Internet governance

I wrote of plans to 'internationalise' the governance of the Internet some weeks ago. The idea remains concerning.

In today's Wall St Journal, European Commissioner Viviane Reding seeks to address some of the concerns that I and others have raised. She claims the EU does not seek to interfere with ICANN altogether, and wants to see it continue as a private concern. She is merely concerned about US government interference. Good.

US government interference has been fairly minor, but is indeed to be resisted. For example, a Department of Commerce official foolishly criticised ICANN's plans for XXX top level domain.

But what the Commissioner does not address in her article is the question of jurisdiction. Any private concern needs to be incorporated in a specific jurisdiction. Most US companies are incorporated in Delaware, for example. This does not mean that Delaware runs the US economy.

What jurisdiction would the Commissioner suggest for ICANN? Currently it is governed mostly by US law, and is freer as a result than it would be if governed in the EU or Japan, let alone China and Saudi Arabia, which remain the countries most keen on internationalising control of the Internet. A proposed UN jurisdiction might sound fine in theory, but the concept has not been tested. There is no body of law for us to examine or web of precedent for courts to review. Furthermore, the UN's legislative authority is flawed, giving representation to governments which do not themselves represent their people.

Since there is no current problem, and the proposed solutions are speculative at best and potentially dangerous at worst, it would be better to leave ICANN alone.

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