thing that really make significant changes now, and giving control the the government would completely undermine that. It would have to be in the interest of the market to have changes made to the internet, and until that happens, change won't.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Someone, somewhere gets murdered and the victims blame the internet. Johnny Lydon curses and someone gets their panties in a bunch.

    There is no aspect of anybodies life that the government does not seek to control. They will attempt to control the net. There will always be some whining class of people victimized by something they see as evil. Government now switches between liberal/conservative politicians each with their own sets of victim classes expecting special treatment. I don't expect the future to b
  • by adrianbaugh ( 696007 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @11:53AM (#8218364) Homepage Journal
    I guess he's a columnist and therefore paid to think the unthinkable, but there are more productive ways of doing that than by making yourself a laughing stock whom nobody listens to. A simple search of this site would have given him an idea of the problems with "just replacing email with something better and spam-proof", and that's a tiny part of what he's suggesting. The way the internet is built may have aspects that suck pretty badly, but like it or not we're stuck with it. Perhaps if someone had made these suggestions in 1990 there'd be a chance of replacing it wholesale, but not now. Too much has been built on it.
    Besides which, he'll need to do a lot more to convince me that the internet is better in the hands of governments than bodies like ICANN than just say "because I say so". He glosses over issues like repressive regimes with little more than "well if the people don't like their government they can always kick them out".
    If this was a one-off piece I'd be prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt but you can read for yourselves his previous pieces on the BBC website - they're almost without exception inane, badly-researched drivel.
  • by BHearsum ( 325814 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @11:53AM (#8218365) Homepage
    Who the hell trusts their government? Who the hell wants someone else to tell them, and everybody what they can and cannot see. Information should not be controlled, and it can't ever be completely controlled.
  • Define regression.
  • Impossible (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bluethundr ( 562578 ) * on Sunday February 08, 2004 @11:56AM (#8218394) Homepage Journal
    One quote: "We allow images of consensual sex in our cinemas, but not images of bestiality or child abuse. Why should the net be any different?"

    Not only should the internet "...not be another TV or cinema, it should be a free, user-as-peer and user-controllable media an essential (perhaps the most) tenet of "hacker metaphysics" is that "whatever one mind can achieve, another can duplicate and surpass". Control the content of the Internet? Impossible. Just ask the Chinese [].
  • by stevens ( 84346 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @11:57AM (#8218400) Homepage

    Government control is worse, not better!

    • If a company gets dictatorial, we can boycott its revenue stream. Governments never relinquish control short of a revolution.
    • If a company makes terrible decisions, we can set up an alternative system. Companies can try to make your life harder, but governments can actually use force in outlawing another system.

    On the whole, government control of these resources is a bad thing. The best thing is to engineer it so that is no need for a single governing body at all. That way there is no lock-in to any governing body.

    Aren't there already several alternate roots for DNS we could all be supprting? That's the way to keep DNS free--have many competing providers. Some can be corporate, some volunteer.

    As for ridding the system of assigned numbers (IANA), that's tougher.

    • by cherokee158 ( 701472 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:12PM (#8218502)
      I think that is an interesting argument, but I disagree. Once a corporation is large enough, it can rely on such a diversified number of investments for revenue that it becomes effectively impossible to boycott. It bears responsibility to no one but it's (generally very wealthy) shareholders. I prefer government. At least a democratic government is theoretically accountable to it's voters.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      If a company gets dictatorial, we can boycott its revenue stream. Governments never relinquish control short of a revolution.

      Apartheid was overturned in South Africa by a consumer boycott.

      If a company makes terrible decisions, we can set up an alternative system. Companies can try to make your life harder, but governments can actually use force in outlawing another system.

      If your government is using force to stay in power, having ICANN control the internet isn't going to help you very much.
  • It may be fucked up now, but how much do you want to bet that Gov't can fuck it up even more? At least business and industry consortiums have a profit motive; governments only have a power motive.
  • have control of the internet. It is the best and the worst of society, and while I agree it should be policed by enforcement agencies against crimes committed by citizens of that country that are illegal in that country, it should never be up to those same countries to censor content that may not be illegal in other countries.

    There can also be standards bodies, who are a community of users who recommend standards for the rest of the community to follow, but they should not have control either.

