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Core Internet Governing Bodies Ditch the US Government
October 12, 2013 8:42 AM   Subscribe

ICANN, IETF, W3C, IANA -- along with all regional name registries across the globe have decided to cede oversight and control by the US Government's Commerce Department. A new global multistakeholder Internet Cooperation is to be formed to take its place at the helm of Internet Governance. Press Release from ICANN, Internet Governance Project article

From the press release:

The Internet and World Wide Web have brought major benefits in social and economic development worldwide. Both have been built and governed in the public interest through unique mechanisms for global multistakeholder Internet cooperation, which have been intrinsic to their success. The leaders discussed the clear need to continually strengthen and evolve these mechanisms, in truly substantial ways, to be able to address emerging issues faced by stakeholders in the Internet.

In this sense:

They reinforced the importance of globally coherent Internet operations, and warned against Internet fragmentation at a national level. They expressed strong concern over the undermining of the trust and confidence of Internet users globally due to recent revelations of pervasive monitoring and surveillance.

They identified the need for ongoing effort to address Internet Governance challenges, and agreed to catalyze community-wide efforts towards the evolution of global multistakeholder Internet cooperation.

They called for accelerating the globalization of ICANN and IANA functions, towards an environment in which all stakeholders, including all governments, participate on an equal footing.

They also called for the transition to IPv6 to remain a top priority globally. In particular Internet content providers must serve content with both IPv4 and IPv6 services, in order to be fully reachable on the global Internet.
posted by ijoyner (37 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is interesting to me and after RTFA I sort of get what's going on. Would be interested to get a "What this means to the average internet user/ISP" look at it. TechCrunch has an odd "On the one hand, on the other hand" look at this and it seems like a lot of people agree that maybe it was about time but also that this is going to mean a great big quagmire for a while as people sort of how this will work. If anyone around here knows more about what sort of shuffling will actually be going on, I'd appreciate hearing about it.
posted by jessamyn at 8:52 AM on October 12, 2013


The nerd equivalent of pricing petroleum in Euro.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:00 AM on October 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


I too would love to hear an explanation of this in simple words - what effect is this likely to have for internet users?
posted by medusa at 9:05 AM on October 12, 2013


As long as they acknowledge that Al Gore invented it.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:29 AM on October 12, 2013


There's a big difference between "calling for" and actually doing it.

Fundamentally, the reason that ICANN, W3C, IETF and IANA are the core organizations of the Internet is that everyone agrees that they are the core organizations of the Internet. The reason they are funded by the US Commerce Department is, of course, because of the honest to god most important person in the development of the global Internet, Al Gore. He got the funding for them.

They started formalizing what was very much an ad-hocracy, and this made it possible to grow at the rates that it did. It didn't hurt that many of the core protocols came from US government funded programs, primarily from DARPA. It also didn't hurt that, as government funded, this meant that, by law, there could be no patent or copyright encumbrance.*. But they reason they have the job is they took the job and everyone agreed they could have the job so they have the job and if you wanted to play on the Internet you talked to them. Because. It is literally like that one guy in the office who knows how to make that one copier work. They just know, you just talk to them. No decision was made to make them the Copier Guy.

And, for years, they did a good job, why rock the boat? They worked, and the ultimate standard on the Internet has always been "Rough Consensus and Running Code." There were cracks, of course (XHMTL, anybody?) but in general, the Internet grew, and they acted neutrally and helped it grow.

Then 9/11 changed everything, and the US went batshitinsane. The world has become increasingly worried that the core standard bodies of the Internet are de facto arms of the US Government. This got worse over time.

The Snowden revelations -- where it is almost the exact literal case that the most batshitinsane raving looney posts about the NSA turn out to be the exact truth -- has mean the US has lost all credibility in this realm. So, the world wants the US out of this role, period, end of statement.

The problem. The reason they're in the role is everyone just sort of agreed to it. How do we get everyone to just sort of a agree to the new roleholder at the same time?


* This is why you can put all those cool NASA pics on your web page. If you're a US taxpayer, you paid to take them, so you can use them. If you're not...well, you can use them anyway. Note: You can't use the NASA meatball or worm logos at will -- those are specifically protected.
posted by eriko at 9:30 AM on October 12, 2013 [49 favorites]


Wait, isn't this a big deal? 5 comments?!?

