[Air-l] internet governance and china

jeremy hunsinger jhuns at vt.edu
Thu Apr 21 08:35:45 PDT 2005

On Apr 21, 2005, at 10:27 AM, Danny Butt wrote:

> 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".

I think that depends on what they mean by 'internet governance' as I 
noted earlier.  If you mean icann, it is representative in a sense.  if 
you mean ietf, etc. it is representative in a sense.  however, if you 
mean the u.s. contract, then of course it is not representative at all. 
  if you mean the powers that be in the non-state and non-technical 
sense, then those are not representative, and that will be covered in 
part at my hopefully soon to be accepted ir6.0 talk this year entitled 
Capital Policy: the transnational subpolitics of internet governance.

> 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.

not really, because while ICANN can direct, who will enforce?  other 
than economic enforcement... there may not be any real system of 
enforcement within the system other than exclusion, and that would 
require a unified effort, one that I doubt is possible.

>  No one
> seriously expects the US government to do that (but note, none of the
> "endpoints" have the ability to do that).

actually, you can remove routing at any border or any endpoint, just 
like you can add it at any of those places.  true, that doesn't make it 
disappear for everyone, but you can make whole areas of the world 
disappear for anyone depending on your place in the chain.  That is 
what is interesting about dns.  by the way although icann and the 
post-arpa roots are the dominant hegemony, they are not the only  name 
system in operation, they can be ignored entirely if your country has 
the technical capacity to do so, which many countries do.

also, we should note that while the ruling root sits in the u.s. 
currently, the other root servers are fairly well distributed in 
various nations http://www.root-servers.org/.  what that means to me is 
that in a realpolitik mode, the u.s. is only governing by consent, 
because any given one of those could break and become an independent 
root should they so desire or should the authority in their country 
demand it.

> 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.

yes, I should say that I support the dissolution of icann and the 
movement of naming to a u.n. associated body, but do not currently see 
that it should be the ITU.
>> 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.
> Cheers,
> Danny
> 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
> Propositions."
> http://www.ssrc.org/programs/itic/publications/Drake2.pdf
> 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.
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jeremy hunsinger
jhuns at vt.edu

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Jeremy Hunsinger
Center for Digital Discourse and Culture
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