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Eric Schmidt: UN Treaty a 'Disaster' For the Internet 346

An anonymous reader writes "Internet freedom and innovation are at risk of being stifled by a new United Nations treaty that aims to bring in more regulation, Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt has warned. In a question-and-answer session at Mobile World Congress 2012 on Tuesday, Schmidt said handing over control of things such as naming and DNS to the UN's International Telecommunications Union (ITU) would divide the internet, allowing it to be further broken into pieces regulated in different ways. 'That would be a disaster... To some, the openness and interoperability is one of the greatest achievements of mankind in our lifetime. Do not give that up easily. You will regret it. You will hate it, because all of a sudden all that freedom, all that flexibility, you'll find it shipped away for one good reason after another,' Schmidt said. 'I cannot be more emphatic. Be very, very careful about moves which seem logical, but have the effect of balkanising the internet,' he added, urging everyone to strongly resist the moves."
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Eric Schmidt: UN Treaty a 'Disaster' For the Internet

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  • Another reason (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tripleevenfall ( 1990004 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @03:21PM (#39200773)

    Another reason why we have to question why we're in the United Nations in the first place. (Let alone funding the whole Keystone Kops outfit)

    • You'll regret pulling out of the UN when the Angels come and NERV is our only hope.

      • Like hell we will, Why should we let Seele tell us what to do.

        Why not simply just kill of the angel that you had skewered in the basement of NERV and then the angels will no longer have a target and people won't be killed via "turning into orange goo".

      • by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @04:11PM (#39201477)

        I love that the best about some anime and science fiction: how the UN suddenly becomes this competent and rational organization.

        As for this issue, I'm of a mind to give the UN a taste of their own medicine and send them a *strongly* worded missive.

        • Hence why it's called science FICTION.

        • You're modded funny, but this is actually a very insightful point.

          A lot of the reason is political. Those groups tend to have a left-wing bent and the UN is favored more by the left than the right, and some people have an ideological belief in a one world government (crazy rightwingers are right on this, but it's not a conspiracy so much as a shared belief). But global democracy is as nonsense as local democracy is... more monolithic, more removed from the average person, and infinitely more corrupt.

          • Re:Another reason (Score:4, Interesting)

            by RightwingNutjob ( 1302813 ) on Thursday March 01, 2012 @01:31AM (#39205611)
            I'd split the hair a bit finer: the original mandate/aspiration/hope of the UN was to create a world body of adult supervision in the aftermath of WW2. It was crafted by the last breed of the Western politicians for whom 'elitist' wasn't a dirty word (think Churchill, Roosevelt, and their contemporaries). Folks like the aren't so much left vs right as they are patricians vs plebs. And that attitude leads to wanting to control things "for the greater good." The fact that the Internet is successful and effective and is a cash cow but isn't under UN control is just human nature piled on top of the founding principles of the UN.

            Not to say the UN is justified in wanting it--I'd sooner hand the internet to the mafia than the UN.
    • Consolidation (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @03:31PM (#39200925)

      Like any political entity, the primary goal of the UN is to consolidate and centralize power into the hands of the few, rather than decentralize power into the hands of the many.

      Let's put it this way. There is X amount of political power available in the world, and Y amount of individuals holding that political power. The UN's goal is to lessen Y while maintaining the same value of X. If you like the sound of that, then you'll be glad to know that they have already made significant progress.

    • Re:Another reason (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @03:31PM (#39200929)
      Because an organisation that spends ten years arguing over every diplomatic matter is better than the old-fashioned approach of lobbing shells at each other.
      • Re:Another reason (Score:4, Insightful)

        by isotope23 ( 210590 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @03:40PM (#39201033) Homepage Journal

        Glad to learn we have not had any wars since the founding of the UN -

        (please ignore the 140 plus wars since it was founded in 1945)

        • Re:Another reason (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jameskojiro ( 705701 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @03:45PM (#39201089) Journal

          No to mention all the rapes and corruption and underhanded deals and crazy ass countires that are alowed to be on the "Human Rights Council". LOL

          The UN has more in common with the Legion of Doom than it does an actual peace organisation.

