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Vint Cerf on Internet Governance and Beyond 88

scebo writes "With the first phase of United Nations World Summit (WSIS) held in Dec of 2003 and the next phase to be held in 2005, there have been extensive debates regarding Internet Governance. Can it be governed? Who should govern it? What is Internet governance? Vint Cerf has offered his own opinion on the subject over at CircleID which attempts to answer some of the key questions raised: 'It has been suggested by some participants in the WSIS discussions that the role of ICANN might be undertaken by the traditional International Telecommunications Union (ITU). While the ITU has served the world as the international forum for the handling of many international issues associated with traditional tele-communications, the Internet has disrupted the neat categorization of various telecommunications media. It is the potential bearer of every form of communication. ICANN has evolved international processes and structures over the last six years to cope with a limited set of issues associated with this rich, complex and rapidly evolving infrastructure. The world needs an effective and well-supported ICANN but the participants in the World Summit on the Information Society and the Working Group on Internet Governance now need to turn their attention to the full panoply of public policy issues that, as discussed above, lie outside the mandate of ICANN. These need a thorough and open airing in this next phase of the World Summit on the Information Society.'"
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Vint Cerf on Internet Governance and Beyond

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  • Begin with Telephone, Telegraph, Railroads.

    In the 21st century, he would've added "root-zone Name Servers".

  • Geranium (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The world needs an effective and well-supported ICANN

    Somehow I think I could live without one.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 05, 2004 @04:50PM (#10737556)
    It had big words. Now I'm sleepy.

    And since I'm not a reader. Let's pick a Texas company at random and make them wholly responsible, and we'll give them a blank check. And when we learn about the inevitable graft and pending implosion, we can say, "It's hard work. I'm working hard! I'm going to take half of July off with my normal August vacation. Which is hard."
  • Lawbreakings (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ironsides ( 739422 )
    Fraud, misinformation, harassment, illegal transactions, theft of resources, breaking and entering (hacking into computers), copyright infringement, and many other exact or approximate electronic analogs of improper behavior can be found on the Internet.

    And thats just the corporations! Seriously though, it would be great if someone could just set up a few basic rules that everyone could agree to and enforce those and only those. And have a mandate limiting them to that. maybe like a Wyat Erp of the old
    • There's no such thing as "a few basic rules everybody could agree to" - at elast not regarding restrictions on the internet.
    • Re:Lawbreakings (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Most of these problems are the result of stupid users and bad hardware. The solution need not be legalistic.

      The real motivator is, of course, copyright infringement.

      Being the freedom-loving capitalist I am, I say let the free market evolve a better business model, and don't pass arbitrarily restrictive laws.

      But nobody cares what I have to say...I'm not rich.
  • Governed? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    No way, man. The internet should be free, man. Information wants to be free, man. You want the truth? YOU WANT THE TRUTH? You need the Internet. Cause when you reach over that hill and your inbox is a pile of spam, it's Chinatown baby.
  • No need (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bludstone ( 103539 ) on Friday November 05, 2004 @04:52PM (#10737593)
    Governance is needed to establish and eforce rules so that the general public, ie, society, can operate.

    On the internet, these rules are already agreed to. TCP/IP, FTP, HTTP, and other wonderful acronyms.

    The things that are illegal online are also illegal irl. If you enforce the general societal rules already on the books, then there is no need for a Internet government.

    At least, in my opinion.
    • Re:No need (Score:2, Insightful)

      by MindStalker ( 22827 )
      Yes, but what about things like Denial of Service Attacks? Spam etc?
      • Re:No need (Score:3, Interesting)

        by renehollan ( 138013 )
        Ever see a mob (like, say, strikers on a picket line) outside a store preventing customers from entering? Or someone inundated with hate mail or a petition?
        • So you support mob rule?

          But seriously a DOS can be a mob of one not really a concensous of people saying something is wrong, just one jackass
          • So you support mob rule?

            No, I think his point was that there are laws that govern these sorts of activities offline, and that the same laws would apply online.

      • Re:No need (Score:3, Insightful)

        I agree that most of the IT infractions are already on the books IRL. Nonetheless, they are mostly local books, not international books. After working with comp. forensics, I can tell that even if it is technically doable (read my lips, I didn't say easy...), IT law enforcement is a heck of a mess when several physical locations are involved (hosting, ISP, attacking computer, attacked computer...)

        On the specific IT crimes, computer intrusion has been on the books since the late 80s, at least in France,

    • ``If you enforce the general societal rules already on the books, then there is no need for a Internet government.''

