Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Political and Economic Impact of UN Control of the Internet

On the eve of the UN summit on the internet, the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union has released a brief warning that plans for United Nations control of the internet "could choke political freedoms and soak taxpayers." The major impacts of a UN controlled internet could include the following:

-- Censorship. Despite having made a declaration of support for freedom of speech, many WGIG [Working Group on Internet Governance] members come from nations that severely curtail this right; China, for example, has one of the most restrictive and sophisticated Internet control mechanisms in the world. Just as other UN bodies have been "co-opted" by non-democratic governments, "an 'International Internet Commission' chaired by China might not be far off," [brief author Kristina] Rasmussen observed.

-- Taxes. Since the Internet's infancy the UN has crafted detailed proposals to tax online traffic. Rasmussen calculates that one 1999 plan for a "bit tax," adjusted for today's number of Internet users, would raise 12 trillion dollars this year - roughly equal to America's Gross Domestic Product. Even less ambitious money-raising models such as the independent, Switzerland-based "Digital Solidarity Fund" could feasibly be transformed into future collectors of compulsory Internet taxes and fees.

-- Bureaucratic Corruption. Given recent oil-for-food scandals, UN-style Internet agencies would present the inherent risk of "giving ruling members of regimes in the developing world shiny new computers rather than furnishing the poor with Internet access," Rasmussen said.

To make matters worse, host nation Tunisia is already cracking down on political dissenters in preparation for the summit. I'm afraid that this kind of action could spill into cyberspace if control of the Internet were put into the hands of those who would rather erase their opponents rather than debate them.

No comments: