Web 2.5: Is it time we elected an Internet government?

Web 2.5: Is it time we elected an Internet government?

Summary: As I watched the BBC News last night after getting in from London, I saw riots in China with death tolls surpassing those of the 1989 Tiananmen Square tragedy. Mobile phones have "stopped working" and Internet access is "limited" in the area, according to the news reports.

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As I watched the BBC News last night after getting in from London, I saw riots in China with death tolls surpassing those of the 1989 Tiananmen Square tragedy. Mobile phones have "stopped working" and Internet access is "limited" in the area, according to the news reports.

The BBC are reporting that the Great Firewall of China - which limits certain websites, domains and networks - has limited access to Twitter, in an attempt to curb Chinese citizens from sharing their experiences to the wider world.

On a similar note, in Iran the diplomatic efforts to sustain order after the controversial presidential elections last month are slowly having effect. With the lifting of certain measures such as the restrictions on text messaging and Internet access, it appears (at least from the perspective of Western media) that things are returning to normal in the region.

Shappi Khorsandi, an Iranian comedian who became a British refuge "before it became popular" often runs with this running joke:

"The Iranian regime strongly advocates freedom of speech - there's just no freedom after you've spoken."

This isn't a soapbox to criticise Iran. As a nation, the people are beautiful, peaceful people who have been turned sour by a regime which oppresses the people -- as we have seen in recent times thanks to Iranians using citizen journalism and posting videos to YouTube. A similar perspective in China has been broadcast through user-submitted videos showing almost an embarrassment of their own nations and governments in their reactions and responses. These are citizens working against the law, facing imprisonment and inhumane punishments to stand up for their own in-built human rights - a genetic survival instinct kicking in.

The Internet is being used as a means to support each individual's right to freedom of speech. The boundary of what is politically active speech and bordering hate speech is not clear. Nevertheless, it is generally considered the West's opinion that the Internet is used to express ourselves and our opinions. Other nations and cultures disagree. That is, however, their prerogative and we shouldn't necessarily criticise that.

This did get me thinking though...

Jason Hiner, editor-in-chief of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic, is getting the hang of this. Using a democratic system, he is asking the readers to vote in a "President of the Internet" in a mock-election. Take this:

In online criminal investigations, the laws which govern some territories of the world differ greatly to those governing other territories. Take online child abuse imagery, or terrorist handbooks such as the "Anarchist's Cookbook"; searching for these online is illegal in the UK and US, whereas other countries permit these searches, often due to cultural differences.

When sharing intelligence and engaging in online legal co-operation between Commonwealth countries, it's not so bad - there's often no language barrier and due to the country's legal setup, they're often very similar to each other. Legal processes aren't necessarily in line with one another but they are aligned to a point where it is relatively easy to share information. When it's between the US and the UK, for example, sharing information isn't very easy. "Special relationship"? What special relationship? There isn't one on the legal front; just one in a diplomatic sense.

In 2005, a bright spark from CNET had a similar idea. Declan McCullagh suggested the idea that the United Nations (UN) could "run" the Internet. It's an interesting idea to have an elected representative from each nation to participate in discussion, in engaging a process which creates a diplomatic "standard" for the web worldwide. If you can search for the Dalai Lama in Brazil, you should be able to search for the Dalai Lama in China; no exceptions.

In a similar process to the Kyoto protocol, an international agreement between a number of major carbon-emitting nations to reduce the effects of climate change, an international agreement of Internet standards could be introduced. While agreements can be broken if necessary, such as the agreement mentioned in my recent article in regards to EU phone chargers, ratified legislation could bring together a worldwide protocol for managing web-based events, legal processes and channels, and standards as to what can and can't be broadcast. This could be one step closer in gaining control of the online piracy index which threatens the livelihood of individuals and organisations who create software.

If this were the case, an international law of communications could be established by a "government" made up of representatives of every country, similar to the United Nations, to discuss and agree on universal standards to ensure inter-continental co-operation in dealing with consumer and corporate online law breakers. No longer will individual countries have censorship laws and web policies. Instead it would be moulded into a giant set of international laws which governed the entire web as the first online nation.

Regardless of where you are in the physical world, if you are online, you stick to one set of international rules. A simple idea, in theory.

For now, the web is being used as a weapon for the case of democracy and those living in non-democratic circumstances are struggling to make themselves heard. If the web is to progress to the next level - "Web 3.0" and truly interactive services bridging the online and offline world - there needs to be some basic level of international collaboration on the legal and diplomatic front. To reach "Web 3.0", the idea behind a governed Internet, "Web 2.5", may need to be taken into serious consideration.

Can we really progress to the "next level" with what we already have in place? Really think about it, then let me know.

Topics: China, Browser, Government, Government US

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10 comments
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  • The solution to bad government........

    .....is not [i]more[/i] government, but [i]less[/i] government.

    Odd how you start the article by citing all the problems government is causing with the internet, and then suggest that [i]another[/i] government would somehow change things.

    What was that about the definition of insanity?? Hmmmmm

    Anyway, you also presume there is some global consent regarding the rule of law - as if all that needs to happen is a couple of lawyers get together and bamm, suddenly everyone respects the "authority" of this new government.