        • Re:Another reason (Score:5, Insightful)

          by doconnor ( 134648 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @03:47PM (#39201105) Homepage

          At least we haven't had any World Wars since the UN was founded. There have been also a dramatic decrease in wars between countries. Getting involved in civil wars wasn't the UN's original purpose, but its mission has expended since it has been so successful in preventing other kinds of wars.

          • At least we haven't had any World Wars since the UN was founded. There have been also a dramatic decrease in wars between countries. Getting involved in civil wars wasn't the UN's original purpose, but its mission has expended since it has been so successful in preventing other kinds of wars.

            And by that logic the TSA has a legitimate claim to preventing terrorists from highjacking more planes.

          • Re:Another reason (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Raul654 ( 453029 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @04:04PM (#39201371) Homepage

            BINGO! World War I started, in part, because in July 1914 Europe had in place an antiquated diplomatic framework that was not up to the task of solving a multilateral crisis. An entire month elapsed between the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and the outbreak of war. Until about the last week of that month, when the Russians mobilized, world war was eminently preventable through diplomacy. The UN and the Washington-Moscow hotline both serve as essential backstops to preventing another World War.

            • And what does any of this have to do with carving up the internet?
            • by Sir_Sri ( 199544 )

              The secret alliances are basically a no no now, and were under the league of nations. The UN acts as a collector of treaties, even though for some reason we don't know where the official border is between Saudi and the Emirates they have a treaty, and it has been filed with the UN for future use.

              The UN is also a recognition that there are a lot of very unsavoury people in the world, they're in charge of things, and like it or not they're making decisions. So you may as well give them an official seat at t

          • Re:Another reason (Score:5, Insightful)

            by demachina ( 71715 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @04:13PM (#39201511)

            The UN's post World War I precursor the League of Nations collapsed in complete failure as the Axis powers walked out one by one in the 1930's and it was moth balled when World War II started. The UN inherited many of its agencies and is for all practical purposed the same agency with a new name and a new home. The only reason the UN can claim no world wars on its watch is becaused they changed the name after there was a world war on its watch.

            The primary reason there haven't been any world wars since the UN was founded is because there have been nuclear weapons since before the UN was founded, and everyone has a vested interest in not letting wars escalate to the point that they would annihalate civilization as we know it.

            All things considered your statement is nonsense.

            • The UN's post World War I precursor the League of Nations collapsed in complete failure as the Axis powers walked out one by one in the 1930's

              Technically, WW1 and WW2 were the same war, with a 20 year pause for rebuilding.

              The UN might not be perfect, and it might not have prevented a new WW on its own. However, it has provided a forum to talk, which is a pre-requisite to not fight. As a result, I can guarantee you that there were less wars than if there were no UN. Heck, even the Balkan area had only one actual war, and that was just everyone telling the locals to stop machine-gunning random people.

          • Re:Another reason (Score:5, Insightful)

            by bjdevil66 ( 583941 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @06:01PM (#39202769)

            The UN definitely isn't the reason for no world wars - not even close. For the most part, the NYC-based org is nothing more than a bureaucratic nightmare held together and run by the US and a few other vested interests.

            The real reason there haven't been any World Wars since 1945 is that at least two of the world's biggest (and stable) powers/nations has had nuclear weapons (starting in 1947). Notice that the United States hasn't declared war on any country since then? Yes, the US has invaded a few countries in the name of "freedom", but we've never gone toe-to-toe with a nuclear power, and neither has any other nation. Us and the Soviets/Russians? Nope - just a lot of Cold War crap. India/Pakistan? Nothing major since they got into the nuclear club. China? Nothing since Korea (and subsequently getting nukes). Europe - a place of constant wars between first world nations for millenia - is now mostly silent, outside of the occasional, internal racial purge (Balkans, etc.).