    Disagree? R
  • Insane (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Potor ( 658520 ) <farker1@gmai l . c om> on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:02PM (#8218442) Journal
    "We allow images of consensual sex in our cinemas, but not images of bestiality or child abuse. Why should the net be any different?" My personal answer: because the internet should not be another TV or cinema, it should be a free, user-as-peer and user-controllable media; a "reversible" media, as Baudrillard would put it; not user-as-consumer.
    D you not realize how idiotic your reply is? You are actually begging them to regulate it, if you think out-loud that it should be a haven for criminal content. You do accept that child abuse is criminal, don't you?

    btw, Baudrillard's audience is rapidly shrinking to lit-crit departments, and those who find the Matrix to be philosophical. His chief use to scholarship is to provide the muddle-headed with clever sounding catchphrases that can be bandied about with abandon.

    • Re:Insane (Score:5, Interesting)

      by NixLuver ( 693391 ) <stwhite@kc h e r e t i c . c om> on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:18PM (#8218535) Homepage Journal
      "D you not realize how idiotic your reply is? You are actually begging them to regulate it, if you think out-loud that it should be a haven for criminal content. You do accept that child abuse is criminal, don't you?"

      "Idiotic" is a bit strong. The Constitution of the United States says that there is no 'criminal content'. Images of child abuse would be evidence of criminal behavior. Let's not confuse the issue by muddying the waters with emotion. I believe child molesters should be shot; send 'em back, they're defective. But let's examine another 'crime', any crime... like, say, defacement of public property. Does the fact that it's illegal to deface public property mean we should remove all pictures of graffiti from the internet as 'criminal content'?

      I have no objection to an investigation into the handles used on graffiti websites; but banning the content is the wrong way to go about it. That's why our constitution opposes censorship.

      And I don't care what Baudrillard says; the Internet was the first taste of true expression available to everyone who can get into a public Library.

      In the end, that last sentence is what will doom the Internet. Big Business and the Government cannot condone a situation where some geek with a webserver is equal in venue to say, Ford, or Wal-Mart, or CNN... They cannot tolerate a truly free forum, and will do their best to convince you that you cannot, either. In your case, it appears that they have been successful.

      • I understand the distinctions that you are trying to make, but I respectfully disagree. The only qualification I need to make is to limit my claims to jurisdictions within which private possession of an image of child abuse is a criminal act, which, for instance, is the case in the USA, and most (if not all) of Europe.

        And it is not emotional to point out the obvious: if you sell the web as a place where such criminal acts are tolerated, then you are begging for some sort of greater regulation, whatever tha

  • The Wrong Approach (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NixLuver ( 693391 ) <stwhite@kc h e r e t i c . c om> on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:04PM (#8218454) Homepage Journal
    Of course it's ridiculous to 'give' control of the internet to 'corporations' or to 'governments'. How many times have we seen poor decisions based on a lack of information in normal life? What happens if Communist countries decide that .com is an epithet - or a violation of their economic philosophy - and pass a law banning it? Or how many governments will require a governmental firewall at the 'ingress' of the network into their country?

    And if we give it to 'a' country - like the US government, who already seems to think they own it - we'll all be more subject to their insanities.

    In addition, the whole concept of 'excluding content' is simply the wrong way to go about it. Censorship never accomplishes its goals, nor does it elevate content. Any step in that direction is a 'foot in the door', and excluding things because we find them objectionable is poor practice; I can probably find someone (or even a 'category' of someones) who dislikes what any given post on /. says.

    The way to deal with child pornography is not "banning" it; it's prosecuting people who create and purchase it. It's working to fix the economic problems that create situations where parents will submit their children to such indignities; it's finding the sick bastards that molest and photograph children in the more affluent parts of the world. It's not giving some entity a mandate to protect us from viewing something we find offensive - because it's only a short step to protecting us from viewing something they find offensive. Like, say, open source software that doesn't honor DRM legislation.

    The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

  • Damn Government (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Huezo ( 731357 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:04PM (#8218458)
    The Internet is about freedom, not about censorship by the Government. Screw Them.
  • One part of the problem is that the net's standards are controlled by bodies like Icann and the Web Consortium whose primary interest is technical stability and corporate interests.


    Before we can change the net, and make it more able to reflect the real public interest, taking it under democratic control, we must remove it from the hands of these groups, whose time, like that of the elves in Middle-Earth, is over.

