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[liberationtech] Critically Examining "What Would Happen" if the U.N. (or another international body) Administered the Internet?

Bill Woodcock woody at
Tue Jul 16 15:18:06 PDT 2013

On Jul 16, 2013, at 3:08 PM, Zack Brisson <zack at> wrote:
> Have there been nuanced and balanced explorations of how the U.N. (or another international organ) could serve as reasonably equitable hub for a multi-stakeholder Internet from actors others than those with a clear position biasing their analysis? Having worked closely with the U.N., I am under no illusions as its infallibility or consistent effectiveness. But is this "End of the Internet/Internet Freedom" truly an inevitable outcome for either technical or political reasons?

It's not a question of the "end of the Internet," it's a question of whether the U.N. has any way to facilitate the continuance of bottom-up multistakeholder governance (since that's not how they operate, and none of their structures natively support non-governmental decision-making), and at a greater degree of remove, whether any nationalistic form of governance would, in the long run, preserve the end-to-end model.

Most people believe that if governments were to gain control over Internet governance, that they'd do what they do with everything else, and start making national-scale divergences from the current global standards. They're strongly incentivized to do so, at the expense of global markets, and the global public, the vast majority of whom are not their constituents.  It's a potential tragedy of the commons, which is held in check by the fact that it's currently communally governed, rather than individually governed, so it's governed in the common good, rather than to the maximization of individual goods at the expense of the whole.

It's very difficult to talk for very long about the abstract theory of all this, before someone drags in the actual, more complicated, situation, wherein the U.N. isn't just the U.N., but also the ITU, and the ITU isn't just the ITU, but the ITU staff, and three camps of ITU member states that are at odds with each other, and that whole mess is just a pawn in the larger WTO chess-match, etc., etc., etc.


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