Government Control of the Web Increases, Including Delaying New gTLDs: FT

Posted in: Governance at 29/12/2010 20:26

Government control of the internet is a seemingly never-ending battle between government and its supporters on the one hand, usually when it suits the supporters in their battle of choice, and opponents on the other.

The Financial Times has published an article looking at the topic, starting with WikiLeaks and the "unstoppable stream of disclosures has intensified efforts by governments to exert more control over information and the complex technology underpinning its availability on the internet. From the UN to the self-governing body overseeing web addresses, countries are working to assert more authority, with some success."

One area the article looks at is new generic Top Level Domains, with the FT saying that governmental complaints have been one of the main reasons for the delays in their introduction.

"Official US complaints helped to delay the expected debut of many more" new gTLDs. "Big companies were concerned they would have to register scores of new websites to protect their brands from squatters. They complained to the US commerce department, which wrote a public letter to Icann. Icann backed down, saying it would meet a committee made up of more than 100 countries to hear their views."

Another area has been the United Nations aim "to convene a governmental group to advise it on how to restructure the Internet Governance Forum."

This decision drew complaints from ICANN and Vint Cerf, now Google's chief internet evangelist and formerly ICANN chair.

"This structure that seems to have been settled upon really takes away the participatory strength of the non-government stakeholders. If they move to the mode that is proposed, that's the first step in trying to create a governance organisation that takes actions - and while I can understand the appeal, especially for some governments, I don't think it bodes well," Mr Cerf said.

Another area drawing the interest of governments is security, even more so since WikiLeaks has commenced releasing diplomatic cables involving the US government but also with the growing threat of hackers to national security and infrastructure. As the FT notes, China, among other countries has been censoring their media for a long time, by the age of the internet.

"This momentum toward securitisation is helping legitimise and pave the way for greater government involvement in cyberspace," the founders of OpenNet Initiative, a research body, wrote recently in a journal affiliated with the US National Endowment for Democracy, reported the FT.

To read this report in The Financial Times in full, see:,dwp_uuid=9a36c1aa-3016-11da-ba9f-00000e2511c8.html

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