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Microsoft The Almighty Buck

Is Microsoft Paying To Influence UN Standards? 298

PizzaFace writes "Microsoft is reported to be spending strategically to influence the United Nations' standards for business data exchange. A UN standards-setting body, UN/CEFACT, and an industry-standards group, OASIS, had developed an open standard format for data interchange, called ebXML. Microsoft hired two people from UN/CEFACT, and a few months later the body decided to stop working on ebXML and instead to work on a Business Collaboration Framework for web services, promoted by Microsoft and IBM. Microsoft then paid for three UN committee members to travel to six countries to promote the BCF."
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Is Microsoft Paying To Influence UN Standards?

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  • yes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dillusionary ( 675442 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @08:35AM (#8361200)
    Yes. They pay to influence the USA standards; don't you think they pay them too?
  • If you believe so (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gazbo ( 517111 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @08:36AM (#8361211)
    Then don't you think the real heart of the problem is that the standards boards consist of people of such negotiable ethics and opinions?
  • by elfguy00 ( 749978 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @08:38AM (#8361220)
    It's $1 billon. So yes I think this may be true.
  • duh. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gTsiros ( 205624 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @08:38AM (#8361222)
    "Is Microsoft Paying To Influence UN Standards?"

    Uh... Yes it does?
    How is this surprising?

    Next /. story headline:

    "microsoft's business malpractices."

    come on...
  • Weird (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bored_SuSE_user ( 701483 ) * on Monday February 23, 2004 @08:40AM (#8361227) Homepage Journal
    The article mentions that the work on the Open XML standard was complete and their website shows that this standard will be used in the 'Business Colloboration Model' where is the problem?
    The site doesn't mention Windows or Windows-based systems anywhere, nor does it mention Microsoft. With IBM so heavily supporting *nix based systems, I doubt MS can wriggle their way into making the standards supported only on their platform, otherwise it's not really a standard....

  • Profit! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BenBenBen ( 249969 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @08:42AM (#8361233)
    Shocker! Big business spends money to try and make more money! And some of the spending is a little grey, ethically and morally speaking!

    Isn't this supposed to be a news site?

    This is not flamebait or trolling (and these are not the droids you seek). This is commentary, done in a sarcastic tone. Posting tiny examples of the prevalence of corporate influence in our world is a waste of time.
  • Re:yes (Score:2, Insightful)

    by eldacan ( 726222 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @08:42AM (#8361238)
    What I think is that WE pay to influence USA/EU standards. It's just a bit more perverse, since everytime we buy Windows/Office whatever our payments go to Microsoft instead of USE/EU governments/organizations...
  • by Jotaigna ( 749859 ) <> on Monday February 23, 2004 @08:44AM (#8361241) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft and senior UN officials reply that the accusation is false, saying that the company's contributions were relatively modest, complied with UN guidelines and did not unduly influence decision-making within the body. .

    Like they ever would say something like "yes we are behaving like corrupt colombian Mobsters". Standars are always a wrestling match between companies trying to impose their technology, who doesnt want everyone to need what you created and know best how to do!.
  • UN (Score:3, Insightful)

    by millahtime ( 710421 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @08:45AM (#8361250) Homepage Journal
    "...influence the USA standards..."

    The UN isn't just USA but the United Nations made up of well over 100 countries. Much bigger field to influence.
  • by Mulletproof ( 513805 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @08:49AM (#8361264) Homepage Journal
    "Is Microsoft Paying To Influence UN Standards?"

    In case you haven't noticed, the UN is everybodies bitch lately.
  • Lobbyism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by broothal ( 186066 ) <> on Monday February 23, 2004 @08:53AM (#8361281) Homepage Journal
    Please enlighten me as to why this is news? This happens every day! It's called lobbying. Is it because it's the mother of all evil megacorps that's doing the lobbying?

    Here's wikipedia's [] definition of lobyism.
  • by mirio ( 225059 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @08:56AM (#8361293)
    This is not especially surprising, considering the number of large businesses that lobby and otherwise bride their way through government.

