November 18, 2005 5:57 AM PST

Cuba, Iran lash out at Internet freedom

TUNIS, Tunisia--Cuba, Iran and African governments lashed out at the U.S. government this week, charging that the Internet permits too much free speech and that the way it is managed must be reformed immediately.

The U.S. and other Western nations "insist on being world policemen on the management of the Internet," Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, who has been the country's leader since 1987, said at a United Nations information society summit here.

"Those who have supported nihilistic and disorderly freedom of expression are beginning to see the fruits" of their efforts, Mugabe said, adding that Zimbabwe will be "challenging the bully-boy mentality that has driven the unipolar world."

These criticisms demonstrate that a detente reached at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) on domain name management has hardly resolved long-running disputes about Internet management, the primacy of the English language online, and the so-called digital divide between nations with functioning economies and those with dysfunctional ones. The deal resulted in the creation of a U.N. Internet Governance Forum expected to meet in Greece in 2006.

"Fidel Castro, the unflinching promoter of the use of new technologies," believes "it is necessary to create a multinational democratic (institution) which administers this network of networks," said the WSIS delegate from Cuba.

In Cuba, only people with government permission can access the Internet, owning computer equipment is prohibited, and online writers have been imprisoned, according to Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based free speech watchdog group.

Too often, the Internet is used for the "propagation of falsehoods," said Mohammad Soleymani, Iran's minister of communication and information technology.

Soleymani called for the elimination of the California-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)--which approves new top-level domain names--in favor of United Nations control.

"Changing the current Internet governance to a participatory, legitimate and accountable system under an international authority is imperative," he said.

But changes proposed by Third World countries that would give them more influence are "being rejected because they are not facilities managed by the Breton Woods institution by the West's neo-colonial desires," charged Zimbabwe's Mugabe, referring to a post-World War II agreement that led to the creation of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Mozambique Prime Minister Luisa Diogo predicted the struggles to replace ICANN were not over, saying that "it is a matter of justice and legitimacy that all people must have a say in the way the Internet is governed." ICANN does have an international board of directors, including members from Senegal, Morocco, and Nairobi, but critics say that's not enough.

A recurring criticism of the WSIS summit was that wealthier nations had not done enough to help poorer ones take advantage of the Internet.

"The proceeds have not been equally shared by developing and developed countries," said Sudan President Omar Ahmad al-Bashir. "The digital divide is growing between the rich and the poor countries."

Economists generally agree, however, that investors prefer nations with a respect for property rights, the rule of law and a functioning court system--which means that few African nations make the list.

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, offers an Index of Economic Freedom. The index finds a close correlation between wealth and a stable, functioning government. Wealthy regions like Hong Kong, the U.S., and Switzerland respect economic rights, the index shows, while poor nations like Sudan, Zimbabwe, Iran and Cuba show the least respect for them.


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In Cuba...
"...only people with government permission can access the Internet, owning computer equipment is prohibited, and online writers have been imprisoned..."

And they want a say in how the internet is govern? ICANN have it's short comings, yes, but I would rather go with ICANN than this proposed governing body.
Posted by (56 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why would they think that anyone would support their efforts?
Posted by ScullyB (47 comments )
Link Flag
Why am I not surprised?
The governments of Cuba and Iran are diametrically opposed to freedoms of any kind. Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe is a fool who has trashed his country's economy and led his people down a path of starvation and ruin. These nation's governments must NOT be allowed a voice in internet governance. The only reason that they want this control is to put a lid on the internal dissent that will eventually lead to their downfall. These governments are illegitimate and not ruling by the consent of their citizens. They will hold on to power by any means necessary.
Posted by eBob1 (188 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Shared governance? I think not.
If we share governance of the internet like good boys and girls, this is what we will get. Tyrants exerting control over who says and sees what. The US created the free internet, she should maintain control.
Posted by ss_Whiplash (143 comments )
Reply Link Flag
free internet?
Keep in mind that when the US government can't get approval for legal monitoring of its citizens they just set-up shop in another country that doesn't regulate them (search: echelon). They do the same with "interrogation techniques".

While they'll let you see those sites, they'll also add you their databases for going there. Which is worse?
Posted by ScullyB (47 comments )
Link Flag
ICANN is not the U.S.
ICANN is not a U.S. property. It is a non-profit
American based group but with other nations on
the board of directors that happens to be based
out of California because after all we did invent
the Internet so it would seem logical.

