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[I-coordination] Pandoras box

Phillip Hallam-Baker hallam at
Tue Dec 3 23:08:45 CET 2013

Everyone is talking in such optimistic terms. But the real issues we have
to deal with are the dark side of the Web and the extent to which we are
willing to face limitations to deal with them.

Some of the government raised concerns are valid:

* Use of the Internet to engage in child abuse (e.g. pornography).
* Use of the Internet by organized criminals to perpetrate fraud.
* Terrorist attacks
* Protection of intellectual property

Some of the civil society raised concerns are valid:

* Risk of political censorship.
* Risk of pervasive surveillance to suppress dissent.
* Risk of Internet control points being used to deny access.

These are all easy to agree to take action on individually and in general
terms. At least among free-world governments. The problem comes when we get
to definitions. The SCO countries have defined political protest as
'Information terrorism'.

I am not that bothered about the names or structures of the institutions.
It is the outcomes that I am concerned with. We can always create more
institutions and talking shops.

So far the only thing that the governments have managed to co-ordinate on
is preventing child abuse.

The Russian authorities openly tolerate groups such as the Russian Business
Network operating criminal schemes provided that they attack foreign banks
rather than their own. Though they do force the groups to change their
names and regroup from time to time to create the illusion of compliance.

One possible explanation for this behavior is that this is considered to be
a bargaining chip. So Russia might trade help in tracking down the
criminals in return for suppressing criticism of Putin.

We are very unlikely to come to inter-governmental agreement on which
groups are terrorists but there is a risk that some government led
conference somewhere will come to an agreement behind closed doors that
concedes political censorship on the pretext of suppressing terrorism.

So one of the goals of the civil libertarians should be to make sure that
the governments can't meet to decide these issues in secret as is currently
happening on the Trans Pacific Partnership.

There is a mode of corrupt legislating whereby a government that does not
have domestic support for policy X goes off to an international treaty
negotiation where it pushes for policy X behind closed doors then returns
home to declare that they are now obligated to do X because it is an
international treaty obligation.

Perhaps ironically, the country most likely to do this is the US which due
to its constitution is almost invariably unable to sign the resulting
treaty in any case.

Keeping bright sunlight on these processes is important.

But these issues are technical as well as political. Rather than fighting
over Internet control points we should minimize these as far as is
possible. The country code TLDs provide an escape valve in the DNS system.
It is understood that any government that seeks to exercise sovereignty
over its CC TLD has the right to do so.

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