November 16, 2005 5:40 AM PST
U.S. reaches Net detente with U.N.
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international participation in discussions of Internet governance issues. The question is how to achieve this. Let those discussions continue."
Internet showdown postponed
A debate on the future of the Internet will resume at an event in Greece next year to inaugurate a new U.N. Internet Governance Forum. Following are excerpts from the document creating that forum.
The mandate of the IGF is to:
Source: World Summit on the Information Society
Annan acknowledged that the U.S. has exercised its Internet oversight "fairly and honorably" but said change has become necessary. The United Nations has no desire to "control or police the Internet," Annan added.
That stance seemed to be an effort to placate conservative groups and businesses, especially in the United States, which are alarmed at what some view as the prospect of a thoroughly corrupt and unaccountable bureaucracy seizing control of Internet management.
A report released this week by the National Taxpayers Union warned that "controlling Internet content while securing another income source through the United Nations seems an attractive policy outcome for politicians looking to suppress dissent and to prop up financially ailing bureaucracies."
The Computing Technology Industry Association, or CompTIA, has stressed that it supports a "market-based solutions" approach rather than expanded U.N. control. So have a roster of tech companies, including Google, IBM and Microsoft, and members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.One reason why businesses are alarmed is the lengthy list of suggestions that have been advanced in the past by nations participating in the U.N. process. Those include new mandates for "consumer protection," the power to tax domain names to pay for "universal access" and folding ICANN into a U.N. agency. The United Nations has previously suggested creating an international tax bureaucracy and once floated the idea of taxing e-mail, saying in a report (PDF) that a 1 cent tax on 100 e-mail messages would be "negligible."
Violence before summit
The lead-up to the WSIS has been marred by violence against journalists and human rights activists. French journalist Christophe Boltanski, who had arrived early to write about Tunisia President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's civil-liberties record, was stabbed in an assault by four men and not aided by nearby police. The Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement that such attacks are characteristic of Tunisia's secret police.
In another incident, journalists and civil-liberties activists planning their own summit on human rights were assaulted and detained by Tunisian police. In response, members of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange said they would pull out of the summit.
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