The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

May 30, 2012

Other Views: Internet control

Here’s a bad idea that keeps recurring: Turn control of the Internet over to the United Nations. A group of nations, led by the usual suspects — China and Russia — and joined shamefully by Brazil and India, are planning to try to amend the U.N.’s International Telecommunication Union treaty to bring the Internet under a U.N. agency.

Backers of the plan say the agency would impose controls, ostensibly for privacy and cybersecurity purposes; allow governments and national telephone companies to tax Internet traffic; and take over the functions now handled — and handled rather well — by a loose confederation of private agencies, including engineering standards and assignment of addresses, names and domains. The agency could also regulate international traffic.

There is no demonstrated need for this regulatory format, especially not by a U.N. bureaucracy of the kind, you’ll recall, that made such a corrupt hash out of the oil-for-food program with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

For an example of what that regime might be like, we need look no further than the Chinese government, which has been engaged in a nonstop game of whack-a-mole with free spirits on the Internet.

One recent example: To divert public attention from widely publicized — via the Internet — incidents of official corruption, the Chinese government engaged in one of its periodic campaigns vilifying foreigners, among them U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke, a hero in China for his Chinese ancestors and such common-man gestures like waiting in line and carrying his own bags.

The government-controlled press demanded that Locke disclose his assets on the assumption that, like Chinese officials, he had almost certainly used his job to enrich himself. The government propaganda experts were apparently unaware that the salaries and assets of top U.S. officials are a matter of public record.

U.S. diplomats in China quickly posted Locke’s financial-disclosure forms online and, for good measure, President Barack Obama’s. Red-faced Chinese government officials quickly dropped the matter, apparently afraid of a groundswell of public opinion that they do the same.

The U.S. delegation to the U.N. should work to see that the 193-nation body rejects this treaty in a vote likely to come later this year. But if the treaty passes, we should ignore it on the very good grounds that it violates our First Amendment.

Scripps Howard News Service

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