The UN’s World Summit on the Information Society ended today with the U.S.–or more precisely Internet users around the world–coming up winners. Efforts to impose international controls over Internet governance were firmly beaten back. Instead, the summit only called for creation of an advisory “International Internet Governance Forum,” with no binding authority. The new forum will meet next year in Greece.
Efforts to impose international control over the Internet, of course are unlikely to go away. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said as much earlier this week, stating that the Tunis agreement highlights the need for more international participation in discussion of Internet governance issues. The question is how to achieve this. Let those discussions continue.” For this reason, the new forum bears watching, lest it morph into an international regulatory body.
Still, its hard not to be pleased, and relieved, at this week’s outcome. The quote of the week goes to Commerce Department telecom chief Michael Gallagher, who said: “The Internet lives to innovate another day because of our combined efforts here.”
Kudos for the outcome are due to the Bush Administration for standing firm on this critical issue. Administration policymakers –including Gallagher and state department official David Gross–recognized early the dangers of globalizing Internet governance, and stood firm in their opposition.
Thanks also should go to the government of Tunisia, who hosted the conference. Its efforts to blot out unpleasant dissent during the conference–which included the blocking of websites from the country–did far more than any speech or policy paper to highlight the critical importance of protecting Internet freedom.
(For some interesting takes on the Tunis summit and its implications, check out the discussion held at The Heritage Foundation yesterday on the subject–featuring Sen. Norm Coleman, Rep. John Doolittle, fellow TLFer Adam Thierer and The Heritage Foundation’s John Tkacik.)