China threatens to leave IGF

At the Hyderabad Internet Governance Forum, the Chinese delegate threatened to withdraw from IGF and “use other mechanisms” unless the IGF stops trying to avoid the controversial issues that led to its creation. The strong reaction from China came because a clear discussion of the problem of U.S. government control of the root and “enhanced cooperation” in the Tunis Agenda had been all but sabotaged by defenders of the ICANN regime. On the morning panel, the panel moderator started out by announcing that the term didn't really mean anything, and various panelists blithely discussed “enhanced cooperation” as if it meant nothing more than that nice, cooperative things had happened since WSIS, including people helping a little old lady across the street. This ignores, of course, the real meaning of the Tunis Agenda and its call for some kind of change in the relationship between governments, public policy making and the Internet. “I was at WSIS,” the Chinese delegate said, “and I know what was going on.” According to him, “the focal point of IGF is to discuss whether we need one government to manage critical internet resources or whether we need something else.” The delegate said that if the propblem was not resolved, “the issue will be raised in the UN General Assembly to consider and make a decision on.”

4 comments

  1. Anonymous

    What “critical Internet resource” would the Chinese delegate be referring to? Freedom of speech, perhaps? I am someone who is often highly critical of ICANN, and for good reason, but I'm happier with them in charge than a congeries of totalitarian governments. And of course this isn't (as it never is) about “technical resources,” or the Chinese wouldn't have even bothered to show up. Please…

  2. Anonymous

    If you want to participate in the debate over U.S. control of the root, it is necessary to be honest about what the alternatives are and what the problems are. Everyone knows that we do not have to choose between U.S. control and “a congeries of totalitarian governments.” We can and will have neither. IGP has for years advocated getting the U.S. government out and also preventing other governments from exploiting the root for leverage over speech. The Chinese delegate did not demand a specific result from the IGF; he demanded that we have an honest discussion of clearly identified topics. If you think we can defend the freedom of the Internet through subterfuge and diversion you are very wrong, my friend.

  3. Anonymous

    Hi Milton – I'm surprised to be exhorted to be honest, or to be seen as supporting subterfuge and diversion. That's not my perception of myself or of how I think things should be done; nor do I think I've given you cause to think that.
    The issues that have been raised as a problem with U.S. control of the root are that (1) it is isn't fair to other nation states and their citizens (2) its decisions aren't subject to review, and (3) it favors its creature, ICANN, over other policy-setting groups. Note that these problems are different than problems one might have with ICANN itself. On the plus side, it hasn't interfered much with ICANN — though some wish they would — except to tell Paul Twomey that no, he couldn't transform ICANN into an International Olympic Committee-style luncheon club.
    The alternatives are exactly zero – the U.S. gov't is not putting in the hands of any other group the ability to shut down .mil or .gov with a keystroke. That will not change with the new administration.
    Unlike you perhaps, I am not upset about this. Why? The alternatives. My experience as the leader of the Policy Advisory Body within the pre-ICANN IAHC, whose leaders included the ITU, WIPO, and other UN-affiliated institutions is that there is a great deal of subterfuge and diversion in these ranks. Then, I was both amused and disgusted by the WSIS meeting in Tunis, hosted by a government called an “enemy of the Internet” by Reporters Without Borders, and giving privileged speaking status to leaders of governments who engage in jailing of cyberdissents (Tunisia), forced relocation of political enemies (Zimbabwe), imprisonment of political dissidents (Cuba), and genocide (Sudan).
    Now add to this august group of dictatorships the government of China, the leading practitioner of censorship on the Internet. How is this defensible? How is this better than ICANN?
    – Antony

  4. Anonymous

    Antony:
    This post illustrates perfectly why I exhorted you to be honest in your discussion. Once again, you have refused to engage with the real issue, and have used red herrings and scare tactices to muddy the discussion of the JPA. You continue to harp on dictatorial governments, which no one in the international community seriously proposes to have a role in DNS root management, and you continue to refuse to discuss directly and honestly the simple and very feasible option of concluding the JPA and having no governments involved. Perhaps you think, along with GoDaddy and many others, that ICANN needs new, additional accountability mechanisms; fine. That's a discussion worth having. Perhaps you sincerely believe that the US government oversight is justifiable in a world of over 200 governments; that, too, is understandable for an American citizen even if almost impossible to justify logically. But to rail on about Tunisia is simply thoroughly irrelevant to the issue of ICANN's JPA, and thus serves only to divert discussion from the real issues. And it conveniently ignores the existence of GAC, which is open to Tunisia, China and all the other governments you profess to fear. When you want to have a real discussion about DNS oversight, come back and let us know.