Three years ago, the Financial Times published an op-ed by ACT president Jonathan Zuck regarding the first effort by governments like China, Iran, and Cuba to replace ICANN and its multi-stakeholder, bottom up-decision making process with a top-down government led body to dictate technological and policy decisions. At the time, Jonathan wrote:
These countries and others want to become global regulators of the
internet. This effort is being driven under the guise of "internet
governance", but it is really about internet control: control of how
and whether one gets access; control of content and control over the
internet's infrastructure, the crown jewels that make all of it work.
A simple look at "who" is pushing for more government control over Internet governance issues reminds us that this really still about increasing government control and limiting Internet freedom.
While Berlusconi isn't here at IGF, he is reportedly planning to use Italy's upcoming presidency of the G8 Summit to push for an international agreement to "regulate the
If you aren't familiar with Mr. Berlusconi's political past, you might find this mildy troubling, but not "Katy Bar the Door" frightening the way I (and seemingly most Italian bloggers do).
When you run a government as corrupt as Mr. Berlusconi's, you generally have a disdain for Freedom of the Press. Otherwise, they may question you when your government passes new legislation to grant
immunity from criminal trials to the holders of the five highest
offices of state, at the same time you are on trial for criminal offenses. Thankfully for Mr. Berlusconi he already owns most of the press in Italy, so they don't ask the serious questions. But, for pesky real journalists and bloggers like those at the Economist, he has used every tool at his disposal to silence them.
Everton Lucero & The Brazilian Government
At the IGF today, Everton Lucero, the Brazilian representative to ICANN's
Government Advisory Council (GAC) delivered a beautiful speech filled with inspiring rhetoric about returning Internet Governance back to the concept of "We the People" and taking the power out of the hands of the "nobles and landlords." Unfortunately, that is all it was: a beautiful speech that ignored reality in an attempt to grab the power to control the Internet and censor content. ICANN gives the user community, "The People," a direct voice in decision-making that most governments do not even come close to delivering.
Despite its embrace of Free Software and the rhetoric of freedom and democracy, the Brazilian Government's actions to censor speech have inspired this campaign from the Brazilian Press Association.
Brazil's government has shown an increasing distaste for Freedom of Speech, especially on the Internet. The government had a recent documentary exposing some of the most egregious efforts at political censorship of the press pulled from local television.
On the Internet, Brazil bullied Google into giving them the ability to freely censor content on the social network, Orkut. It has even threatened to join China in blocking access to ALL WordPress blogs!
Clearly we don't want governments like this gaining MORE power of the future of the Internet. I
can't think of better example of why we should fear the calls by
government bureaucrats here at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) to
replace the Internet's current multi-stakeholder governance mechanisms
with government-led bodies. The governments calling for these
changes almost universally are interested in limiting the freedom of
today's Internet – not increasing it.
UPDATE/AMENDMENT: In similar comments before the IGF main session yesterday, I made the mistake of overstating Brazil's efforts to censor political dissent online – comparing them directly to China (who had just made comments critical of ICANN). It was an unfortunate exaggeration in the heat of the moment. Free Speech is protected by the Brazilian constitution and they do have a pretty diverse media world that is far different than China. But that does not change the fact that they have made troubling moves toward the Internet and political speech as referenced above. This has left them with a "Partly Free" rating from Freedom House. This article from Committee to Protect Journalists outlines additional efforts by the current Brazilian government to regulate or censor media.
According to the Brazilian delegate's response to my comments, however, it also appears I misunderstood his position on ICANN. I sincerely hope I did, and they are merely looking to work within the ICANN world, rather than tear it down or replace it.