Wednesday, October 12, 2005 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

WSJ editorial: "The World Wide Web (of Bureaucrats)"

This Saturday, my old friend Wayne Crews of CEI and I had an editorial in the weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal dealing with the increasing calls for more "global governance" of the Internet. In our essay, "The World Wide Web (of Bureaucrats)," Wayne and I point out that we are at a critical moment in the history of the Internet, with calls for collective global governance coming from many different quarters.

A "U.N. for the Internet" model would be a disaster, we argue, since it would allow regulators from across the globe to get their paws on the Net and start imposing a variety of confusing, country-specific cultural and legal standards on this open, borderless network or networks. We conclude the essay by noting that, "if laissez-faire is not an option, the second-best solution is that the legal standards governing Web content should be those of the 'country of origin.' Ideally, governments should assert authority only over citizens physically within its geographic borders. This would protect sovereignty and the principle of 'consent of the governed' online. It would also give companies and consumers a 'release valve' or escape mechanism to avoid jurisdictions that stifle online commerce or expression. The Internet helps overcome artificial restrictions on trade and communications formerly imposed by oppressive or meddlesome governments. Allowing these governments to reassert control through a U.N. backdoor would be a disaster."

On a related note, I also encourage you to read this excellent new editorial by Carl Bildt, the former prime minister of Sweden. Bildt argues that, "It would be profoundly dangerous to now set up an international mechanism, controlled by governments, to take over the running of the Internet. Not only would this play into the hands of regimes bent on limiting the freedom that the Internet can bring, it also risks stifling innovation and ultimately endangering the security of the system. Even trying to set up such a mechanism could cause conflicts leading to today's uniform global system being Balkanized into different, more or less closed systems."

Amen to that.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 10:11 AM | E-commerce , Free Speech , Internet Governance