    I know you are probably just writing about the long arm of Microsoft's loot, but it is important to note that the UN is NOT a government entity. It is a forum for governments to sit down and collaborate on various issues. It has no authority (thank God). It doesn't make laws (thanks again, God).
  • by millahtime ( 710421 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @08:57AM (#8361297) Homepage Journal
    Is the UN really much of a controlling body anymore. The more time goes on the more it is shown to be ineffective. Does anyone really listen to them anymore?
  • by Reinout ( 4282 ) <> on Monday February 23, 2004 @08:58AM (#8361299) Homepage
    Reading the article (yes, I did :-), it didn't seem so clear-cut to me. In the article, ebxml and bcf are placed in front of eachother as direct competitors.

    From an ebXML Business Process Specification Schema [] announcement and a BCF faq [] I figured that ebxml provides a number of services (like repositories) and a number of high-level xml specifications.

    The first item, services, seems to do some of the same things as soap, uddl, etc, the webservices stuff (1). This seems to be the major area where IBM and MS try to convince people to use their (webservices) solutions instead of the ebxml solutions.

    The second item , the high-level xml specifications, seems to lack a few things that weren't included in ebxml proper, like the "UN/CEFACT Modeling Methodology -- Meta Model". These (or solutions based on it) are now developed separately by the UN under the name of BCF. But this is more of a layer building upon the existing ebxml work.

    So: ebxml's services see some flak from webservices (ibm+ms) and the UN acknowledges that this is a possible alternative implementation. On the other hand, the UN builds upon ebxml by adding the BCF layer, making it more useful.

    At least, that's my guess from the info!


    p.s. 1): for REST-proponents: I like the REST approach more than the SOAP one :-)
  • by theolein ( 316044 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @08:58AM (#8361300) Journal
    I'm known for my rather critical attitude towards the US but if there was a general opinion that MS was buying favour with US politicians then I think it will be a lot worse in the international sphere as the price of a third world ignoramus sitting in some UN committe panel is certainly not higher than that of a corrupt US politician.
  • by Elvisisdead ( 450946 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @09:03AM (#8361321) Homepage Journal
    Agreed that this is not surprising. There are tons of lobbying groups that do this kind of thing every year. One of the bigger trips each year is the "Korea trip" for congressional aides.

    Essentially, the S. Korean chamber of commerce gets together and flies around 20 staffers over for 10 days in 5 star hotels, and all-expenses paid fun. Sure, they tour some factories and hear some presentations, but it's mainly a free vacation. Lots of companies/lobbying gropus do similar trips within the US, as well. Sugar cane growers will take staffers to south Florida. The tobacco lobby takes folks to resorts in NC. The military lets military issues staffers stay on board aircraft carriers, etc.

    In this particular instance, MS is playing by the well-established rules for this type of thing.
  • by vandenh ( 224583 ) <> on Monday February 23, 2004 @09:04AM (#8361324) Homepage
    Maybe you haven't noticed, but these kind of things happen ALL the time. Sadly it is called "Capitalism" and your new found anger at MS is a bit misplaced here. Start with being angry at politicains for introducing this kind of behavior and accepting money to drive the whims of big cooperations.
  • It's Dead, Jim. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 23, 2004 @09:06AM (#8361331)
    The world is in open moral collapse - not to mention denial.

    Same as it always was, really, but with scantier drapes.

    And no-one seems interested in ( i.e.: scared into ) checks and balances of any sort.

    The even minimally ethical, with hope or intent for an even minimally decent future for humanity, or the world, have less places to gather in (on, around) - or hide.

    Raw, naked, ruthless, mindless, hell-bent power seems to the order of the day. Klingons with corny western accents, eh ? Well, well. Who'd a thunk it ? And everyone's welcoming them like there was no tomorry, too. >:-|
  • maybe the UN... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ajagci ( 737734 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @09:11AM (#8361361)
    shouldn't get involved in the definition of XML standards at all. After all, we already have several excellent international, neutral standards bodies that worry about this sort of thing.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 23, 2004 @09:12AM (#8361364)
    Which is why I've always wondered why the States has such a big problem with them. It's been known for decades that the States has the best Government money can buy
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 23, 2004 @09:13AM (#8361369)
    You guys are all up in arms about how Microsoft is corrupting the process and buying people. But I think that misses the point. Why is the UN working on international business practices? Who asked them to? Why do we need it?

