Five Reasons to Keep Government Out of Internet Governance

EXPERT COMMENTARY

Five Reasons to Keep Government Out of Internet Governance

By Eli Dourado |
May 13, 2013

Starting on May 14, the International Telecommunication Union – an agency of the United Nations – is kicking off a meeting for governments and telecom companies to discuss "international Internet-related public policy matters." Up for debate are six draft opinions on various aspects of Internet policy, but the unifying question is: how much should governments (and intergovernmental organizations) involve themselves in the building and running of the Internet? Under the current system, governments do very little – and the Internet has flourished because of it.

Here are five reasons we should resist giving governments a bigger role in Internet governance:

1. Censorship: Some governments want to be more involved in managing the Internet so that they can better monitor who is saying what online. Reporters Without Borders lists five governments that it classifies as "State Enemies of the Internet," and there are several more that are nearly equally as repressive. A greater role in managing Internet resources, such as IP addresses, would make it even easier for these governments to monitor and censor speech online.

2. Technical expertise: Under the status quo, decisions about Internet governance are cooperatively made by some of the most talented network engineers around. The bottom-up, peer-production model of Internet standards-setting selects for the best ideas from this pool of great technical minds. In contrast, if these decisions were made by government bureaucrats, the quality of the engineers would go down and the decision-making process would be politicized. The Internet would likely be less robust and secure if governments and intergovernmental organizations like the U.N. were in charge.

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