Let's play pretend for a moment...
You're an international organization. You've spent the last few years perfecting corruption by managing the largest financial scandal in the history of the world. Your peacekeepers are routinely committing repulsive acts of sexual abuse and pedophilia. You have raised irrelevance to an art form except in those instances where your bureaucrats have raised incompetence and failure to an art form. Many of your most influential members are anti-democratic, totalitarian states more interested in controlling their populations than ensuring the free flow of ideas.
You are the United Nations.
And now you want to control the Internet.
Well, it is - to anyone with a shred of common sense. Unfortunately, that requirement eliminates everyone at the U.N. and nearly everyone engaged in the diplomatic arena.
You see, for as much time as most of us spend engaged with the now-indispensable technical marvel that is the Internet, we don't think very much about how the darn thing actually works.
That's because a bunch of smart people at a place called ICANN do it for us.
ICANN stands for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, and these good folks make sure that when you direct your browser to www.cfif.org, your computer knows where to look. In short, ICANN is the traffic cop that makes the whole Internet run smoothly. But, horror of horrors, ICANN is based in the United States.
Most of us forget that the Internet exists because some people at the U.S. Department of Defense went looking for a better way to share information, funding development with U.S. taxpayer money.
These days, DoD is out of the picture, and Internet-traffic cop ICANN is a private, non-profit company doing its crucial work under a contract from the Commerce Department.
Now, here's where things get interesting. The U.N. and key players like China, Brazil and Iran - who are leading the charge in support of U.N. control - are deeply suspicious of the United States. And they look at ICANN and claim they see the heavy hand of the U.S. government at work. But that's malarkey, and they know it.
ICANN's leadership and staff come from countries all over the world. Indeed, most of the Board and staff aren't Americans at all. When thorny technical issues need to be addressed, ICANN works quietly with expert techies from a diverse group of private businesses and academia.
Most critically, ICANN deals exclusively with technical issues. Indeed, ICANN keeps its eye on its mission, in a way that only a private business can. The Internet traffic cops stay maniacally focused on keeping the traffic moving. And they are equally diligent about never caring what content is moving back and forth through the superhighway they maintain.
The Internet has become the most powerful information tool in history precisely because its content in uncontrolled. And the result has been a tidal wave of information and ideas open and free to anyone in the world with a computer and phone line.
That's where countries like China and Iran have a problem. They don't want their citizens reading capitalist, freedom-toting propaganda like, well, cfif.org. And heaven knows what kind of breakdown they would have if the totalitarians ever discovered The Onion.
They can't exert any control over content as long as ICANN is in charge, so they would rather someone else do the job. Now, put yourself in their shoes for a minute: if you wanted to cripple the Internet, to whom would you turn?
The U.N., of course. And that's exactly what they've done.
Over the last several years, these nations, and a handful of other unsavories, have led an effort to support a U.N. takeover of the technical control of the Internet. Our own government, needless to say, has been fighting them every step of the way, and it looked like their attempt was going nowhere.
But within the last few weeks, a shocking development has jumbled everything. The European Union, led by our good friends, the French, suddenly reversed their position and announced general support for U.N. control.
The battle will come to a head at an international conference next month. In the meantime, CFIF will undertake a campaign of its own to mobilize Americans against this lunacy. The Internet is far too important to hand over to the corrupt utopianists at the U.N.October 20, 2005