      And how do you plan to enforce "rules already on the books" without an Internet govt? Are you going to let the CIA enforce US law around the world? And that China's secret service can enforce Chinese law around the world? It's not that easy.

      It seems that goverments are more and more frequently trying to overstep the boundaries of their own jurisdiction in an effort to enforce their laws on t
      • Well i don't know if we need a governance system that operates like real governments do but you do bring up a interesting problem.

        despite everyones objection to governing the internet there should be guidlines describing the jurisdiction other countries have pertaining to laws. situations like a website run by an american but hosted in australia serving a copywritin article from poland should have a clear point of authority on who regulats that. I mean can poland enforce us law to protect its copy right be
      • Re:No need (Score:3, Interesting)

        I believe what he meant to say was 'If you enforce the local general societal rules already on the books, then there is no need for a global Internet Government'

        What he is saying is that any 'government' on an internet-wide standpoint needs to stick to technical communication interconnection specifications - leave the policing to the police in the respective nations.

        There are already organizations - such as INTERPOL - for coordinating police forces internationally. Use what we already have more effective
    • Re:No need (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Fnkmaster ( 89084 ) * on Friday November 05, 2004 @05:48PM (#10738096)
      For the most part, I don't think the status quo is too bad, at least with respect to web content. The relevant laws are pretty much determined by where you host and serve content from, so if that copyrighted material is out of copyright in Australia, and hosted in Australia, then there's no obligation by the Australians to prevent Americans from downloading it, though those Americans are still bound by American laws once they have it.

      Likewise for eBay et. al. - if it's hosted in America, and legal in America, but the French try to buy it from America, then that's their problem. If they want to make it illegal to buy nazi memorabilia from abroad, let them, but don't try to enforce your laws on somebody else's content.

      Yes, that creates free-for-all zones on the web in countries that don't really enforce any of their own laws when it comes to online content. If you don't want to accidentally stumble on that stuff, it's not too hard to block content from China, for example, just like they do from us.

      The real remaining problems then are things like spam. Yes, you can change the rules as you describe them by amending SMTP, POP, etc. to prevent these problems, and that's going on, but ultimately spam is a social problem, not a purely technical one. Expecting a perfect technical solution seems unreasonable to me, since the solutions all seem to introduce substantial costs into the usage equation, for every degree of protection you get, you seem to lose some of the usefulness and beauty of it too.

      Additionally, transnational fraud is at an all-time high. It's easy for 419 scammers from Africa to defraud dumb Americans and Europeans (no, it's not just Americans that get taken in these scams) - and there's no legal recourse when the government in question doesn't enforce its own laws, or the government is in bed with the perpetrators of the fraud. You can't deny that the Internet made this kind of fraud accessible, while before it would have been effectively impossible to pull this off from five thousand miles away.

      If what you're saying is "the government of Nigeria needs to enforce its laws", then yes, I agree with you. That would probably solve this problem, at least if every country complied. But without anybody forcing them to, there's no way to effectively do this. Hell, you can blackhole all IP traffic from the non-compliant country, and it won't help, because they'll use freemail servers in other countries that don't block them.

      Likewise with cracking/site defacement/electronic breaking and entering. Also illegal in many places, unenforceable in many of those, and unregulated in some countries still, and it's impossible to prevent entirely through technological means. Again, what's the mechanism for forcing rogue countries to enforce their laws or pass laws against this?

      I think it can probably be done without an international oversight body per se - if the US and EU got together and told Russia, Nigeria, etc. they better start enforcing laws against this stuff or face sanctions, there would probably be some action. For some reason, the US government seems far more interested in getting other countries to buy into its MPAA/RIAA/Disney copyright protection regime and patent insanity than protecting its citizens from fraud or giving its business and net community at large legal recourse for electronic vandalism. God forbid our government do something for anybody other than a special interest group. And something that it would be hard for people to whine about too, since it really would help everybody out, not just us. Hard to argue that spam, fraud and electronic vandalism are somehow culturally relative values we'd be imposing on the world.

      As for the rest of the problems Vint cites - misinformation, harrassment, illegal transactions, I think those are overstated. The information on the Internet is fundamentally only as trustworthy as the person who put it there, harrassment across country borders isn't a huge problem as far as I know, and illegal transactions are ... well, only illegal because one of the countries involved says its illegal. In which case they are free to enforce their laws already. :)
    • Re:No need (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pgnas ( 749325 )
      I agree, I also belive that one of the primary motivating factors for regulation is to somehow squeeze money out of the MILLIONS of people using the Internet.