    In the end, regardless of the appeal of a world ruled by law, this world is still ruled by force.

    No, the last thing we need is an Internet Government.
    Takalok
    • Agreed

      While this isn't the exact phrasing I'd use - I do agree in principle.

      International government suffers from a wide variety of issues:

      -The leaders are often not elected by the people. This means that they're often not democracies, but instead a type of dictatorship by committee.

      -International "law" sometimes conflicts with national law, and that creates a huge disconnect with the people, especially if the people prefer the national laws to the international laws.

      -International law has little way of enforcement. Larger countries like the USA and China are powerful enough to laugh at any type of enforcement effort.

      With outsourcing a huge problem in the USA and unemployment at an all-time high, we might actually [b]benefit[/b] from sanctions, which would force us to rely more on local resources, which would mean a greater demand for in-country jobs.

      -Frankly, there's great skepticism at the effectiveness and societal good an international body may have. Many international bodies try to do too much micromanagement of their member nations, and often this escalates disputes from a local level to an international level. Very often this just amplifies disagreements and increases tensions not just between the member states, but also between the member states and the international body itself.

      While international bodies often are well intentioned - well, that's often what paves the way to he**. Good intentions often do not translate to good results.
      CobraA1
  • RE: Web 2.5: Is it time we elected an Internet government?

    In what alternate universe do you live in that you think that China would in any way give a crap about what kind of "rules" this internet government lays down? Rules are meaningless without the force to back them up. Who is going to provide the force to make China comply (or anyone for that matter)? And please do not say the UN, because we both know that would never happen.
    smann5@...
  • RE: Web 2.5: Is it time we elected an Internet government?

    "The boundary of what is politically active speech and bordering hate speech is not clear."

    Sure there is. "Hate speech" is an invention by the government to suppress free speech. "Politically active speech" is a media invention used by the media to spin their agenda.

    "Nevertheless, it is generally considered the West?s opinion that the Internet is used to express ourselves and our opinions. Other nations and cultures disagree. That is, however, their prerogative and we shouldn?t necessarily criticise that."

    I disagree. I believe that fundamental freedoms are universal in scope and should be applicable to the entire human race. We can and should criticize those who take away fundamental human rights and freedoms.

    "No longer will individual countries have censorship laws and web policies."

    Instead, the international body will have censorship laws and web policies. I'm not certain this is better, unless we can absolutely guarantee that the international body will not take away fundamental rights and freedoms.
    CobraA1
  • For crying out loud. The naivete here is breathtaking

    diplomacy in Iran is having an effect? You seriously can't
    be this stupid.

    Protests were squashed, the joke of an election remained
    in effect, and the dictatorship is still in full control. I
    predicted it weeks ago and was laughed at by similarly
    naive fools who thought the internet and twitter, et al was
    going to force a bunch of dictator thugs to step down from
    power and usher in a glorious utopia of democracy.

    Here's what will happen in China. Some people will get
    shot. Others will get arrested. The protests will be
    crushed.

    And some idiot will think he's made progress toward world
    freedom by creating some stupid bureaucracy and calling it
    an "internet government."
    frgough
    • Right ******* on.

      People throughout history made themselves "free" DESPITE the hideous "governments" they were ashamed to suffer under, not BECAUSE of them.

      Look up something called "Radio Free Europe", an organization that broadcast a different point of view to the whitewashed masses in captive eastern european countries during the height of the Cold War. The internet today is similar, only 2 orders of magnitude more capable. It's sending "unapproved" content to people hungry for it. Let it be.

      Govern this.
      vikingnyc@...
  • RE: Web 2.5: Is it time we elected an Internet government?

    No. That's stupid.
    lynn@...
  • UN to control the internet??????

    90% America Hating Terrorists have gotten money from the UN and have had training in UN Schools.

    You suggest we expand on this success???
    Wittigpc@...
  • RE: Web 2.5: Is it time we elected an Internet government?

    I think the web's fabric is about more than replication of governmental bodies from the physical world. From the commercial point of view, legalistics cover the transactions' aspects on the internet as well, based on the countries of origin of the transctions.

    I see it on a larger scale and advocate an icentered paradigm shift in my blog icentered - the web according to me www.icentered.com It protects our interests and web of life by harnessing the unique ubiquity, connectivity and interoperability of individuals to form a digital life governance based on rules that will empower communities of purpose to form around isuues, replace corporates in ownership of users' data, participation in food chains etc..
    I believe there's a place for a user centered web that accounts for what we people need, and governance should accomodate that. It's up to us to write the blueprints to empower such a "state of mind". I'd love to hear your comments on my icentered web of life approach.
    ayala rahav
  • This is why I'm an anarchist

    There's no government like no government.

    Seriously, imagine a free market capitalist order, no taxes and all public services were run by business rather than politicians. Armies wouldn't invade the middle east for oil, and nobody would lobby any government for licensing restrictions. Copyright could be abolished and intellectual work paid for directly in advance, and you could choose from 3 different local competing police agencies. The internet is a small taste of this world.
    Skyler827