The nerd equivalent of pricing petroleum in Euro.

...yeah, so why isn't EVERYONE FREAKING OUT?
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 9:39 AM on October 12, 2013


Nerds sleep in on Saturdays and it's not totally clear from the two linked articles exactly whether this is just a shot over the bow or whether it will materially change the way the internet functions and/or is funded.
posted by jessamyn at 9:46 AM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


They called for accelerating the globalization of ICANN and IANA functions, towards an environment in which all stakeholders, including all governments, participate on an equal footing.

This is not new news. It's not even five years ago news. Nor ten years ago. Come to think of it it's sort of 1995 news.

Someone may correct me and point out that it's actually 1990 news, but I'm sticking with 1995.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:55 AM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


wow, this is big. I'm sure this did not come out of the blue, tho; I'm not looking forward to seeing how the US Government responds.
posted by rebent at 9:56 AM on October 12, 2013


I'm not looking forward to seeing how the US Government responds.

I believe the Commerce Department is shut down. Party!
posted by stbalbach at 9:59 AM on October 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


...yeah, so why isn't EVERYONE FREAKING OUT?

Remember how the United Nations solved the problem of world peace and stability forever, and stopped powerful countries from doing whatever the hell they please?
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:01 AM on October 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Know about technology, don't know too much about the organizational politics.

I see no short-term effect for Internet users. They're mostly talking about governance. The technical change they talk about is IPv4 -> IPv6, which is long overdue in general. IPv6 would make the Internet work better, but the change itself would not particularly change anything most users interact with regularly. I can imagine some services people might build that become much easier with IPv6 but nothing too crazy.

But yeah this seems like a big deal. Internet declaration of independence FTW.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 10:01 AM on October 12, 2013


This call for independence is a long time coming. Reading the release it seems the Snowden revelations this summer was the final kick in the ass to get it going.

Internet governance is mostly a joke. It took a ridiculous number of years to approve even a terrible system for international domain names and then we also have the travesty which is the expansion of the top level domains. And all the real protocol work is still done as rough consensus. Still, I worry that some meeting-happy international committee is going to overdesign and overdebate and consensus their way into an enormous slowdown of the development of core Internet agreements.

The center of the Internet is moving to China over time any way, maybe none of this matters.
posted by Nelson at 10:02 AM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Ignore and abandon" rather than cede right?
posted by vapidave at 10:03 AM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


And this is a good thing.
posted by vapidave at 10:06 AM on October 12, 2013


I'm not looking forward to seeing how the US Government responds.

The same way they respond to other signs that the USA is in decline? The Internet is a big concept. Very big. To be the de facto home of the Internet is a very, very prestigious thing. That the nerds would seriously think of spending time and resources getting out of America speaks volumes.

I was just reading about border agencies that drive away foreigners. And surveillance that makes everybody distrust Uncle Sam. And shutting down the government because the law makers cannot agree (one side wants to bankrupt the state, the other side wants poor people to just die). And don't get me started on drones killing civilians. The US government seems clueless about its reputation. Does it not understand the concept of soft power?? "prestige" and "honor" and "admiration" are not just words. They are more powerful than guns and secret police. To the US Govt, reputation seems like empty words, or something to buy with loose change after you've paid for the things that matter: personal careers and bombs.

Yesterday I heard that the Statue of Liberty, closed down by the central government, is now being paid for on a local level. The people on the ground get it. Central government does not.
posted by EnterTheStory at 10:10 AM on October 12, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm a nerd with some understanding of the organizational stuff, and I'm mostly holding my breath to see what happens.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:11 AM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


the Internet could have kept its center of gravity here, with our First Amendment and burgeoning Internet industry.

I've heard people on this very site express the fine neoliberal sentiment that the First Amendment is either outdated or somehow the opposite of what it is and therefore a tool of oppression, so...
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:28 AM on October 12, 2013


the First Amendment is either outdated or somehow the opposite of what it is and therefore a tool of oppression

There's an argument to be made that the way the First Amendment is used and enforced in the US actually, in practice, has some chilling effects on speech of otherwise underrepresented voices and viewpoints.

