Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Who is going to be isolated?

As my colleague has pointed out, the EU Commissar for Information Society and the Media, who has been speculating for some time whether the internet can be controlled, though, of course, she would not want to, has announced that America will be isolated if it does not hand the internet over to be run by a motley crew of tranzi regulators and tyrants of various hues.

The BBC, of course, joyously picked up the theme, thus proving that they do not understand the internet any more than the Commissar does. What if all these other countries build their own internet, smirked the Commissar? Well, what? Can Brazil really build an internet? Can Iran or China? Anyway, why bother?

It seems, however, that there is a split among the tranzis. Carl Bildt (above), former Swedish Prime Minister, former UN Secretary General's Special Envoy for the Balkans, a tranzi extraordinaire, has come out against the insane notion of handing the internet over to the UN.

In an article entitled Keep the Internet Free in yesterday’s International Herald Tribune Mr Bildt did not mince his words.
“On the one side is the United States, which wants to retain supervision of the Internet and has managed to get the reluctant support of most of the global Internet community, which sees America as the least bad of the possible ultimate guardians of the system.

On the other side is a collection of states keen on getting as much as control as possible in order to curtail the Internet's power to undermine their regimes. With the theocracy of Iran as the standard-bearer, this group brings together Saudi Arabia, China, Cuba and Venezuela. North Korea is probably keen to join in as well.

The European Union seems to be in the middle, wavering back and forth - and in its wavering it has recently come down with a position that has brought it enthusiastic applause from Tehran, Beijing and Havana.”
Allowing for the necessary anti-Americanism required from a man of Bildt’s standing (nothing reluctant about that support, I suspect), this is a fair analysis of the situation.

Of course, Bildt cannot hit out against the UN and tear to shreds the idea that the people who have brought us oil-for-food among other scams, should be handed something as important as the internet. He concentrates on the indubitable fact that the movers of this notion are some of the world’s worst dictators who want to exert control over the one uncontrollable form of information and communication.

Bildt shows himself properly horrified that the EU should come down on the side of the tyrants, though this does not seem out of character to those of us who have watched the shenanigans that passes for attempts to build a common foreign policy. There is only one enemy that policy acknowledges and that is the United States against whom the EU will side with China, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, anyone and everyone.

This is what Bildt says about the European involvement in this debate:
“This is not where Europe should be on these issues. The Internet is vital to our future, and we Europeans should be as keen as anyone to preserve the essence of a system that has worked amazingly well. If that entails leaving some ultimate safeguard powers in the hands of the United States, that's certainly better than having theocrats or autocrats around the world getting their hands on the levers of control.

There is time for Europe to reconsider its proposal. I refuse to believe that José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, or Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, which currently holds the EU presidency, know what has been done in their name. But if the issue isn't high on their agenda, I can assure them that it is likely to be very high on Washington's agenda if things go wrong.

It's time for Blair and Barroso to take charge. Otherwise they might endanger one of the most powerful instruments of freedom and prosperity in our time.”
Luckily for the rest of us, we do not have to rely on either Mr Blair or Commission President Barroso to preserve the freedom of the internet. But if more people like Mr Bildt come out on that side, it may well be the Commission and its propaganda machine, the BBC, who will find themselves isolated.


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