    The UN should work on foster better relations between countries. They should work on eliminating all WMDs (even those in the first world) They should cure hunger and famine and disesase and educate the world. They should work toward universal human rights. And when they have accomlished that, disband.

    We don't need a world body to help business, they can do that perfectly well on their own. And to do so, only opens up the possibility of corruption with no concievable gain. Why is even as single penny of UN money or a single second of UN time going to this effort when much more pressing needs exist?

  • by bob670 ( 645306 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @09:13AM (#8361370)
    obvious, expected, business as usual, not worhty of a headline, etc... But I think it's worthwhile to point this stuff out, software companies influencing political bodies are bad for everyone, equally bad are political bodies controlling software, think of it as a desperately needed techno-geek seperation of church and state. Maybe if people would take this more serioulsy instead of accepting that this is "the way it is" things might change.
  • by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @09:15AM (#8361378)
    Why do we need a standard set by the UN anyway?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 23, 2004 @09:17AM (#8361390)
    Remember - The U.N. does not answer to any voter in the world. Instead, the U.N. answers to... politicians!

    That's why the U.N. is such a thoroughly corrupted entity. The U.N. enjoys a multi-billion dollar budget that is in theory controlled by the governments of a few large country... but in reality, the politicians from those country come and go, and in the end, the U.N. does not really answer to any one.

    Lack of oversight over a multibillion dollar budget... yeah! That's the ticket!

    Look a this Wall Street Journal article about Kofi Annan deep-sixing the corruption investigation of his best-buddy at the U.N. (Annan's Assistant Secretary General & friend Benon Sevan pocketed millions from Irak). w0dDykJ: 7s+Global+Payroll&hl=en&ie=UTF-8
  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @09:21AM (#8361410)
    It's not that it's surprising that Microsoft would be buying influence at the UN; most of the member states are headed by kleptocratic governments whose first question is "How much for me?" Even when the governments aren't fatally corrupt, payoffs are the way to get things done in most places the UN represents.

    That MS is playing by those rules isn't surprising at all, and I'm sure the Bush adminstration is rooting for standards tied to corporate interests and IP as well.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 23, 2004 @09:32AM (#8361454)
    Well, it's the only comparable international organisation we have got with at least some credibility. To most people in the world, that's pretty important. That certainly doesn't mean we shouldn't give them a kick in the arse when they dont behave.
  • by ceejayoz ( 567949 ) <> on Monday February 23, 2004 @09:37AM (#8361472) Homepage Journal
    I love how Slashdot manages to turn a $1 billion donation into an evil thing.

    How much money have you donated to help promote Linux education in the developing world?
  • by mirio ( 225059 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @09:49AM (#8361535)
    Sadly it is called "Capitalism" and your new found anger at MS is a bit misplaced here.

    You're wrong. It's called corruption when industry interferes with or influences government. Capitalism is the belief that if something is needed, people will provide it for a price and those that need it will pay the best price to get it from those who have it.
  • by millahtime ( 710421 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @09:51AM (#8361550) Homepage Journal
    "Is the UN much of a controlling body anymore? Not while it's being abused and misused by US policymakers."

    Lets be honest. It isn't just being misused by US policymakers. There are many other countries misusing it too.
  • Wasted money (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ncaHammer ( 518236 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @09:54AM (#8361562)
    Why MS is paying for something they will not follow after voted?
  • Re:yes, why not? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nycsubway ( 79012 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @09:56AM (#8361569) Homepage
    I worked for an insurance company when it was in the process of merging with a bank in the largest merger in history in the US. The merged company became Citigroup. The only problem with the merger was that there were laws preventing insurance companies from merging with banks.

    As the merger went along, the attitude was that 'were waiting to get the appropriate legislation passed'. It was very matter of fact, that they knew the laws were going to change to allow them to merge... because they changed them!

    Big companies have influence!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 23, 2004 @10:02AM (#8361596)
    "So we fix the plumbing while our ship plunges into the sun?"
    "Better that then do nothing!"

    Those are, for the most part (not everyone in international relations agrees that WMD is a major problem in the first world), big problems that you've listed. Unfortunately, many of them are also intractable problems - otherwise they would have been solved decades ago. Focusing on the "major" issues to the exclusion of everything else isn't always the best way to go.