      "oh no, they can't do that the Internet is a global entity"

      If you beleive this, you are dreaming

      The Internet is not tied to the US, however, that wouldn't stop the government entities from imposing taxes on it. How bad do you think politicians are salavating at the chance to get a piece of that action?

      The Internet has grown due to the fa
  • by freality ( 324306 ) on Friday November 05, 2004 @04:56PM (#10737640) Homepage Journal
    LOL! That was funny..

    Oh wait, they're serious?!

    The net is a virtual reality.. it certainly has real world effects, but let's not get over-zealous here.. I vote for an unruly cyber-mob over state-controlled media outlet.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 05, 2004 @04:58PM (#10737667)
    After seeing legislation such as the Patriot Act and the DMCA, I could never trust the United States to govern the Internet. In fact, I don't think it is governable at all. You'd have to have 100% agreement from all countries in order to govern it. It's almost impossible to get countries to agree on anything at all let alone something that could be as challenging as the Internet. I mean dictators would want to keep out subversive material and free speechers would want the opposite.
  • by jayerandom ( 813519 ) on Friday November 05, 2004 @05:02PM (#10737707)
    Cerf writes
    "...spam (unsolicited commercial electronic mail), fraud, theft, pornography, and the long list of other abuses that creative human beings have invented for the Internet."

    Spam, fraud, and theft are all wrongs done by one person to another.

    Pornography per se, assuming that the producers and consumers are all consenting adults, should not be grouped in with them as an "abuse" of the Internet.
    • Pornography ... should not be grouped in with them as an "abuse" of the Internet.

      Yes, it fact it is part of the reason the internet is popular. If it weren't for the infringing of pop music and hollywood, all traffic would be pr0n. (OK couple of percent email and http software downloads, plus some small percentage of "informational" web sites (pr0n reviews and such)). Doesn't everyone remember the first pr0n search you did. "HOLY F**K, that's a lot of naked pictures. And all I got to do is pretend the in
  • Let's let the UN run the Internet! I mean, their track record at running things is so awesome.

    Sheesh. The UN couldn't manage a two car parade, let alone Internet governance.

  • by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Friday November 05, 2004 @05:06PM (#10737753) Journal
    I am of the belief that if there is any internet governance, it should restrict itself to functions that affect the actual interoperation of the networks involved. Enforcing individual geopolitical issues should be left to that country to do so as it sees fit.

    The job of such a governing agency, if one existed, would be limited to policing and correcting traffic flow issues and mandating the use of egress filters at an ISP level in order to block spoofed packets from the ISP's lusers.

    Not much funding would be needed for such a minimalistic organization, making the "who the heck would pay for this" issue much smaller.
  • by lothar97 ( 768215 ) * <owen.smigelski@org> on Friday November 05, 2004 @05:06PM (#10737754) Homepage Journal
    We'd have what we really need: an independent group that has oversight of the few things the Internet relies upon- DNS, domain registration, etc. I'm not even talking WWW compliance and the like. This group would have representatives from the different regions of the world, and include education, corporate, and government entities. It would not be under control of any one entity.

    That said, this whole scenario is about as likely as Kerry actually winning Ohio and becoming president. The US will never cede control of DARPA's "baby" in the interest of "national security" and "national pride." Look at all the problems with trying to divest control from the US government- Verisign/Net Sol and ICANN come to mind. A UN body might work, but I don't see that happening.

  • by Sai Babu ( 827212 ) on Friday November 05, 2004 @05:14PM (#10737836) Homepage
    "It is the potential bearer of every form of communication"

    I get the feeling this refers to access and content, not protocol. There is something inherently evil in the concept that communication must be governed.

    The internet represents global free press and a global means for people to assemble. The calls for 'protection from bits' is a smokescreen. We should all be thinking, 'who behind that screen will benefit from governance?' I doubt it's a friendly fat wizard.

  • Just basing the servers in principalities such as this [] will cover most of the ground most users want. Anonymity and privacy...
  • by spoonyfork ( 23307 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <krofynoops>> on Friday November 05, 2004 @05:25PM (#10737920) Journal
    If the leader of the free world [] believes there should be less government in our world then let's follow his example. Ban internet governance.

    Unless of course you're a young woman who's been raped and wants an abortion. Need more government there. Oh, and hot man-on-man monogamy needs more government too. Did I forget steam cell research? Yes, I did. Need more government there as well.