            Wars today are usually either over oil, religion, race, or about freedom - inside of small, punk regimes with crazy men at the helm.

            Now if an UNSTABLE power ever obtained hydrogen bombs, that could change everything, but that's another story. And no UN action is going to stop THEM...

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          Glad to learn we have not had any wars since the founding of the UN -

          (please ignore the 140 plus wars since it was founded in 1945)

          The US has been in war in every decade since the 2nd world war.

          Why should the US have a monopoly on the DNS system? Why should american politics and american secret agencies having access and control over what the whole world can or can't see on the web?

          Aside from that I only see FUD about the UN ... where is the proposal to move DNS to the ITU? Who is proposing it? I don't think it'll happen.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            The US doesn't have a monopoly on the DNS system. You, your city, your government, your children could all start their own DNS system and encourage the rest of us to use it.

            The mere fact that the most popular DNS registries are governed by the US Government is there good fortune for building it to begin with - and us mere users valuing it ever since.

            Stop whining and build your own.

    • Funding? I hate to break it to you, but the States has been in arrears to the United Nations for decades.
      • In the past two years, Congress has returned the U.S. to good financial standing at the UN and honored its obligations by fully funding the regular and peacekeeping budgets.

        How the US funds the UN []

        FY2011 - CIPA - $1.887B, CIO - $1.518B, Regular Budget - $516M

        At the very least you could have looked this up in the 11 seconds it took me. Also, the US accounts for 22% [] of the UN funding, which is almost twice that of the second biggest contributor (Japan). We were in arrears for not paying the full assessment, not for withholding the full amount. I can't find data on it, but the maximum amount we are quoted to be in arrears on is a little over $1B. That's less than 1/3d of

  • by tgeek ( 941867 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @03:25PM (#39200841)
    Here I thought the day I would ever agree with Eric Schmidt on something was long, long gone!
  • This is supposed to be an accident?

    They are drooling over the ability to control.

  • by vikingpower ( 768921 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @03:28PM (#39200885) Homepage Journal
    I do agree with Eric S. "Balkanizing" is a well-chosen expression. The internet as it is has enough self-organization to not be in need of such pseudo-solutions as the proposed UN treaty seems to suggest.
  • He is an American running a company based out of America. Of course we want to maintain control. We Americans have run the show pretty well since we invented this medium/protocol/standard.

    If it works.... don't break it.

  • by tobiah ( 308208 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @03:31PM (#39200917)

    ... will be routed around. Regulate DNS and something else will be used. Block IP addresses and new ones will take their place. While governments dictate indefinite ownership of ideas for their corporate owners and prosecute dissent, technology has been pulling society in the other direction. You can outlaw reality, but that doesn't make it go away, anymore than outlawing weeds stops them from growing.

    • by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @03:50PM (#39201173)

      "Damage will be routed around"

      I know that's the going idea, but let's not push the point too far. The Internet isn't P2P over air yet. You still need the resources of major telcos to make it work and major telcos can be bought or controlled. For all that we would like to pretend that's not the case, this is still the Age of the Nation-State.

      It may not be the Internet that we know and love today, but an Internet can be controlled or more accurately killed by "gates" being dropped at access points all over the world. It could then be reanimated into a dismembered zombie under the control of governments and major providers.

      The reason only places like China and Iran do that today is that no one else has a reason to do it right now, but just wait.

    • ... will be routed around. Regulate DNS and something else will be used. Block IP addresses and new ones will take their place. While governments dictate indefinite ownership of ideas for their corporate owners and prosecute dissent, technology has been pulling society in the other direction. You can outlaw reality, but that doesn't make it go away, anymore than outlawing weeds stops them from growing.

