Kofi's Internet

Posted: Apr 02, 2004 12:00 AM
Check out your latest neighborhood banana republic coup-de-tat. After the rebels finished ransacking whatever presidential palace they had their eyes on, where did they head next? Hint: it wasn?t the local Starbucks for a celebratory latte, it most likely was either the government-operated radio or television station. Any despot or revolutionary worth his RPG knows that the control of sources of information is critical to the survival of any totalitarian regime. A tyrant?s life expectancy decreases in inverse proportion to the freedom of the local press. The more control you have over the dissemination of information, the longer you live to rape, pillage and plunder.

You can be assured, then, that when a new method of spreading information starts to gain steam, predatory tyrants will start licking their chops.

And so it is with the United Nations.

There was a little-noticed meeting in New York City last week; a meeting on the rarified upper floors of the UN building. Kofi Annan was having a little sit-down with the head of ICANN. You don?t know what ICANN is? No problem; it?s the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. This quasi-public corporation, operating under the auspices of the Commerce Department, assigns Internet domain names both here in the US and around the world.

So why was Kofi Annan, the erstwhile president of the whole wide world, interested in ICANN? Because while he was meeting upstairs, downstairs at the UN we had representatives from about 200 nations and other organizations who were interested in seeing the United Nations gain control over the Internet, that?s why.

There is no greater source of world-wide information today than the Internet. This massive information database covering everything from politics to economics to sports to cures for warts simply cannot be ignored by governments who love to control such things.

The initial idea here is for the United Nations to merely exercise control over the assignment of domain names. That sounds innocuous enough. The stated fear is that the United States might allow political considerations to determine who does and does not get an Internet domain, and that ICANN could shut down domains from countries that don?t toe the American line. The Palestinian Authority, for instance, has been assigned the .ps Internet domain. What if the US orders a shutdown of the domain assigned to the Palestinian Authority shut down to show disfavor for Yasser Arafat?s latest campaign of violence?

Here?s a better question. What if the United Nations, after taking control of ICANN, decides that the Israeli domain (.il) needs to be shut down? This is not hard to imagine, given decades of UN hostility toward Israel.

The greater fear here is that the control of Internet domain assignment would merely be Kofi?s nose under the tent. Control of Internet content is as sure to follow as your next reminder of John Kerry?s service in Vietnam. First to go, of course, would be Internet porn. While this event might be celebrated by Paris Hilton (and just what is she so famous for anyway?) it would be seen by others as a sign of things to come.

Any educated American who does not believe that, over time, the United Nations would move to control political, social and economic Internet content probably believes Hillary Clinton is content to be a New York Senator for the rest of her days. Trust me ? the United Nations is no friend to freedom of the press or freedom of speech.

Those who would tout the UN? s dedication to basic freedoms, including freedom of speech, would use the UN?s Universal Declaration of Human Rights as Exhibit A. Bill Clinton once told us that this document was the greatest document in the history of human freedom. I?ll use the same Exhibit A to prove them wrong.

To be sure, the UN Human Rights Declaration offers lip-service to basic freedoms. Article 19 reads: ?Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.?

So, Boortz, how in the world can you say that the UN would initiate a campaign to control Internet content when its own Human Rights Declaration guarantees the freedom to ?impart information and ideas through any media and regardless to frontiers.?

Grab your handy copy of the Declaration and read on ? read on to Article 29. Section 3. No ? wait. I?ll just print it here for you to read: ?These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.?

Well, so much for Article 19. It seems your right to freedom of opinion and expression is wholly dependent on just whatever the purposes and principles of the United Nations might be at that particular time. And this is Bill Clinton?s idea of the best document ever written promoting the idea of human freedom? Has he never read something called the Declaration of Independence?

The United Nations is no friend of freedom .. and its eyes are on your Internet. If operational control of this fantastic source of information is ever transferred to the United Nations you can rest assured that Article 29, Section 3 will be used to destroy what we enjoy so much today.

Neal Boortz is a lawyer and nationally syndicated radio talk show host.