China, TLD censorship top topics in 2010

Judging from IGP blog's readership, which grew by about 25% compared to last year, the most interesting and important topics we covered were China's impact on Internet governance and the nexus between internet censorship and new Top-Level Domains. Wikileaks was third, with ICANN accountability rounding out the top of the pack. Individual posts on COICA, the Bredolab botnet prosecution, vertical integration and the move away from multistakeholderism at IGF also found their way into IGP's most popular blog posts (see below for a list of the top 15).

Our 8 December post framing the Wikileaks controversy as an Internet governance issue was the single most-read blog post in 2010 by far. Apparently, our emphasis on the continuing tension between nation-states and networked information via the Internet struck a chord.

But the “cyberwar” over Wikileaks only happened in the last month of the year. China and the Internet, on the other hand, was an unfolding series of events we covered throughout the year, and generated more traffic. Readers flocked to our discussion of China's attempt to implement “real name registration” requirements for online bulletins, especially after Blizzard Entertainment, producer of World of Warcraft, tried to follow their precedent (and backed off). But the Google-China and US-China conflicts also contributed great interest to this topic.

The TLD/censorship story was also an ongoing story only marginally less popular than China. It dealt with the the fate of the .xxx domain – still controversial and still targeted by some governments – as well as the attempt of the GAC to impose more general “morality and public order” restraints on new TLD applicants. We think we've made substantial progress in convincing more people that institutionalizing censorship via ICANN is an important – and potentially dangerous – precedent for global governance of the Internet.

Guest blog: California Law Is No Impediment to Holding ICANN Accountable

No other issue unites the Internet community quite like ICANN’s accountability deficit. Governments, contracted parties, commercial interests, NGOs, and ordinary Internet users—all have expressed their shared frustration that ICANN continues to evade real accountability.

The problem is partly explained by the complexity of ICANN’s structure and powers. It is both the overall global manager for the Internet DNS and a California nonprofit corporation. Its unique marriage of public power and private corporate form obscures familiar lines of thinking about how organizations work and how to improve their accountability.

But its unique form cannot alter ICANN’s legal character as a nonprofit corporation organized under, and therefore bound by, California law.

The UN Sticks its Head in the Sand

Now, for sure, you can discard all that talk about a “UN takeover of the Internet.” The only things the UN knows how to take over are its own obscure departments. On December 10 the UN's Committee on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) announced that the Working Group on Improvements to the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) will be composed exclusively of member states. No civil society or business organizations, no academic or technical representatives will be allowed to participate.

Fate of new TLDs to be settled in private

At the ICANN meeting in Colombia, the board passed resolutions indicating that it is one last step away from implementing the program to create new top level domains. The board considers the problems of trademark protection, root scalability, mitigating malicious conduct and economic analysis to be closed. But the Board recognized that censorship of top level domain strings on the grounds of “morality and public order” is still an open issue. Once again, the GAC has used the finalization process to reassert its power, which is not guided by any treaty or law.

Upcoming Event: “Networks and States: The Global Politics of Internet Governance” at NYU, December 14

ISOC-NY is delighted to present Milton Mueller’s first full exposition of his new book Networks and States: The Global Politics of Internet Governance at NYU on Tuesday December 14 2010. Prof. Mueller is a co-founder of ICANN’s NonCommercial User’s Constituency and a renowned cyberlibertarian. His 2002 book Ruling the Root...

Why ICANN should ignore the NTIA’s letter

Like a clinging, overbearing parent, the U.S. Commerce Department just can’t seem to let go of ICANN. Yesterday Lawrence Strickling, the Assistant Secretary in charge of the NTIA, sent a stern letter to the ICANN’s CEO in an attempt to dictate the course of domain name policy. Strickling called for yet another delay in the implementation of new top level domains because – incredibly – he claims that the issue hasn’t been studied enough! Strickling thus ignores ten years of research, deliberation and debate both inside and outside ICANN – some of it commissioned by the Commerce Department itself. Here's a little bedtime reading to bring Strickling and the rest of the NTIA up to speed on the ongoing debate over the economic implications of new top level domains.

How to discredit net neutrality

On Tuesday (November 30) Internet backbone provider Level3 publicly accused cable-based ISP Comcast of trying to thwart competing video services delivered through the internet. There is an important lesson to be drawn from this peering dispute about how to pursue – and not to pursue – the goals of Internet freedom associated with net neutrality.