      Yep, the people of China, Iran, Saudi Arabia all agree with you - if they get to see your post because of the controls those "enlightened" countries gateways allow. Yes, I know of the Anonymiser software, the proxies and whatnot that allow some technically-able individuals to get outside of their "Great Firewalls", but I for one would not trust an organization that suffers the "UN Human Rights Council" (composed of such freedom loving stalwarts such as China, Cuba, Iran, etc (as well as some rights-respect

  • by jdogalt ( 961241 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @03:37PM (#39201001) Journal

    The DNS system as it is now, in the not too distant future, I suspect will be viewed as little more than a Racket. Domain registration should be effectively free. There is no justification for the current registration fees (let alone the BLATANT racketeering fees for xxx and toplevel domains).

    Darknets are the future. Ditch your ISPs DNS server as your primary authority (what timewarner does to unresolvable domains, injecting their advertising makes me want to puke).

    • I use OpenDNS as my primary and Google's as backups.
    • (what timewarner does to unresolvable domains, injecting their advertising makes me want to puke).

      They aren't the only ones. Verizon does the same thing, and probably others. But its easy to turn off. For TW its an account setting, just google for the info. Verizon has alternate DNS server addresses that don't futz with the results.

      For those who suggested using google for DNS - that's just too much for me, no way I want to give them a list of every hostname I am ever interested in.

    • by heypete ( 60671 )

      The DNS system as it is now, in the not too distant future, I suspect will be viewed as little more than a Racket. Domain registration should be effectively free. There is no justification for the current registration fees (let alone the BLATANT racketeering fees for xxx and toplevel domains).

      Perhaps, but the DNS requires infrastructure to operate. That infrastructure isn't free.

      The costs for the gTLDs are pretty reasonable (roughly $10/year for retail pricing; the registry gets what, maybe $6.50/year out of that?). I'm not sure how much of it actually makes it down to the folks who operate the roots, but they should definitely get some of it (assuming they aren't already). It's not easy running a distributed, global system upon which the entire internet relies and that has had 100% uptime for a

  • by wcrowe ( 94389 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @03:38PM (#39201013)

    Dear United Nations,

    The internet is not broken. Please do not fix it.

    Thank you.

    • by Nugoo ( 1794744 )
      Don't worry. The member nations are working on the first part.
    • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @04:22PM (#39201615)

      I've said this before and I'll say it again, because people really need to wake up, smell the coffee, and internalize this:

      The UN doesn't represent YOU, or any other PERSON. It represents GOVERNMENTS. Governments are their constituents, not humaity.

      Let me repeat that: The UN's constituents are GOVERNMENTS, not humanity. If you understand that, you will understand UN policy and why they do things that otherwise seem bizarr or incompetent.

      And from the point of view of virtually every government, no matter how "benign" it may appear, the Internet is most certainly broken. Why? Because they cannot easily control it, control the content on it, or control what the people using it see and say. This impacts their ability to govern the way they would like to (and the way they used to) by feeding an official line to the media and have it echoed into every home and automobile, often without much question.

      What humanity sees as a working, functioning internet that has democratized information and allowed an unprecedented level of collaboration, cooperation, and exchange of ideas, our governments one and all see as their biggest threat. What better way to reign in that threat than to turn control over to the UN, then agree by treaty how it is to be "governend". What they tried with SOPA and ACTA they'll be able to easily achieve through a simple UN governance mandate.

      Sianara Internet, sianara freedom of communication. Welcome your new overlords, same as the olds ones, but with less compunction about smacking you down into place. With perfect political cover to the ostensibly liberal western democracies: to the public: "we regret the UN's decision to implement X, but are bound by treaty to abide their decision. This minor erosion of internet expression won't impact our fundamental freedoms any, and we'll learn to cope", to the Koch brothers (or Soros if you're on the other side of the aisle): "Problem solved. Can I count on your campaign contribution to my superpac next season?" Multiply across every politician, in every political system, in every government, and diversify by whatever means is appropriate to the local political climate, wether it's campaign contributions, secret tribunals, or shells raining down on opposition cities.