This goes beyond any central government.
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
Link Flag
Internet "ownership"
Let those who wish to change the management of the Internet start their own. Giving Internet control to the likes of Cuba, Iran & their ilk would be sheer madness. How about having them run our utility companies? Our car manufacturig plants? Our court system?

Here's a better idea...disband the U.N. Who needs the graft & ineptitude? They behave like I fear the elves would without Santa!
Posted by sgtcandid (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Easy solution to the problem...
I've been reading about this for a while now and for the life of me I don't understand what the fuss is all about. If all of these other countries don't agree with the way the US is running the Internet, why don't they just start their own? That way they can run it any way they like. It seems to me that the knowledge to do so is out there and readily available -- all they have to do is pony up the cash to implement it. I haven't read ANYWHERE that anyone is forcing them to use the services invented by and funded in large part by the US.
Posted by Hallie Miles (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Funny thing..
..that the free market system that the internet has thrived under is the very system in which they want to exploit and control. The statements in the article affirm our opinions that communist countries are typically 10-20 years behind everybody else, and can only "innovate" by stealing others ideas and plans.
Posted by lewissalem (167 comments )
Link Flag
Actually, they provide more than we do!
<snip> Asia-Pacific ISPs-and in fact, most of the non-American ISPs-currently pay the full cost of the leased lines connecting their countries to a U.S. international gateway, together with port charges to connect to a U.S. Internet backbone. This is despite the fact that some 30 percent of the traffic on these same lines is arguably attributable to U.S. Internet users accessing content located on servers in the Asia-Pacific region.
There is thus a perception that non U.S. ISPs invest more in order to receive the same benefit as U.S. ISPs: global Internet connectivity. The result is inequitable cost allocation: Asia-Pacific ISPs pay for and receive the benefit of connectivity to the U.S., whereas U.S. ISPs receive the benefit of connectivity to the Asia-Pacific region without paying for it-and such is the case for most international destinations.
<snip> *from Internet society website

Sad note: You would have a much shorter list of companies that don't use foreign resources than those that do.
Posted by ScullyB (47 comments )
Link Flag
Take this...
10 years from now, the new UN internet governing body has been established, and a blogger half way across the world from <oppressive government name here> made a comment about how oppressive the <oppressive government name here> is. Then suddenly, he gets a letter from <insert name of new UN internet governing body here> telling him to bring down his blog because the <oppressive government name here> says it's false propaganda against their government. Worst case scenario, they (<oppressive government name here>) government want him extradite so he stand trial.

Freedom of Expression... with a price.
Posted by (56 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The Bush Administration is no better than Castro and his ilk
For one thing, property rights in the USA is a foregone conclusion. The Patriot Act saw to that. As for who governs the internet story, it could be something made up by the media and fed to CNET so we can all get used to the new world order agenda in which the internet is a part of. Or, the story could be true, but either way, it's put out there so we will be primed for things to come. The motive could be so Bush can behave in the fashion that the story suggests because he does seem to punish those people that don't agree with his policies. Look at Cindy Sheehan, she's been charged with protesting without permission
Posted by casper2004 (267 comments )
Reply Link Flag
cuba - castro - democracy - WHAT?!
since when did castro believe in democracy?? hello?! he's a
dictator. he's a communist. how can a country that prohibits
access to the internet for its own people even believe or claim
they can manage the internet for the rest of the world?! they're
idea of managing the internet is shutting it down entirely.

the u.s. manages the domain names and infrastructure. it does
not manage the content. we do no prohibit people in our country
or other countries from posting their own view, opinions or
Posted by SD Wahoo (3 comments )
Link Flag
Patriot Act
The Patriot Act has been used only in a limited way and has been designed that way. It doesn't affect 99.5% of Americans who do not threaten the country. The Patriot Act is needed and virtually all nations around the globe have similair ways to gather information on people who pose a serious security threat.
Posted by tremcg (1 comment )
Link Flag
Property rights?
Don't you mean privacy rights? I don't recall any provision in the Patriot Act concerning property rights. I do recall most of the Dems in congress falling over themselves to approve the act, while the GOP had many reservations about it, even though Bush pushed for it. I also recall Bill Clinton asking for much of what the act covered to be passed into law during his time in office.
As far as property rights are concerned look no farther that the left wing of the Supreme Court, along with Justice Kennedy, a rumored moderate?
<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
As to the Cindy Sheehan brigade, the permit they didn't get is to let local officials know about the demonstration so they can direct traffic and provide crowd control. Even the godforsaken lowlifes operating KKK know to get demonstration permits, why didn't Cindy and crew? Or, did they?

