opinion China and Russia have worked together to try to adopt a Chinese internet protocol, New IP, as a global standard. It is necessary, they say, to improve service quality guarantees. (Oh, and by the way, it also allows countries full control over their national networks, adds user registration requirements, and turns off interoperability.)
Oh China. Ah, Russia. Why not just say you can’t trust your citizens and that you need the tools to suppress information and dissent? But no, the long-term policy of China in particular is to use standardization bodies – in this case the UN and ITU – to pull out a Trojan horse (or equestrian legislation) and sneak the bad stuff under the fig leaf of tech necessity.
It didn’t work this time, like it did when China repeatedly tried (see here, here, and here) to get a Wi-Fi add-on for “security and privacy,” WAPI, via the ISO and IEEE standardization process.
It turns out that a Trojan horse is easily spotted even by network engineers, and WAPI has been repeatedly kicked out because it didn’t work very well and contained mysterious chunks. China was very angry, invoking unethical and amoral Western protectionism that morphed into racism, and everyone quickly moved on as if nothing had ever happened.
We don’t know if New IP will be similarly forgotten. That Russia and China tried to get in by taking control of the ITU and then restructuring the standardization process shows three things.
- You realize that the process is not playable as it is,
- you have not given up
- and they now see undermining governance as the best way forward.
In fact, Internet governance is constantly evolving, much like the technical protocols, hardware, and software of the infrastructure itself. It’s not just state governments. The well-known rootkit installer Sony Music is currently trying to force the small DNS provider Quad9 to ban hosts that violate copyrights by law. If successful, larger teams will be spooked into sticking with it. The ultimate goal, no doubt, is to bring an already-remediable civil infraction into criminal law. To hell with the rest of us.
Protecting governance is political, so protecting the internet is political. That means engaging people and getting them to care enough to act on their own behalf. This is notoriously difficult, even on matters far less fanciful than internet governance. It would be nice to think we could leave it up to politicians to act with reason, awareness and vision, but the proof is that they see technology as being built and run by elves and elves, and if we really want it, really anything is possible . people this has to be. Well, how to register them.
People take care of something best when they own it. So, one way forward is to answer the question “Who owns the Internet?”. It’s as much a poser as “Who owns the environment?” Individual components are easy to locate: data centers, national and international fiber optics, ISPs, all belong like everything else. But they are not the internet. The internet is also made up of data and apps and everything people do on them.
The question will be addressed in a new lecture of the same name by Dr. Well answered by Victoria Baines, Professor of IT at Gresham College. After a quick canter through the technical, legal, national, and transnational nature of the beast, she concludes that the property belongs to whoever uses it. About five billion of us use the web, the majority of humanity. Not even China would want these opportunities.
dr Baines has spent some time reflecting on what it means to be an internet user and what ownership means. It confers rights and duties, freedoms and consequences. There are plenty of ideas to make people aware of this – maybe an internet driver’s license or a clear, universal set of rules.
All have good and bad sides. For those already interested, there are great resources online from the likes of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. None of that fits well with all five billion. The Micronesian grandmother getting her first smartphone and the school kid sharing Tik Toks are owners on par with any techbro billionaire or technology minister.
Something is missing and it should be obvious. When you own something for the first time, you get the thing itself and something else: the instruction manual. But it’s obviously not missing; However you first access it via phone, laptop or PC, the hardware has its own set of instructions, so does the operating system, although these days the easiest way to find them is in an online video. Those of us who have made our careers online, deep in the bowels of the monster, forget how strange the very idea and details of the “Internet” are to sane people. No one says, “That’s it, here’s how to take care of it.”
How to write the Internet user manual for all five billion? How do you get them to read it? people are smart. They know that cybersecurity and data protection are important in practice. They know that there are behaviors on the internet that they should expect that others shouldn’t, that there are entities that should help and enable them.
Find a way to demystify and communicate those ideas and make it all accessible, and a sense of ownership, responsibility, wanting more, and knowing you need to ask for will follow. Saving the open internet and giving most of the world a better life online would be a game of the greatest kind. ®
https://www.theregister.com/2022/10/03/open_internet_opinion_column/ How to Defend the Open Internet Against Its Worst Attackers • The Registry