OTHER VOICES

Whose controls the Internet?

Posted Nov. 10, 2011, at 5:42 p.m.

The U.S. has run the Internet, since the late 1960s when it first emerged as a communications network among U.S. defense agencies and research labs, and considering the Internet’s ubiquitous presence worldwide, the U.S. has done a remarkable job.

If ever there were a case for the maxim, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” the U.S. management of the Internet would seem to be it. But there are few issues that a United Nations commission, in solemn conclave assembled, can’t make worse.

In September, four authoritarian nations, Russia, China, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, none of them noted as beacons of human rights and unfettered expression, proposed that individual states be allowed to regulate the Internet on their own, or, failing that, to let the U.N. do it. Brushing aside the rhetorical smoke screen of “information security,” they are seeking the right to control their people’s communication with the outside world even more than they do now.

Cold War veterans must have felt a twinge of nostalgia reading the language of the Russia, China, et. al. resolution. It called for “the earliest possible consensus on international norms and rules guiding the behavior of states in the information space.”

In the bad old days, the Soviet bloc was regularly coming up with “international norms and rules” that it had no intention of following but would have shackled those nations that believed in the rule of law.

The resolution recalled the infamous 2005 U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization conference on a “new world information order” that proposed a supranational agency to control “global media” and censor the world’s press, especially its reporting on the Third World.

Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal (Nov. 2)

Pipeline risks and benefits

Critics of any endeavor tend to exaggerate the potential dangers and downplay the potential benefits. This is most glaringly obvious when the dangers are slight and the benefits great. That discrepancy is on display these days in the reaction of Indiana environmentalists to the proposed $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

They say it could cause an ecological disaster in case of a spill. “An approach that puts more of an emphasis on modernizing the automobile sector” would be more helpful to a manufacturing state like Indiana, says Hoosier environmental Council Director Jesse Kharbanda.

Well, OK, there could be a leak in the pipeline. But given the ever-improving technology of oil delivery, the possibility seems remote, and warning of an “ecological disaster” is downright Chicken Littlish. …

And the 700,000 barrels of oil a day that would travel through the 1,700-mile pipeline would reduce dependence on oil from the Middle East. It would also lessen the need for those lumbering oil tankers, speaking of potentials for ecological disaster.

There is another trade-off to consider that is embodied in the concept of “ethical oil” that’s been making the rounds lately. Should we get oil from places like Saudi Arabia and thus support thuggish regimes in dangerous places with our dollars? Or should we get it from places like Canada — and, heaven forbid, the United States — thereby using our dollars to promote justice and the rule of law?

It’s good to be mindful of the environment. It’s wise to conserve. It’s smart to make better use of renewable energy. But no matter what we do, we need large quantities of oil. We can still try, however, to get it in the cleanest way possible, from the least repressive places around.

The News-Sentinel, Fort Wayne, Ind. (Nov. 2)

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