  • IMHO the only people who are likely to seriously believe we need any form of online government would be those wonderful types who already think offline world federalism would be a great idea. Interesting that the idea is coming up in a UN world summit...Kofi and friends seem to want jurisdiction over how many bowel movements a person can have per 24 hour period.

    In an ideal world anywayz, governments exist primarily to co-ordinate resources, (and historically, utilities) and to smack anyone caught abusing s
  • Porn == Abuse? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BenEnglishAtHome ( 449670 ) on Friday November 05, 2004 @05:28PM (#10737936)

    I stopped reading halfway down where Mr. Cerf made reference to:

    "...pornography, and the long list of other abuses that creative human beings have invented for the Internet..."

    That's ridiculous. If we treat porn as, by definition, an abuse of the net then the floodgates open for all sorts of draconian content control. As legal experience in the U.S. has shown, the word "pornography" can be stretched far too broadly far too easily.

    Leave the porn alone, Vinnie. You don't know what you're messin' with. Set up an effective way to police porn on the net and about a zillion geeks are gonna be gunnin' for ya.

    Not to mention that pesky ol' "freedom of speech" thing.

    • Wasn't it porn that drove the need for more bandwidth and color graphics terminals? Don't shun a basic force that moves technology forward. -aggles
  • Hold on a tick.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Friday November 05, 2004 @05:41PM (#10738037)
    "...pornography, and the long list of other abuses that creative human beings have invented for the Internet..."

    While I could be wrong, I seem to recal pronography existing prior to the Internet.

    • by Zareste ( 761710 )
      Good to know the internet and everything we say and see will be controlled people who know their facts, and not just a bunch of mindless fundamentalists who would gladly own us as slaves, isn't it?

      So the world government starts via the internet. I feel kinda stupid for not seeing that coming.

      I guess our fifteen minutes of freedom went out the window once CEOs took over the internet anyway. No surprise really.
  • Uncle Sam controls the root servers, and it's not giving them up. End of story.
  • by museumpeace ( 735109 ) on Friday November 05, 2004 @06:21PM (#10738371) Journal
    not traffic cops. just keep the infrastructure working guys. when somebody breaks a law using the roadways, the same cops go after them that would chase the crook who walked away from the bank. The blurring of borders is a byproduct of transportaion as much as of information flow. That blurring is a problem for the cops...they need to reach the level of agreement that the worlds telco's and backbones already achieve and stay the heck out of technology questions.
  • Arggggg..... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WindowLicker916 ( 704800 ) on Friday November 05, 2004 @09:18PM (#10739630)
    Why does EVERYONE feel like EVERYTHING has to be regulated and governed!? Sure there is spam, sure there are preditors, sure it's full of stolen movies and music, and you can't forget the porn....but so is life!! And we already regulate the hell out of it and that doesn't even work too well. So tax payers should pay for this governance why? It will do nothen but restrict our freedom. Increase cost to run a website, a ebusiness, pretty much to do anything. I feel this is just another attempt by rich business men to hog tie the internet for their pure profit. They dont want competition and they dont want people sharing information on that dasterdly deeds them and the politicians do. If we govern the internet and regulate it too much it's not going to be the internet we know and love. and yes, I realize this topic is more deeper then I have touched on...but I have better things to do then research it all up. So keep that in mind when you respond. I know how you /.`ers get...
    • Oh yea....sure spam sucks and popups suck...but deal with it? And maybe getter smarter with your email names and don't pass it around freely on will make your internet experience a lot better :)
  • Has this become so mundane that slashdot has only ~70 comments on it ?!?!
  • He's such an exaggerator and liar...I heard from Rush that he gave an interview and claimed to have "Invented the Internet..." Yeah, and I invented the paperclip!
  • I said this before.

    "The Internet should be for the People, by the People, and of the People. There has to be a better solution than having the U.N. get involved."

    "The Internet should be for the People, by the People, and of the People. There has to be a better solution than having the U.N. get involved."
  • Can it be governed? Who should govern it?

    A more important question is "Should it be governed?".

    The Internet has flourished precisely because it was not under governmental control.
    It should remain so.
    Now, some would argue that lack of governmental control has led to things like spam, online kiddie porn, libel, etc., that governments need to control.
    I would argue that some of these things (e.g., spam) have a technological solution, and others (e.g., kiddie porn) are already illegal in the "real" world.

C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas l'Informatique. -- Bosquet [on seeing the IBM 4341]