As a United Nations summit on the Internet next week in Tunisia nears, last-minute politicking is on the rise. On Thursday, for instance, tech companies held an event in Washington to back the Internet status quo.
Then, in an opinion article published in the Washington Post on Saturday, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan tried to play down worries about greater control of the Internet by an international bureaucratic body.
"The United Nations wants only to ensure the Internet's global reach, and that effort is at the heart of this summit," Annan said.
He added: "Governance of matters related to the Internet, such as spam and cybercrime, is being dealt with in a dispersed and fragmented manner, while the Internet's infrastructure has been managed in an informal but effective collaboration among private businesses, civil society and the academic and technical communities. But developing countries find it difficult to follow all these processes and feel left out of Internet governance structures.
And: "Everyone acknowledges the need for more international participation in discussions of Internet governance. The disagreement is over how to achieve it. So let's set aside fears of U.N. 'designs' on the Internet. Much as some would like to open up another front of attack on the United Nations, this dog of an argument won't bark."
Not all the nations participating in the event -- called the World Summit on the Information Society have been as diplomatic as the U.N. chief.
Here are some excerpts from a transcript from an earlier meeting in Geneva.
Syria: "There's more and more spam every day. Who are the victims? Developing and least-developed countries, too. There is no serious intention to stop this spam by those who are the transporters of the spam, because they benefit...The only solution is for us to buy equipment from the countries which send this spam in order to deal with spam. However, this, we believe, is not acceptable."
China: "We feel that the public policy issue of Internet should be solved jointly by the sovereign states in the U.N. framework...For instance, spam, network security and cyberspace--we should look for an appropriate specialized agency of the United Nations as a competent body."
Ghana: "There was unanimity for the need for an additional body...This body would therefore address all issues relating to the Internet within the confines of the available expertise which would be anchored at the U.N."
Russia, Brazil and Iran also have published statements saying that no "single government" should have a "pre-eminent role" in terms of Internet governance.