      • The USA does not represent you or your nation and for the informed they know the USA does not represent its own citizens either.
        SOPA and ACTA will eventually happen somehow as soon as the public drops the ball long enough on the issue for them to sneak it bye; with or without the UN. At least with the UN it will have even more BS to navigate and given how weak the UN is it will probably not have the impact the USA is today messing with people's domains, pushing around foreign officials like puppets etc.

  • In practical terms (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rs79 ( 71822 ) <> on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @03:45PM (#39201091) Homepage

    If you chase the authority up the line it goes ICANN --> NTIA --> DoC --> US Congress.

    Now, how prepared do you think the US congress is going to be to hand their control of the Internet over to China and Russia?

    The ITU has been seeking relevance to the Internet since the 90s; in a world where balancing line voltages is no longer important the ITU's role in international telecommunications has been severely dimini$hed.

    If you look at any step of the way, Bob Shaw from the ITU has been running around in secret trying to cover his tracks.

    When GE Federal Systems used Alternic and posted it was "as good as if not better" than the legacy root servers, who called from the INTERNATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS UNION IN GENEVA (t SOUNDS so impressive, in real terms, it's as impressive as being, say, the LAN administrator for the White House. Not much global policymaking happens in THAT cubicle) and asked them to stop as this was dangerous? Bob Shaw of the ITU. Oh, and he asked that his name be kept of it ("I didn't say this, I was never here" - Dune). Pity he didn't get the secretary to swear to the same secrecy, she told me who it was. Get used to it, maggots.

    Who introduced the Government Advisory Comittee ("GAC") into ICANN as a fait d'accompli, drawn up in secret, who meet in secret but only have an advisory role - except where they insist on policy? DING DING DING - Bob Shaw of the ITU again. I held a quick straw poll on the floor of the first ICANN meeting in Berlin (the neo nazi demostration outside was a nice touch) and 13 out of 1000 people thought the GAC was a good idea - this for an organization that is supposed to "measure and implement community consensus" as its charter. The footage is still around on the Berkman Center servers at Harvard, and I have copies.

    Who knew the fix was in an the US goverment had already picked an ICANN an ignored the worlds work via IFWP and bragged about it drunk in DC ? Bob Shaw of the ITU. He still owes me money from smoking all my wifes Virgina Slims from that night too.I don't trust him or the ITU with $10, let along the internet. He doesn't get this openness thing and is instead a remnant of old world secrecy.

    At any rate, ICANN only has any authority at all at our leisure. If we type different numbers into special places in our computers they pretty much cease to exist in any operational capacity as the net is edge controlled, not centrally controlled. Everybody with a root password controls a little piece of it, and it grows at the edges.

    This UN governance thing has been repeating like an onion sandwich for over a decade now. When the ITU couldn't get the IANA contract it upped the ante to use the UN moniker to try to get everyone in the world to rally behind it. Waste of time, they can be safely ignored. Nobody takes them seriously.

  • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @03:46PM (#39201099)
    Regulation an issue? How about shifting technology in a direction that is harder to regulate? Get ubiquidous encryption going, and someone needs to work on a shift towards a content-addressible network for dissemination. It shouldn't even be difficult.

    You could encode CDA addresses as 'HTTP://fallback-http-server/SHA1HASHCAN/hash/mime/mime/filename' - that way you'd have backwards compatibility, as any browsers not programmed to first ask their local CDA cache node if it has that data would fall back to HTTP. Those that are programmed for it would recognise /SHA1HASHCAN as a special pseudo-directory and query their cache, then every open cache on their network before they tried to HTTP it.

    CAN is the solution to so many problems. It'd be substantially harder to censor, substantially harder to trace either source or destination of data, eliminate a lot of congestion-causing demand on the internet infrastructure, be more resilient against faults and dramatically reduce the cost of distributing content ensuring that the individuals and small groups on the internet would be just as able to publish large media files as the big boys who can afford global CDNs.

