UN Seeks Vast Authority to Regulate Operation and Use of the Internet

July 18, 2005. United Nation's (UN) Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) released a report [24 pages in PDF] titled "Report of the Working Group on Internet Governance". This is the UN's long awaited report in which it states its ambitious case for acquiring vast power to regulate various aspects of the operation and use of the internet.

Michael Gallagher, the head of the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), stated in blunt and preemptory fashion on June 30, 2005, that the U.S. will not yield to any UN request to take control of the domain name system (DNS). See, story titled "NTIA Rebuffs UN Efforts to Gain Control Over Internet Governance" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,166, July 1, 2005.

It is also unlikely that the U.S. or many other nations would confer upon the UN some, or any, of the other powers sought by the UN, and identified in this report.

The report states that "there is no global multi-stakeholder forum to address Internet-related public policy issues". It therefore "recommends the creation of a new space for dialogue for all stakeholders on an equal footing on all Internet governance-related issues".

The report suggests that this body "should preferably be linked to the United Nations" and that it "should allow for the participation of all stakeholders from developing and developed countries on an equal footing."

That is, nations such as Antigua and Barbuda, Syria, and Chad would participate in governing the internet, and activities conducted over the internet, on an equal basis with nations such as the U.S., Japan and India.

One of the proposals of the report is that this new UN body would have the following powers: "audit, arbitration, coordination, policy-setting and regulation".

The report seeks sweeping powers. It seeks authority with respect to "internet governance". It first offers this statement: "Internet governance is the development and application by Governments, the private sector and civil society, in their respective roles, of shared principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programmes that shape the evolution and use of the Internet."

The report makes clear that the UN seeks power over far more than the domain name system, and functions currently performed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

The report states that UN should potentially have authority over other topics, such as "spam", "network security" and "cybercrime", including the power to "prosecute crimes committed in other jurisdictions".

The report recommends internet governance includes authority over "intellectual property rights (IPRs) or international trade". This would, if implemented, replace the World Trade Organization (WTO) authority in this area. The report states that "users are concerned about market oligopolies, the impediments to access and use of digital content and the perceived unbalanced nature of current IPR rules."

The report also suggests that internet governance includes authority with respect to internet "interconnection" and setting interconnection rates.

The report also states that UN internet governance would encompass "Restrictions on freedom of expression". The report assets that such restrictions would be "taken in relation to the Internet on grounds of security or to fight crime".

Yet another issue within the sights of the UN is "global standards for privacy and data-protection rights over the Internet". The report further suggests that it is concerned with "personal data protection", rather than conferring quasi property rights upon the aggregators of data.

Moreover, the UN report identifies regulation of "international purchase of goods through e-commerce".

The report outlines four possible models for this new UN internet governance. It does not state a preference among the four.

The first of these four models would be the creation of a new "Global Internet Council", or GIC. It "would take over the functions relating to international Internet governance currently performed by the Department of Commerce of the United States Government. It would also replace the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC)." It would be responsible for "additions or deletions to the root zone file, management of IP addresses, introduction of gTLDs, delegation and redelegation of ccTLDs." It would also be responsible for, among other things, "spam, privacy, cybersecurity and cybercrime" and "cost-based international interconnection costs, and equitable access for all." It further provides that the ICANN would be "accountable to the GIC", and that the GIC would "be anchored in the United Nations".