[Air-l] interesting article about net censorship in china

Danny Butt db at dannybutt.net
Thu Apr 21 07:27:07 PDT 2005

Hi Jeremy

My point was simply that the geopolitical imaginary of "the Internet" and
what's "interesting" about it depends a lot on where you sit. So, for
example, if I had to guess a story about the Internet in China that would
make its way into the US tech business press, I'd say "censorship" because
this fits with the dominant narrative of Chinese politics that appears in
publications like Red Herring. (Rather than China as home to the
second-largest nation of users in the world, or the largest IPv6 network in
the world). That's not saying that I don't think that the censorship isn't a
valid concern for those working on these issues, but in an environment where
there's so little discussion of East Asian use, its role as a "general news
item" seems a bit gratuitous. Those bad Chinese, eh! Although, the story
tells us, "new technologies may keep total censorship in China at bay". The
good Internet, eh!

On the other hand, outside of the U.S., UK, and Australia, very few
researchers on internet governance would claim as you do that a) that the
existing coordinating bodies adequately represent global interests or b) the
relationship between internet governance bodies and the US government is
"tenuous". To give an example, it is possible under the terms of reference
of the MoU constituting the relationship between the Dept of Commerce and
ICANN, for an entire international country code top level domain (such as
.cn) to be removed from the root zone file on the demands of the U.S.
government. This would effectively remove it from the Internet. No one
seriously expects the US government to do that (but note, none of the
"endpoints" have the ability to do that). Yet, you may be able to understand
why many do not see that as being a viable state of affairs for a global
medium. It may also be possible for us, extrapolating from the "censoring
Chinese" story, to see how this situation might also play into certain
common assumptions about the United States government's role in
international affairs.

>From US media sources Internet governance is overwhelmingly posited as a "UN
grab for power over the Internet", rather than a serious issue with the
potential to make or break the "global" nature of the Internet. I'm
implicitly suggesting that a) this is a big deal, because it affects the
entire net, not just a nation state, b) it's being decided right now, and
there are many important documents awaiting comment and c) it's something
that many researchers on this forum are well placed to affect, as most of
this list reside in the nations seeking to maintain the patently unbalanced
status quo.

As a network of researchers in this medium we have 1) our own research
interests, but also 2) a responsibility for the medium's development, that
suggests we should be monitoring the issues/news of the day and developing
understanding of them. It's good to share articles etc. outside of our own
specialisms. But on the second point, I think we'd do well as researchers to
take a critical perspective on who decides what counts as news and what our
implication in the stories is.



ps - anyone interested in the governance issues, as well as checking the
wgig and internetgovernance.org papers, may also want to look at two
excellent papers:

Peake, Adam (2004) Internet governance and the  World Summit on the
Information  Society (WSIS), Report for Association of Progressive
Communications, http://rights.apc.org/documents/governance.pdf

Drake, William. "Reframing Internet Governance Discourse: Fifteen Baseline

On 4/20/05 9:34 PM, "jeremy hunsinger" <jhuns at vt.edu> wrote:

> but... this has been covered in the news too...  at least the wgig for
> wsis has been covered.  it is interesting.  but it is unclear what you
> mean by 'running the internet'.  if you mean icann, which is the only
> bit that really is tied to the u.s. government, though tenuously... I
> hardly think that human readable domain names, which is pretty much all
> they do, is 'running the internet'....  even if, for instance one
> claims that icann is running the internet, under the ausipices of the
> u.s. commerce, you would still be hard pressed to say it is a u.s.
> organization, or non-representative of international interests(granted
> though, only certain types of interests are represented well)  if you
> mean ietf, iab, irtf, isoc, w3c... well those are all open
> organizations with solid international credentials.
> now do any of those organizations really run the internet?  or govern
> it?  each does in some way, to some extent, but none does it entirely,
> nor do the whole of them govern it entirely.  most of the internet is
> governed by the endpoints, and those that profit from them,  which is
> why censorship is important, because it shows precisely that fact,
> that countries can govern the internet as well.

More information about the Air-L mailing list