    Note the excessively arrogant language, and the prevailing assumption that the author is already right, and the implication all that remains is to hammer out the implementation details of his perfectly reasonable proposal. This is pure flamebait. Thompson might as well have called this "A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Internet from being a Burden to the Children and Despotic Governments of the World, and for making it Beneficial to Media Conglomorates." []

    I'm tempted to guess that he wrote it with the intention of raising the ire of slashdot readers, and getting the expected bazillion comments that every idiotic net-reform proposal gets.

    Of course, there's always the chance that he really did think the proposal reasonable, and didn't intend to be trolling. If you believe that, check out his closing paragraphs:

    Of course, one consequence of giving control of the net to governments is that some governments are bad, prying on their citizens, denying human rights and reneging on international obligations.

    But not everywhere is the United States or China, and I would rather see the network in the hands of governments who can be lobbied, replaced and argued with, than leave it in the hands of the large corporations who develop the programs or standards bodies who are blind to people's real interests.

    Lumping the United States with China on a list of countries that "[deny] human rights"? News flash, Thompson! Can you guess what would have happened to Dan Ellsberg [] if he'd stolen the Pentagon Papers from the British government and published them in the NY Times? He'd STILL be in jail under the Offical Secrets Act []! (Of course, the real irony is that Thompson is complaing about the U.S.-controlled internet because it's too free.) Your flamebait counter should be redlined about now.

    It's a troll. Nothing to see here, move along.

  • by Daniel Baumgarten ( 645894 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:05PM (#8218466) Homepage
    Part of the beauty of the Internet is that no single entity has control over it. It's simply a giant network; you can do anything you want with it, whether it's mirroring the Linux Kernel Archive, running a domain name registration business, or hosting pornographic images.

    I don't think these people have quite the right idea of what exactly the Internet is. It isn't just another distributor/consumer medium, like radio or television. The Internet is an interactive environment in which information is distributed on an on-demand basis; that is, the user chooses what content is delivered to him. Because the medium is "ask and ye shall receive," rather than "we're stuffing this junk down your throat whether you like it or not," such stringent control of content as that found on radio or television is really unnecessary. On the Internet, any user who knows what he's doing will be quite capable of protecting himself.

    Unless, of course, your goal is to stifle the free exchange of information...
  • by belmolis ( 702863 ) <billposer AT alum DOT mit DOT edu> on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:08PM (#8218478) Homepage

    It seems to me that this piece conflates two issues:

    • Should the net be controlled by large corporations?
    • Should the content of the net be regulated?
    and that it gets the priorities backwards. It only briefly addresses the problem of having a network controlled by large corporations and focusses on regulation. In my view, corporate control is dangerous, as is regulation.

    The primary problem with corporate control is that the corporations will act in their own business interests rather than in the interests of users and people in general. So far things haven't been too bad, but it is easy to see what could happen. We could get lockin to particular proprietary technologies, e.g. MS Windows and IE, including things like DRM and spyware. Furthermore, precisely because corporations are not governments, they are exempt from constraints on censorship such as the First Amendment in the United States. They could censor content in their own interests. So I would like to see control of the net taken away from the big corporations.

    However, transferring control to governments is also a bad idea, precisely because that will facilitate regulation. The fact is, most countries in the world are not open and democratic. Many, probably most governments engage in censorship and would do what they could to censor the net. There is a long-standing movement in the United Nations for a "New International Communication Order". Some of the arguments for this reflect the legitiamte desire of less developed countries not to be dominated by rich, developed countries, but the actual proposals that have been made periodically in the UN, particularly by UNESCO, have clearly had censorship as their primary objective. The current political movement to transfer control of the net to governments is just the latest incarnation of this movement.

    The argument for regulation made in the BBC piece is weak. It merely repeats tired old arguments that violent publications (whether on the net or on paper) foster violence and that there is too much porn. The evidence for this is incredibly weak. And in view of the very limited harm that certain kinds of content can be argued to do, as opposed to the very great harm that censorship would do, it seems clear to me that facilitating censorship is a bad idea.

  • Don't forget... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:14PM (#8218512)
    The Internet is not a thing, it's an agreement.

    See What the Internet Is and How to Stop Mistaking It for Something Else. []

    One of the top countries pushing for gubmint control over the Internet is China. You know the country that has it's own firewall to help them government sniff out subversives.

