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    USA Goverment Relations Obscenity on the Internet
    posted by Mueller on Monday August 15 2005, @06:20PM

    For those of you who hate ICANN, the flap over the "recall" of the .xxx domain ought to give you an idea of how much worse the alternative is. And will be. You've got to know something is terribly wrong with governments - with governments as governments - when Brazil, France and the Bush administration agree on something this silly and arbitrary. And agree they did. They agreed to turn the Internet's domain name administration into a political football and milk it for all the political capital they could, without giving the public the tiniest benefit. They agreed that, five years after the idea of a .xxx domain was first proposed, we needed "more time" to consider it. Just as ICANN seemed to be bringing some rationality and impartiality into its selection of top level domains, they agreed to trash all pretense of having a defined process and objective criteria and turn it all into a game of behind-the-scenes pull and last-minute reversals based on arbitrary assertions of power.

    This situation requires the skills of a professional satirist, not those of a leaden-prosed academic like me. But let me do my best, because no one else seems to appreciate how mind-numbingly stupid the politics around ICANN and Internet governance have become.



    Let's begin with a big "Thank you!" to the government of Brazil. For more than a year you and other developing countries inspired us with your principled stance on the need for legitimacy and the need for governments, as "representatives of the people" to assert their proper role in the formation of Internet policy. And now you've shown us exactly how you'd use that power if you got it. And boy, aren't we excited!! I bet every sober-minded, moral person in the world is thrilled to know that we will purge the Internet of pornography by stopping the creation of an .xxx domain. Until now, I confess, I did not properly understand that there wasn't any porn on the Internet until ICM Registry proposed an .xxx domain. Now, however, it is clear to me that if we stop this domain, we will be striking a powerful blow against online filth -- won't we? If we refuse to publicly recognize that there is pornography on the Internet it won't exist, will it? Gosh, why didn't we think of this before? Before now, the problem of global censorship seemed so....hard! It's such a relief to know that all we have to do is smash some convenient symbolic scapegoat and tell an ignorant public how effectively we are addressing their concerns. (Incidentally, if we smash .xxx I presume that the next time I visit Rio I can walk two blocks to my hotel without encountering 27 semi-nude prostitutes?) Thank you so much, government of Brazil, for your pioneering efforts and creative policy proposals. I now understand why governments have to be involved in public policy. Without democratically elected governments, there would be no one to properly exploit these meaningless symbolic gestures.

    And thank you too, Government of France. Among all countries, you've appointed some of the highest ranking diplomats to handle the Internet governance issue. Obviously, they are so high-level that they cannot be bothered with the details of actual Internet governance. No, why should anyone expect your representatives on the GAC to actually understand and follow ICANN's TLD processes over a five year period? You are much too important for that. When governments demand authority then mean just what they say -- they want authority, they don't want to actually do any work. Reading RFPs and calls for public comment -- what a dreadful bore! It is much wiser, is it not, to sit back and let ICANN make a decision, and then, only then, bring your keen minds into play, carefully weighing the decision that has already been made and deciding, forcefully like the closing of a steel trap: "No! We do not like it!" Don't worry your high-minded selves about the people who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars carefully following the Request for Proposals that was put before them, do not bother yourselves about the hours of evaluation and discussion that went into it. These things are trivial. Like the government of Brazil and the US, you know a good political target when you see it.

    Ah, but when it comes to the government of the United States of America, one can only speak in hushed tones of admiration at the onion-like layers of hypocrisy enveloping the .xxx recall. Let's start with the fact that the GAC letter would never have been sent if the US Government hadn't agreed to let it be sent. And even if it somehow had been sent, it NEVER would have been put on the front page of the ICANN website unless there had been....shall we say..."arrangements" made, nods given, between ICANN management, key board members and US government officials. The fix is in. So thank you, USG, for standing up for your principles of "avoiding overly prescriptive or burdensome regulation" and "private sector leadership." And thank you for demonstrating what "Internet stability" really means. What could be more secure and stable than putting us all through a decision process that consumes several million dollars and five years and then gets reversed at the last minute by a body that, according to ICANN by-laws, has no authority to initiate such a recall? How innocent and callow of me to think that stability had something to do with well-defined rules and procedures! I did not understand, but now I do: it is Your strength, Oh Bush Government, your awesome power itself that guarantees stability -- and what can better demonstrate that power than a refusal to be bound by the lilliputian threads of rules and procedure?

    Only in the USA can we speak of privatizing the domain name system and still reserve - to our own government exclusively - the power to choose the "private" administrators of DNS and to intervene at will in its decisions. Only in the USA can we somehow get away with publicly exploiting fears of censorship by China -- most of whose citizens can't read English -- to defend our monopoly on ICANN and then, at the first real test, use that power to censor the global domain name system, openly catering to a domestic political constituency. Only in the USA can the conservative Right criticize ICANN in one year for NOT creating .xxx, and then mobilize against ICANN in another year for creating it. And despite all this, the entire country is still populated with people who bleat, like a herd of sheep, "who cares if the US has unilateral control of the DNS root, the US is a benign power that doesn't interfere with things. US good, UN bad...US good UN baaaaaad."

    The satire toggle is off now. The gap, the chasm, that separates the whole rationale for ICANN's creation and the actual practice of ICANNism by the US government - and other governments - is becoming so wide that several continents could fall into it and no one would notice. The bottom line is that we privatized and internationalized DNS administration precisely because we knew this kind of nonsense would happen if governments got their hands on it. What we are learning now is that even the USG, which created the whole bloody mess and holds it by the short hairs, is unwilling to abide by its decisions if the Christian Coalition makes enough noise. A better proof of the original hypothesis could scarcely be found.

     
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    · Also by Mueller
     
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    Obscenity on the Internet | Log in/Create an Account | Top | 23 comments | Search Discussion
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    Bravo
    by Anonymous on Tuesday August 16 2005, @04:14AM (#15909)
    Very well said Milton. Thank you posting this argument and putting the attention squarely where it should be focused. ICANN needs to step up now. With governments trying to micromanage the Internet, we all lose.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    • Re:Bravo by Anonymous Tuesday August 16 2005, @06:09AM
    More odd postings
    by Anonymous on Tuesday August 16 2005, @05:49AM (#15915)
    Whoever you are, you're spending way too much time spamming this website with unrelated comments. Everytime someone posts something about ICANN, you take it as an opportunity to post whacked out conspiracy theories. Please stop.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    .xxx
    by AmericaAtLarge on Tuesday August 16 2005, @10:31AM (#15919)
    User #4126 Info | http://americeatlarge.org/
    Great satire!

    I haven't been able to find much on this subject, what little I've found was on circleID, and ICANN doesn't seem to have any public comment other than the staement from GAC chair. I thought everything had already been approved.

    If this is true, I hate to say it, but 'I told you so!'

    You see, when I was younger I was taught about the 7-p's (proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance), and who says I never studied in college? When you forget about the P's, disaster strikes.

    This is exactly my point in recommending that slower and purposeful action is necessary when introducing new TLDs.

    What do y'all think?

    Randy Glass
    A@L
    AmericaAtLarge.us
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
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