    Yes, I'm rather taken with the idea of a distributed, hash-addressible global public cache right now. Storage is dirt cheap, network capacity isn't.
  • by grantspassalan ( 2531078 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @03:49PM (#39201153)

    Governments hate and always have hated the loss of control over their people. A major means of control is control over communication between the masses of people. When the printing press was invented, governments immediately instituted controls. That was not too hard, because printing presses were and still are expensive, as are broadcast stations. Controlling those media outlets is relatively easy because there are so few in comparison to the people on the Internet. Now anyone with a computer and a reasonable Internet connection can make their ideas available to anyone else with an Internet connected gadget. All governments without exception hate this because it lessens their control over their populations.

  • by macraig ( 621737 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [giarc.a.kram]> on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @03:55PM (#39201273)

    ... is that Google might lose its current degree of influence over governance if that governance isn't in the United States. Google would have far less sway with the ITU than with ICANN and the other U.S.-based agencies. Once again it's the 'selfish voice' masquerading as a 'voice of the people'.

    • There is more going on than just the DNS mess with ICANN. I'm 110% for moving away from ICANN but it is all the other internet issues which will be tied to this simple move that I am worried about.

      China already has the firewall the USA will be getting. ICANN is not stopping China any.

  • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @04:13PM (#39201495)

    The question people should be asking themselves is if they want someone like Bashar Assad or Mugabe or China or the next Pol Pot regime to have a say in what you can and can't do on the internet. Because as soon as you bring it to the UN you give equal footing to regimes that shouldn't have any say. Just like when Kadaffi's Libya was in charge of the UN commission on Human Rights.

  • possibly (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @04:21PM (#39201609) Journal

    The ultimate threat to the Internet is not governments, it's corporations. If a government tries to twist or shape or censor the Internet, there will always be ways around it and in the end, citizens and even other countries and their citizens will bring down the plans of such regimes.

    But when corporations take something over, it's gone for good. There will be no Tor, no darknet.

    Even with their armies and weapons, governments are much weaker than corporations. Because ultimately, those armies are made up of people, and the ones holding those weapons are people. But there are no tools for people to fight off or take down corporations once they have reached a certain level of power. Finally, the decisions in a corporation are made not by the people who work for the corporation, or even the owners, but by the legal virtual entity that is required to only seek greater shareholder value. Even if the shareholders, or board of directors, or C-level officers decide they want to assign some social good a slightly greater weight in the corporate decision-making process, the corporation is designed to ignore them and only to seek greater shareholder value. No "free market" mechanisms exist that allow for the power of corporations to be reigned in. And now we have shares of corporations owned by other corporations, so there are layers and layers of decision gates that only respond to greater share value. We have corporations that are worth more than all but about 10% of world governments. What possible defense does a country, even a democracy, have against such a single-minded golem that only knows how to feed endlessly.

    Greater regulation may well be the last line of defense against a corporate takeover of the Internet. Really, of the world. But it's a small window that's closing. And the wealth of those corporations is being used to obfuscate, confuse, disarm and distract.

    It's a shame the United Nations is so weak. So corrupt. The solution is not to regulate the Internet, but to regulate the corporations.

  • by airfoobar ( 1853132 ) on Wednesday February 29, 2012 @04:26PM (#39201673)
    Am I the only one who senses that China/Russia are pushing for UN control of the internet because the US overstepped its bounds by enforcing its shitty copyright laws beyond its borders with domain seizures? We need to stop this, and before that happens we may need to force the US government to guarantee that it won't mess with internet infrastructure any more...
  • Google has deep pockets, and has been known to do good things for their own sake (no, I don't buy the whole "don't be evil" thing, but there's a decent track record there) Setup or fund existing mesh networking systems to allow a grassroots network (with a new name) that is decentralized completely. I know research is going on in this area for a variety of reasons, put more brains and money on it and make it happen. "Work toward saying to the UN: You can have the Internet, we're done with it now."

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"