I put “regulate” in quotation marks, because it’s probably the kindest word that could apply to the censorship, big-brothering, suppression, and brainwashing that are the real goals of this unsettling endeavor.
The Internet is perhaps the most efficiently democratic tool mankind has ever had at its disposal to share information and ideas, conduct business quickly across the globe, and participate in a worldwide forum of free speech — which pretty adequately explains why certain of the world’s actors would really prefer it if we could just clamp down on the whole thing.
The Internet works so well because there’s no one entity controlling it from the top down; it’s made up of countless independent moving parts that come together without a ton of exterior effort or control. You can imagine the hindrances that adding global bureaucracy to the mix would impose, but that’s exactly what a big handful of United Nations members (a.k.a. China, Russia, Iran, and other repressive regimes not particularly fond of free thought) are hoping to accomplish.
Next week, the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is planning a conference in Dubai to update treaty arrangements for international communications, at which certain member states will float ideas to tighten control of the web across national borders with things like international Internet fees and expanded eavesdropping powers. Gordon Crovitz in the WSJ explains why this is a thoroughly terrible idea:
Having the Internet rewired by bureaucrats would be like handing a Stradivarius to a gorilla. The Internet is made up of 40,000 networks that interconnect among 425,000 global routes, cheaply and efficiently delivering messages and other digital content among more than two billion people around the world, with some 500,000 new users a day. …
The self-regulating Internet means no one has to ask for permission to launch a website, and no government can tell network operators how to do their jobs. The arrangement has made the Internet a rare place of permissionless innovation. As former Federal Communications Commission Chairman William Kennard recently pointed out, 90% of cooperative “peering” agreements among networks are “made on a handshake,” adjusting informally as needs change.
Proposals for the new ITU treaty run to more than 200 pages. One idea is to apply the ITU’s long-distance telephone rules to the Internet by creating a “sender-party-pays” rule. International phone calls include a fee from the originating country to the local phone company at the receiving end. Under a sender-pays approach, U.S.-based websites would pay a local network for each visitor from overseas, effectively taxing firms such as Google and Facebook.
Yes, no doubt that many of the planet’s worst players would just love it if it became too expensive for Google, etcetera to serve foreign visitors and hence their citizens were effectively denied access to these sites — but Google sure as heck wouldn’t.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) will be holding its World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai next month — and Google contends that Internet censorship might be on the agenda. The Mountain View, Calif.-based search giant has launched an online campaign to express its fear that the conference could freeze both tech companies and billions of users out of the Web governance process. The result, Google asserts, could allow governments and select companies to restrict how citizens access and use the Web.
How frighteningly backwards is it that this is even a thing? It never ceases to amaze me that we continue to financially prop up and supportively legitimize an organization that isn’t committed to peace, justice, and human rights so much as it is the interests of its member states. The moral relativists at the United Nations are not-so-subtly shooting for a globalist, progressive bureaucracy, and they constantly use it as a platform to deign to lecture us on our policies on climate change, firearms, free elections, etcetera. If the United Nations were really about promoting freedom and prosperity, the very idea of this kind of Internet regulation would be laughed off the stage — but it isn’t, and that is deeply disturbing.