Thursday, December 01, 2005

Rossett on the UN and the Web

Investigative journalist Claudia Rossett, who has done an incredible job of exposing the corruption inherent in the UN Oil-for-Food program, has now taken on the UN over the issue of the Internet. In a piece for Pajamas Media (formerly Open Source Media), Ms. Rossett explains why the question of who will control the web is still far from settled:

Greetings, and a quick tip: Anyone in favor of censorship and internet taxes can skip the rest of this column.

OK. For those still with me, who probably agree it is not a good idea to have Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe editing your blog and then charging you for it, it’s time to talk about the great UN internet grab. Thanks to the U.S. just saying no, the UN bid to get its hands on our keyboards failed this month at the United Nations Internet conclave in Tunis. But don’t drop your guard. The UN will be back. The pickings are potentially too rich, and the stakes too high, for them to resist. In case anyone has any doubts, Secretary-General Kofi Annan himself (about whom you can read more by googling his name together with “Oil-for-Food,” “Rape-by-Peacekeepers” and “Bribes-for-Procurement”) appeared in Tunis to proclaim that while the U.S. had blocked a UN takeover of the internet this time, “I think you also acknowledge the need for more international participation in discussions of Internet governance issues. So let those discussions continue.” Then came Annan’s scariest line: “We in the United Nations will support this process in every way we can.”

You can bet your laptop they will. Any institution brazen enough to hold a “World Summit on the Information Society” in internet-censoring journalist-jailing Tunisia is obviously ready to try anything to get hold of the net. This initiative has been bubbling along since Tunisia first proposed it in 1998, and by now there have been enough conferences, theme papers, working groups and planning sessions so that this UN campaign has put down roots. The WSIS website is already an empire unto itself, packed with stocktaking questionnaires, press releases, a photo library and the outpourings of the Preparatory Committee, abbreviated UN-style as the Prepcom, which sounds like something out of George Orwell, because it is.

Whose Internet is it Anyway?


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