    Finally there are a few EU countries (France) that really like the idea as well. They want to protect their innocent youngsters from "American Culture which is so pervasive on the Internet".

    I'd am VERY suspicious of such gubmints, the motives behind them dont seem very "egalitarian". They are self serving, and mostly trying to prevent the free exchange of ideas IMHO.

  • Silence the critics! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Andy Smith ( 55346 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:15PM (#8218517)
    Bill Thompson's BBC articles epitomise what is wrong with the BBC's current attitude to journalism.

    For months they were running one of his articles every week or so, and most times the feedback section would fill up with comments from people disagreeing with him, pointing out the flaws in his arguments, explaining how/what he had misunderstood, detailing factual errors, etc. In my mind, and I'm sure in the minds of others, his articles were becoming a joke and must have been causing some embarrassment at the BBC.

    So how did the BBC react?

    Did they insist on him doing better research and presenting more sensible arguments? Did they cut back on the number of ill-conceived, subjective crusades he was allowed to go on? Did they decide to drop him entirely?


    They dropped the comments section.
  • Can anyone say "Hobson's choice"?

  • Jesus Christ people, if you hang your free speech arguments on the right to show videos of daddy fucking a dog, you will lose those rights.

  • Dear Mr Thompson Should we see the BBC article as Blair, Birt, the 'new BBC' (post Hutton. Dyke) floating an idea using Bill Thompson as mouthpiece? This an unquestionable piece of rubbish, filled with sensationalism, specious argument and alarmism. Let's take something rather simple. The Metropolitain Police clear-up rate is about 10%, so government 'policing' of the internet is going to have no good effect anyway. Let's take something specious: Malcol
  • by haggar ( 72771 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:28PM (#8218592) Homepage Journal
    Here in Finland, and in other contries in Europe (don't know if all, but at least in the ones where I lived) the gov't is the one who assigns domains. THAT SUCKS because only if you are a company/corporation can get a .fi domain.

    So, normal folks do not have the option to get a .fi domain for whatever the teck they want it. Want to put your software or hardware projects online? Want to make a family website? A club website? In Finland you can't!

    So you see, this system is much more biased against the citizen and in favor of corporations.

    So, what I did was, I found a cheap registrar in the US ( seems to be rock bottom cheapest) and registered my own .com domain.

    Yeah, my money went to the US, because the fscking government wants to keep control of .fi. Well, just go ahead and control it.
  • by cherokee158 ( 701472 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:32PM (#8218624)
    Why is everyone so gung ho to privatize things nowadays? The only thing we as a people have any control over is the preserve of government. Corporations are accountable only to their shareholders...a handful of wealthy men who care little or or nothing for the welfare of the rest of us. Corporations have the rights of citizens, but not the responsibilities. They exist only to make money. They give nothing to anyone. The government democratic nations, at least...elected by the people, and accountable to their wishes. They do not unexpectedly go bankrupt (usually), merge with other companies, or sell your private information to the highest bidder. We all enjoy the fruits of their labors (roads, schools, new technologies) equally. When the phone companies were privatized, a phone call was a dime. Now they are fifty cents, and we have enjoyed such new innovations as slamming and telemarketer harassment. Can you imagine Microsoft's "Driver Certification Program"...a three-day, 1000-dollar now-you-can-drive, too, seminar? How about Adobe awarding and revoking copyrights? (Dang, they got bought out...guess all my copyrights are worthless now!) What if your water supply was dependent upon the whims of Verisign? (No, I don't want to hold, I've had no water for two weeks...hello?) Thanks, anyway, but I prefer the red tape and innefficancy of MY government to the greed and calousness of THEIR corporation any day of the week.
  • This is the crux of the problem of this sort of plan.

    Who is defined as 'we'? Do we just take everything to the lowest common denominator, and censor the rest? ( once its government control it qualifies as censorship )
  • by Pedrito ( 94783 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:35PM (#8218638)
    Governments are such good managers and because all the governments of the world get along so well, you can be sure they'll have no problems making progress on every need that arises. Oh yeah, this is simply a brilliant idea.

    I love the quote "It will be a network on which freedom of speech is guaranteed by law, not simply allowed because of technical decisions on network architecture made 30 years ago by a bunch of academic computer scientists." Yeah, I see China hopping right on board with this.

