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The UN’s Latest Power Grab

Sometimes I don’t know which is worse: their lust for power or their ignorance.

The ITU is supposed to meet soon to discuss how they want to assert control of the internet. Over at the WSJ, Crovitz points out that this isn’t just an assault on liberty, it’s stupid.

Having the Internet rewired by bureaucrats would be like handing a Stradivarius to a gorilla. The Internet is made up of 40,000 networks that interconnect among 425,000 global routes, cheaply and efficiently delivering messages and other digital content among more than two billion people around the world, with some 500,000 new users a day.

Many of the engineers and developers who built and operate these networks belong to virtual committees and task forces coordinated by an international nonprofit called the Internet Society. The society is home to the Internet Engineering Task Force (the main provider of global technical standards) and other volunteer groups such as the Internet Architecture Board and the Internet Research Task Force. Another key nongovernmental group is Icann, which assigns Internet addresses and domain names.

The self-regulating Internet means no one has to ask for permission to launch a website, and no government can tell network operators how to do their jobs. The arrangement has made the Internet a rare place of permissionless innovation. As former Federal Communications Commission Chairman William Kennard recently pointed out, 90% of cooperative “peering” agreements among networks are “made on a handshake,” adjusting informally as needs change.

Of course, this is precisely what the power-grabbers hate about the internet: that this amazing thing has arisen without them forcing everyone to do it or telling them what to do. Voluntary standards? Deals on a handshake? Information groups that do their job and nothing else? Jesus Christ, how are you going to create 700,000 regulatory jobs on such a thing? Won’t someone please think of the bureaucrats?

That unregulated and uncontrolled nature has, of course, made the internet very free. The international gangsters don’t like that either, of course. Whether it’s media companies wanting to stop piracy or governments wanting to silence critics, there is a massive cabal out there who want to control what people say and read on the internet. Today, we got a hint of what they envision.

It appears that the Syrian government may have just taken a drastic measure it has conspicuously avoided over the nearly two years of fighting: cutting itself off from the Internet. Renesys, a Web-monitoring service, reported Thursday morning that sweeping outages in Syria had shut down 92 percent of the country’s routed networks. Shortly after, it updated to report that the remaining IP address blocks had gone down, “effectively removing the country from the Internet.” The “Syrian Internet Is Off The Air,” it announced.

This is not unprecedented: Egypt and Libya did the same. But it’s crude. It cuts off the entire country instead of cutting off just those parts reporting things the Syrian government doesn’t want getting out.

Watch the ITU, friends. They may, in time, become one of the biggest threats to basic human liberty.