In a recent meeting of the Working Group on Internet Governance in Geneva harsh words were exchanged between representatives of the US government and representatives of the UK and other European countries over the issue of who controls or should control the internet.
The internet originated in networks established by private and public institutions in the United States and eventually went global, with the regulation of the basic infrastructure remaining in the hands of US-based groups like ICANN.
At this meeting in Geneva there were objections to US control over what is now an international institution of great importance to many nations, some of which literally live or die by internet commerce The predominant opinion seemed to be that the UN should take control of the internet away from America, whether we created it or not.
The UN is all for this idea. Coming up next month is the World Summit on the Information Society - a UN group promoting their Orwellian idea of civil society through the medium of the internet - where they intend to begin to implement a plan put together in 2003 to transfer the internet to the control of a United Nations body which will be answerable only to the bureaucrats of the UN who represent a diverse group of nations, many of them openly hostile to individual liberty, free speech and the United States.
At the Global Forum on Internet Governance UN Secretary General Kofi Annan announced that "The world has a common interest in ensuring the security and dependability of this new medium. The medium must be made accessible and responsive to the needs of all the world's people." Which I imagine sounds great to a lot of people, but raises the issues of whose security interests the UN is likely to look out for, and how far the UN would go in sacrificing the freedoms we now enjoy on the internet to serve the needs of member countries for whom free speech and privacy are very low priorities. In their hands the internet could easily be turned from a medium for the free exchange of ideas to a tool through which a global state monitors and restricts the business and private activities of individuals all over the world.