    And let's face it, rebuilding the internet from scratch, as he proposes, poses no real technical challenge. All we have to do is come up with a new set of standards and a new set of hardware and software that supports those standards. That'll only take a week or two, right? At a cost of maybe a few hundred dollars, right?

    This guy is clearly brilliant and sees things much clearer than "a bunch of academic computer scientists."
  • In the event of a globally united democracy this might be a good idea, but now: nah.
  • I wonder what he, a Briton, would think of turning it over to the French? Will he object when the Academie Francaise [] demands that he write his articles only in French?

    Chip H.
  • Who's Network? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hedgehogbrains ( 628646 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:45PM (#8218705)
    Bill Thompson says:
    The other approach, and it is one I favour - especially as the parent of two children who both use the net a lot - is to throw away today's network and build a new one, one which can be properly regulated.
    Problem is Bill - it's not your network! The network was built by countless engineers, investors, academics and interested users. These people sweated and sacrificed to build that which you take for granted. Sorry, but it's just none of your business. As an parent of two children - if you don't like it - pull the plug.
  • by btempleton ( 149110 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @01:32PM (#8219041) Homepage
    I working out a way to break up ICANN [] and allow lots of competing, innovating domain registrars, I designed the following way to allow the governing body to exist independent of any country [].

    No government would have the power to change its policies, other than by passing laws on its own citizens.
  • by senatorpjt ( 709879 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @01:41PM (#8219113)
    "We allow images of consensual sex in our cinemas, but not images of bestiality or child abuse. Why should the net be any different?"

    "Freddy Got Fingered" contained images of bestiality. I know there are tons of movies with images of child abuse.

    As for real-life bestiality or child abuse, there are already laws for that.

  • by heironymouscoward ( 683461 ) <[heironymouscoward] [at] []> on Sunday February 08, 2004 @01:45PM (#8219143) Journal
    Use their feedback form and let them know what you think. Be polite. Here is what I wrote:


    A poor article with several serious flaws.

    Firstly, it accepts without discussion the proposition that people are simply influenced by what they see on the Internet. This is far from obvious.

    Secondly, it pretends that the Internet is simple to change. This is hubris. The Internet has grown, not been built. There is a fundamental difference.

    Thirdly, it pretends that the Internet is a channel like cinema. It is not. It is fundamentally about individuals choosing protocols and applications with which to exchange ideas. The sheer force behind individual's desire to choose and control their personal communications with other individuals means that censoring the Internet is not just a bad idea, it is impossible.

    Responsible authors should not pretend that this is a simple matter of social and technical engineering. If the 20th century taught us one thing, it is that such projects fail, miserably, and often at great cost.

    Evils and evil people are a product of human nature and its many faces, not of the Internet. It would be more constructive to analyse how violent and dangerous individuals can be identified and isolated from the general population than to pretend that a simple tweaking of our communications infrastructure can eliminate this kind of tragedy.
  • consumers (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @02:32PM (#8219498) Homepage Journal
    ... not user-as-consumer."

    Which is exactly why don't want it in the hands of corporations or corporate bodies such as ICANN. By their very nature, they view everyone as one of
    * competitor
    * supplier
    * customer
    (sometimes more than one at a time)

  • who gets to vote (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ScottSpeaks! ( 707844 ) * on Sunday February 08, 2004 @03:28PM (#8219859) Homepage Journal
    The question betweeen governmental control (such as the UN) vs. corporate control (such as ICANN) ultimately comes down to their ultimate accountability. Politics and business both attract megalomaniacs and sleazeballs, because both are centers of power. So you have to look at how they operate: who they have to answer to.

    There's a lot of ways you can set each of them up, but the only fundamental difference is who those bodies are accountable to. Corporations are accountable to their shareholders. Governments are accountable to their citizens. The latter is based on the principle of one person, one vote; the former is based on the principle of one dollar*, one vote.

    I don't trust either kind of body, but I distrust governments less.

    *or equivalent in local currency

  • by lpontiac ( 173839 ) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @03:55PM (#8220022)

    ICANN has _nothing_ to do with what particular machines are able to serve. It's jurisdiction ends at what IP addresses a machine has, and the DNS.

    Seems we're once again dealing with political forces who simply don't understand that by design, that level of control over the internet simply does not exist.

Honesty pays, but it doesn't seem to pay enough to suit some people. -- F.M. Hubbard