The US has a sort of unusual view of free speech in which corporate speech is protected to a large degree legally but showing a nipple on television is somehow the cause for alarm and massive fines and censures of the parties involved, including groveling forced apologies and all the rest.

My feeling, as it applies to this issue, is that the US wants to support its own version of free speech in which corporations are people and they retain the same rights to freedom of expression as individuals and in which privacy is secondary (at least) to these free speech rights. I may be being super cynical, but I don't really see the US's "We have to support free speech at all costs and that is why we have to be at the center of this!" cry to be anything more than, for the most part, catering towards political and business interests, not actual underrepresented or oppressed minority viewpoints or voices in the US and worldwide.
posted by jessamyn at 10:36 AM on October 12, 2013 [18 favorites]


I don't really see the US's "We have to support free speech at all costs and that is why we have to be at the center of this!" cry to be anything more than, for the most part, catering towards political and business interests, not actual underrepresented or oppressed minority viewpoints or voices in the US and worldwide.

Surely this.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:24 AM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is why you can put all those cool NASA pics on your web page. If you're a US taxpayer, you paid to take them, so you can use them. If you're not...well, you can use them anyway.

Oh, if only the BBC had that idea....

EnterTheStory: (one side wants to bankrupt the state, the other side wants poor people to just die)

Wait, what? I think your sides are mixed up there, sir.

Yesterday I heard that the Statue of Liberty, closed down by the central government, is now being paid for on a local level.

Like local governments have a lot of cash to spend for this kind of thing. We need federal government for a lot of things. Your characterizing all this as a failure of The Government is an attempt to shift the blame for this from the Tea Party and John Boehner. THOSE entities are to blame, and those signs should be affixed to their backs until the end of time.

Back to the subject: the questions remain of who will pay the internet standards bodies. Not being beholden to a national government is good and all, but who will pay them? And what's to stop whoever does pay them from exerting their own influence, either purposefully or accidentally? If it's themselves, with revenue garnered from fees gained through their operation, what's to stop them from making their governance of the internet a de facto for-profit operation, akin to the US patent office, who many agree has jumped the rails and is issuing patents for many stupid things for the simple reason that their funding derives from how many patents they issue?

The drive for money ruins many things. I can't shake the feeling that this is going to cause problems down the line, although it certainly is important to get out from under the NSA's thumb.
posted by JHarris at 11:25 AM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't really see the US's "We have to support free speech at all costs and that is why we have to be at the center of this!" cry to be anything more than, for the most part, catering towards political and business interests, not actual underrepresented or oppressed minority viewpoints or voices in the US and worldwide.

I have to disagree. The American value of free speech is so embedded in our culture that it doesn't even need to be invoked most of the time. It's a big deal when free speech gets challenged.

Consider as an alternative Thailand, where people can and do get sentenced to ten years in prison for insulting the king. Both Mother Jones and Fox News would last about a day and a half, and regardless of our view of either that offends us.

That's not to say that political and business interests are not represented, it's that our cultural interest in free speech is much more basic than either of those. An Internet governing body that censored free speech at all, even a single word, would be unacceptable to Americans.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:52 AM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I can't shake the feeling that this is going to cause problems down the line, although it certainly is important to get out from under the NSA's thumb.

I doubt that would be a result. Not only is the NSA's charter global, but they would continue to set all the standards used by the U.S. government and anyone who wanted to do business with them.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:55 AM on October 12, 2013


Your characterizing all this as a failure of The Government is an attempt to shift the blame for this from the Tea Party and John Boehner. THOSE entities are to blame,


No, I want to shift the blame to principles and away from people.
posted by EnterTheStory at 12:38 PM on October 12, 2013


It's a big deal when free speech gets challenged.

The problem isn't the challenging of free speech. The problem is the obscuring of certain points of view to the benefit of the rich and powerful.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:55 PM on October 12, 2013


Back to the subject: the questions remain of who will pay the internet standards bodies. Not being beholden to a national government is good and all, but who will pay them?

Whoever emerges to fund standards efforts may well end up being less accountable to the average user than the U.S. government -- not, of course, that the U.S. was ever a shining example of international accountability.

