ICANN President Blasts U.N. Push for Internet Control

Matt O'Conner
GENEVA, Switzerland — ICANN President Paul Twomey said members of the international community who have been calling for the United Nations to take control of the Internet away from his organization and, ultimately, the United States are “living in a political fantasy land.”

Twomey’s resolve on the issue may be good news for adult webmasters who would potentially fall victim to severe content restrictions if an international body were placed in charge of the Internet.

Critics including U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan have been critical of both ICANN practices and the United States’ influence over Internet governance.

Annan has on a number of occasions suggested that cyberspace should be overseen by an international body and commissioned the U.N.’s Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) to formulate a global plan for managing the Internet and present it at the upcoming world summit in Tunisia.

But the WGIG appears to have failed at the task. Instead, it released a report last week that merely suggests a number of possible options for Internet governance.

Twomey said the failure of WGIG members to agree on how the Internet should be run is a sign of what could happen if oversight were taken away from ICANN.

“There is no indication as I can see that there is going to be any sort of support for a binding international treaty that is going to cover all countries of the world and bind all of the companies involved with the internet through that treaty,” Twomey said. “I just don’t see it happening.”

While adult webmasters in the United States find themselves steering down the barrel of impending 2257 record-keeping regulations, the impact of 2257 on their content could be minor compared to the possible impact of international content restrictions.

In the grand, global scheme, the United States is less restrictive than the majority of the world. For example, Muslim countries strictly forbid adult content of any kind, and many Asian countries including China routinely shut down websites they deem obscene.

The U.S. Commerce Department in June released a four-point memo in which it asserted that it intended to “maintain its historic role in authorizing changes and modifications to the authoritative root zone file” after its current agreement with ICANN expires late in 2006.

Many saw the memo as a challenge to ICANN, but Twomey said he instead read the memo as a clear sign to the U.N. that the United States has no intention of forfeiting its oversight of the Internet to any international powers.

“I think some in the media misinterpreted it as being a document directed towards us,” Twomey said. “It was a document directed towards other governments.”