    Look at it this way: yes, Al-Qaeda is a huge problem. But so is the serial killer, the counterfeiting ring, the petty thief. So is elementary school education, smog, traffic. The city parks need to be kept clean, and the roads aren't just going to maintain themselves.

    The world is full of problems, big and small, and solely focusing on crisis management - ignoring small issues until they grow into big enough problems - isn't necessarily the best way to go about doing things.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 23, 2004 @10:05AM (#8361620)
    If the only thing that money is used for is to pay off some corrupt politicans, then that donation is evil. And most often when it comes to MS then they donate software which almost doesn't cost them a dime.
  • by Dr. Evil ( 3501 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @10:09AM (#8361645)


    Attempted analogy: a donation from Microsoft builds dependency much in the same way as a drug dealer builds dependency. The recipient would be better off getting nothing, instead building self-sufficiency with free software technologies.

    Donating to free software is IMHO far more valuable.

  • by scruffy ( 29773 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @10:24AM (#8361739)
    IBM has had some experience with trying to impose a proprietary standard when there a good, open one. Anybody remember IBM's token rings?
  • by klosskorban ( 560039 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @10:34AM (#8361817) Homepage
    How much has Linux Offered?? Hello! Think about it, They have offered everything! Free now, free later take all you want, displace $500 billion in proprietary software if you want no problem, its still free, while your there take a little more, no problem, want some more ? sure help yourself.

  • by kisak ( 524062 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @10:38AM (#8361850) Homepage Journal
    UN is doing a lot of good, but boring work all over the world. Things like bring in food where there is shortage, educating about AIDS, or having conferences where they try to discuss and resolve issues before they become big problems. They are also engaged in hot spots where the UN staff are risking their life everyday (Iraq is the biggest mass murder of UN staff, but each year all over the world UN staff are killed while on duty). This, even though they don't carry arms and try to be neutral. Iraq is a good example of the UN staffs dangers, where they are seen as US lackeys by parts of the Iraq population, while they are despised by the neo-cons and actively undermined by the current US administration. Fought by both sides that they try to help.
    My wife worked for the U.N. in Africa for 5 years and saw first hand the corruption.

    Corruption is a huge problem all over Africa. It is a common phenomena in under-developed nations were business laws are weak. It is even found on a large scale in some very developed countries (France and Italy are good examples, while USA has its fair share). Corruption comes in many disguises, from money under the table, to advanced lawyer set up money schemes.

    Now, what did your "wife" see? And this corruption she saw, was it UN staff taking money illegally? If she has some good example or even proofs of this, I am sure many neo-cons wants to hear about it. The UN is one of the more scrutinized organizations in the world and any proof of misconduct will be used against it.

    You sound like a true astro-turfer to me and I doubt you or your family have worked inside the UN. Remember that the U.N.s Oil for Food program was set up by the USA after the first Gulf war and the UN did the best it could with the rules for the program set down. And it seems to have worked pretty well in the way that Saddam was not able to get new or maintain his old WMD. It was so successful [] that Saddam spend all his energy trying to undermind the program. Now, show some proof instead of neo-con hate speech that the Oil for food program was a UN and France conspiracy. And please, add some more substance to your FUD about UN in Africa. I am sure your "wife" can give some concrete examples.

  • by kisak ( 524062 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @10:53AM (#8361960) Homepage Journal
    Is the UN really much of a controlling body anymore. The more time goes on the more it is shown to be ineffective. Does anyone really listen to them anymore?

    If the UN is so irrelevant and ineffective, why is the Bush administration begging the UN [] to clean up the election mess of the administration in Iraq? It is not like it is much at stake for them, just the re-election chances of chimp.

  • Re:It's Dead, Jim. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bhima ( 46039 ) <> on Monday February 23, 2004 @10:57AM (#8361986) Journal
    I forget who said "Any respectable man is ashamed of his government"
  • Re:UN activities (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rduke15 ( 721841 ) <rduke15@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Monday February 23, 2004 @10:59AM (#8362001)
    The bulk of any large organization's workforce are paper pushers

    What you call "paper pushers", and what they call (according to your good link []) "Administration" etc. is indeed the main role of the UN. "Peace keeping" after wars and such is a lot of administration, management, logistics, police, ...