Does they Patriot Act infringe on privacy? You bet. But at present time I'm more concerned about my abode being bulldozed for a big box store, than my library card getting pulled.
Posted by (62 comments )
Link Flag
How fun --
Ok, Im sure some of the more technical people have been following a new fight being waged on the U.S. by other countries who want us to relinquish control of the Internet. We currently control the IP addresses which everyone needs to access it, and the domain names (

Other countries, in europe, africa, and the middle east are now saying that this process (which is working, mind you), is unfair to their economies and promote "propagations of falsehood" and "disorderly freedom of expression".

Now this pisses me off more than anything right now!! Come on... we invented the internet in 1969 as a military project. We invented the initial TCP/IP protocols that allow communication over it, we invented the high-speed phone lines and fiber lines that carry the communications, and we invented the computers that sit on it!!! So now other countries who have hooked themselves up to it are gonna complain that they can't control it?!?!

If I am not mistaken someone alreay posted about if they dont want their country to read or see what they have to say then they can invest the time and money into their own world wide web (Although it wouldnt be a world wide web, more like a &lt;Country wide web&gt;). but its true, if they feel that way about an American created/owned service/idea then they need to make their own version of it.

If it came down to it where we had to give up the rights to the world wide web none of these other countrys have the time/money to invest into keeping the service up and running they are all in provity. maybe they want this serivice for themself to manage and change to bring up their econemy so that they can support themselfs ect..

Not to mention that Cuba and Iran and the others that agree with them couldnt keep-up on the maintenance of the world wide web along with the doubt of even having enough resources to do it. the only country I can see even fit to run/moniter/upgrade/maintain the world wide web would be Japan since they are more tech. advanced than we are, along with working 6 - 7 days a week having not much of a life to begin with lol.
Posted by Kirkis (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Democracy is a falicy: Castro using reins of democracy to rein in oposition
Castro using the reins of democracy to rein in

The U.N. is a fallicy of control freaks. To
attack an unarmed non-profit group that is MERIT
based, mind you, is anti-human. They have
representatives in ICANN and its not a U.S.
institution albeit American in culture. The U.N.
is not merit based and therefore slow and

To threaten ICANN is to threaten the very
livelihood of all free peoples.
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Democracy used as a weapon
I meant Democracy used as a weapon or a 'final
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
Link Flag
Then why does the US have nearly total control of ICANN.

To say that ICANN is not controlled by the US is the same as claiming that the 'coalitions' in both Iraqi wars were not completely controlled by the US.
Posted by Bill Dautrive (1179 comments )
Link Flag
I'm glad they spoke up...
These comments show exactly why we should never give up control of something that we created, we financed and we shared with the world.

These comments show the fervor with which other countries would attack the freedoms that now exist on the internet.

I'm with those that say to the rest of the world..."If you don't like our free expression on the internet that we created, start your own twisted, restricted, closed-net and leave us alone to grow and prosper."
Posted by Jim Hubbard (326 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Posted by Dibbs (158 comments )
Link Flag
I'm proCuba, but not on this
This is such an unfortunate position. Of course, those who would
like to see Cuba under the control of the U.S. gov't use all means
available to further their ams. But strict limits on the Internet are
more harmful to Cuba than normal access would be.

In my first post yesterday on Icann, I said I didn't know of any
specific complaints about its management of the Internet.
If anyone knows of of any, please cite them.
Posted by margzim (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A common complaint
One common complaint is the predominance of English on the Internet. There are numerous examples. In particular, there's no secure method to allow international character sets for domain names.

Currently, domain names can include only a fixed set of "English" characters. It would be nice to include other character sets for international domain names. However, many international character sets include alternate representations of English characters. This presents a dilemma.

One might register using the current system. However, using an international character set, it would be possible to register a domain that would appear identical, the only difference being the substitution of alternate characters from an international character set.