What recourse do we have if one of the Internet standards bodies ends up more accountable to global corporations than to any government? The recent decision by the W3C to continue considering adopting DRM as part of HTML5 does not inspire confidence that a multi-stakeholder Internet Corporation would be immune to commercial pressure.

I agree that it is well past time that Internet governance became truly international, but it is by no means guaranteed that this will result in any more protection against the national and corporate interests that do not desire unfettered networks.
posted by metaquarry at 1:24 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Maybe I could learn how to be a truck driver. Anybody have the number of that truck-driving school we saw on TV? Truck Master, I think it is. I might need that.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:38 PM on October 12, 2013


The US government seems clueless about its reputation. Does it not understand the concept of soft power?? "prestige" and "honor" and "admiration" are not just words.

The elites profiting from the cybersecurity industry and the surveillance state do not view themselves as Americans in any meaningful way, and haven't for some time. Their money and their allegiances are stateless, and the world's goodwill toward the US - like the middle class - are just another vestige of the postwar era for them to mine in pursuit of personal profit.
posted by ryanshepard at 2:54 PM on October 12, 2013 [4 favorites]




Then 9/11 changed everything, and the US went batshitinsane.

That's the most compact yet undistorted reduction of the last decade I can imagine. Goodgawdyall.

To add a couple of thoughts: 1) The US has gone batshitinsane several times in the past half-century; much of that time not many people noticed, and they actually got away clean. 2) This time, THE INTERNET. This ENORMOUSLY BRILLIANT spotlight came on. Cockroaches running in every direction, ever since.

I approve, glad to see this happening, and finally note: one man has changed the world. Again.

"Give me a fulcrum and a place to stand—and I will move the world."
posted by Twang at 4:05 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


In the present climate of distrust, the apparent momentum of international sentiment was in the direction of balkanization, which would have been a terrible tragedy. This is much to be preferred.

The main question in my mind is whether this move will create a better or worse climate for corporatization. I'm really unsure. But I look at the WTO and I am not encouraged.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:07 PM on October 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


As long as it doesn't impact my kremvax.su account, I'm ok with it.
posted by radwolf76 at 5:51 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


EnterTheStory: No, I want to shift the blame to principles and away from people.

You can't. I'm sorry, but it won't work. Terrible systems filled with good enough people can be made to work -- it might not be pretty, but it can happen. And the best system in the world, run by self-serving Machiavellian monsters and backed up by a thoughtlessly loyal cadre of idiots, will fail. A system itself has no moral capacity; it's always the people who fill in the roles of the system, if the rot is in the minds of the people, there is no saving the system.
posted by JHarris at 6:07 PM on October 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


There are many nations with free speech traditions that exceed our First Amendment in practice. Also, American and British copyright police have been the worst abusers of the DNS system :
The Registrars Who Shut Down Websites For City Of London Police Violated ICANN Policy
Why Isn't ICANN Speaking Out Against ICE/DOJ Domain Seizures?     etc.   etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:29 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


"The US has a sort of unusual view of free speech in which corporate speech is protected to a large degree legally but showing a nipple on television is somehow the cause for alarm and massive fines and censures of the parties involved, including groveling forced apologies and all the rest. "

That nipple thing is a vestigial holdover from the idea that because the broadcast spectrum is public property, it's OK to regulate that in the public interest, which includes content restrictions (in the same way that wandering around pantsless in a national park will get you some awkward interactions with rangers).

I don't necessarily agree with where those standards are set, and there's been a huge abandonment of the idea of airwaves as public trust while cable is nominally unregulated except it's big fucked-up municipal monopolies that probably should have more public interest restrictions (in general, not just content).

As to the broader point about corporate speech: "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one," A.J. Liebling.
posted by klangklangston at 11:10 PM on October 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's only tangentially related to the broad topic of Internet Governance, but here's a proposal from Deutsche Telekom to shield local internet traffic from foreign governments and agencies.
posted by antonymous at 9:08 AM on October 13, 2013


This is, of course, the first step in the long and arduous process of the IETF taking over the United Nations.

(thanks, Charlie)
posted by nickzoic at 6:54 PM on October 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


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