    I was in Cambodia when they were organizing the first real elections after Pol Pot. Nobody was starving, and there was no need for emergency aid like food distribution (there was and still is need for medical care though). The job was to set up fair elections, and that certainly wasn't easy.

    I don't know how the food situation is in East Timor, but I suspect that there also, food is not the main problem. The difficulty is helping to set up a decent civilian administration to run the country after decades of war.

    etc. in other places.

    What I want to say is that you cannot dismiss the work the UN does on the ground that it is "paper pushers" work. That's the work they are supposed to be doing. Now I'm sure there are many examples where it is badly done, or in an inefficient way, but from what I've seen they also definitely do manage to get good work done.

    And even more direct emergency help like for refugees requires a lot of administrative office work.
  • So? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dada21 ( 163177 ) <> on Monday February 23, 2004 @11:02AM (#8362019) Homepage Journal
    Problems like these aren't resolved by preventing payoffs by "big business" or even by "a rich individual." Problems such as these are resolved by limiting the power of the elected official.

    The UN has too much power. When you offer a person or a group of people, aka "elected officials" too much power, they'll be corrupted easily.

    In the US, we used to have a really limited federal/central government. You could throw all the money you wanted at a Congressman or a President, but the Constitution limited them from doing anything to help you. Our great tyrant, Abe Lincoln, changed all that.

    Just as the power of the US federals has spiraled out of control, so has the power of the UN. The more power we offer them, the more money will pay for the whims of the wealthy.

    Greens, Democrats, Republicans, they all love the UN. They may say they don't, but while the UN swallows up more and more responsibility, do you really ever see even one of our elected officials tell us to get out of the UN?

    There is one. Ron Paul [].

  • by matt[0] ( 12351 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @11:05AM (#8362046) Homepage Journal
    The UN Centre for Trade Facilitation formed a partnership with OASIS in 1999 or 2000 for the purpose of creating a new e-Business lingua franca. The idea is that it can help the successful industrial nations AS WELL as the impoverished third world nations through providing non-proprietary systems design.

    Most of us that worked within UN/CEFACT did so at our own, or our employers expense. We even paid fees to attend the meetings. So, at the end of the day the UN is spending diddly squat on this effort and it involved mostly to endorse the standards track.
  • by ceejayoz ( 567949 ) <> on Monday February 23, 2004 @11:42AM (#8362385) Homepage Journal
    Sure, Linux provides free software. How much money to educate people in the developing world to use it?
  • by geoswan ( 316494 ) on Monday February 23, 2004 @03:35PM (#8365007) Journal
    Maybe ordinary human beings fill standards boards. Ordinary human beings have great powers of rationalization. Without the benefit of clear standards and some training most ordinary human beings slip into practices that could be categorized as corrupt...

    How does this happen? The opportunity that presents itself doesn't seem like a bribe. It seems like an opportunity that would otherwise go to waste.

    Let me give an example. About a dozen years ago I was the (volunteer) treasurer of a non-profit organization. As such I chaired the Finance committee (also volunteers). We banked at the Metro Credit Union, an institution like a bank, except you become a (voting) member, not a client, when you open your account. The Credit Union offered a "member appreciation dinner" to all members who attended the Annual General Meeting. And my organization was allowed to send one member.

    As Treasurer I could have attended without any paperwork. But I was already a member of the Credit Union, in my personal capacity. To delegate someone else required the signature of two members of my organization's Board of Directors.

    Well, the Finance Committee could have discussed who could attend, and the Board could have discussed who could attend. But they only met once a month, so the President and I had a brief informal meeting, and she agreed to sign the document, allowing a buddy of mine, who sat on the Finance Committee to go.

    Small potatoes, but that is how corruption starts. You are not behaving corruptly, you are making sure something doesn't go to waste.

    So, those in positions where they can be tempted need written standards, that spell out what is allowed and what isn't.

    I believe, in America, public office holders are not allowed to accept gifts worth more than $50. It clearly hasn't stopped them from having some very corrupt politicians. Starting with George Washington []. Although Kitman's two books, George Washington's Expense Account and The Making of the President, 1789 are written in a humourous tone they do expose some very nasty corruption.

Make it myself? But I'm a physical organic chemist!