Because character sets and the domain name system are deeply embedded in existing software and hardware, a technical solution -- never mind a political one -- is not readily available, It's not clear to me how U.N. management would solve this problem, but it can be said that the current system perpetuates the predominance of English.
Posted by Mark Donovan (29 comments )
Link Flag
Barbarians at the gates of the Internet.
It is good news that despots get nervous over the freedom of information that the Internet brings. It just means that the Internet is doing its job. I don't think that totalitarian regimes have the organizational and technical means to have much influence on the working of Internet unless then have considerable support from people from civilized countries such as America, India, Japan and parts of Europe. At the moment it seems OK that America controls the Internet. Modern civilization seems deeply ingrained in the American soul. It is hoped that the averse forces in the American political landscape will keep balancing each other out. Possible threats are:
1.The cultural relativism and intellectual barbarism of the left. They tend to criticize reject western civilization, and be liberal up to the point of immorality. This is the kind of decadence that destroyed empires such as that if the Romans. They might become instrumental in giving the despots their way.
2.Mediaeval and regressive impulses from Midwestern conservatives. In America it is mostly its the shame based puritanism that may be the greatest threat the freedom of the Internet. Problems with sex but not not with violence.
3.Weakly accountable governmental institutions such as the CIA.
Although US human rights abuses may disqualify the US as a civilized country I think that freedom of information is most save in its hands. Lets just not provide dictators such as Mugabe and Castro the respectability they don't deserve and replace the UN with a league of civilized, or at least, democratic countries.
Posted by johaster (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Perfect summary of American politics...the liberal left vs the religious right...the rest of us used to just duck. Now we can blog. Everyone needs a free internet.

Have a good weekend all.

Posted by Jeremiah256 (28 comments )
Link Flag
My 2 cents
I agree with those who say the U.S. invented it, we get to control it, it is in our interests to keep control of it. However, I do think it is an idea worth entertaining as a means to improve relations with our democratic allies. A club for democracies, if you will. But in regards to nations like Cuba, Iran, and other authoritarian dictatorships getting a voice over internet controls, it is a ridiculously absurd suggestion. Nations that so heavily censor and control their citizens access to information don't deserve any voice in this arena.
Posted by detunedradio (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You aren't free
The Bush Cabal does heavily censor and control their citizens access to information everyday of the week, in some form or another. They are tricking you into believing that you're free, but it's an illusion that will become more noticable as time goes on.
Posted by casper2004 (267 comments )
Link Flag
we should listen
these other countries really know what they're talking about when it comes to opression, genocide, bullying, and generally making an ass of themselves.
Posted by Dibbs (158 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Freedom of the Internet
Sorry, but submitting to outside authority of the Internet is like handing your social security number to a thief. As far as I am concerned, if we hand over authority of the Internet, then we had better come up with another one because our freedom to communicate openly will be further curtailed.
Posted by jwkopp (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why can't we work together?
i understand the need to retain control of the internet. i agree whole-heartedly! here is what i do not understand: why, if there are such important issues such as non-english characters and domain name asigning, don't we work WITH other countries and just play nice. you know, listen to them explain their problem, and then cooperate to find a shared solution.

this preserves both the dignity of the country in question, and the security and stability of the US.
Posted by Dibbs (158 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Too much free speech?
Well, looks like someone let the cat out of the bag. Now that we have it from the horse's mouth as to what their true intentions are for internet governance, I think that the US should stay in control of the internet, permanently.

Too much free speech indeed, they just want to impose their laws on US citezens.
Posted by Maelstorm (130 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not worth the discussion
Beyond all, letting these nations lagislate over the content available in the internet would be just not logical. There is absolutely no reason to believe they will be reasonable and just.

The US stepping or not stepping over personal rights of individuals in an attempt to address the security of the nation is a complete different discussion. Regardless of the discontent people may have with a particular administration, US has consistently shown (in the big scheme) that it pursues the best interest of their own people.
Posted by Al Be (21 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Ask the Father himself
Everybody knows Al Gore invented the internet, so he's the only one that can determine it's fate.
Posted by h0mer (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I'll save those idiots!
Here! Idiots! I have your perfect solution.

Go and register a domain name. While I work on a patch that just adds your domain name to all requests, transparently and invisibly. And runs them by your rules. The nett effect will be that you'll have your own little censored useless internet. Give it to your big dictator boss to press the red "censor this" button. Now go play.
Posted by Tunasashimi2 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Somethings have changed with Raul for example ""owning computer equipment is prohibited" changed to computers being allowed.
Posted by YrCuba (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag

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