Obama reverses U.S. policy on international Internet security

Swisher interviewing Obama 300x180He said we must “find some international protocols.” Actual international cooperation on security would the overrule years-long State Department effort to keep governments away from Internet governance and especially security. It makes sense to cooperate. Internet security issues cross borders and the U.S. has just learned the hard way they cannot be resolved without international cooperation. Obama’s words are clear but I wouldn’t be surprised if his administration doesn’t follow through as I perceive it. Politicians do that.

Until now, the imperative of U.S. Internet policy has been the imperative to keep governments far away from net security. Everyone understands why. The 14 U.S. WCIT delegates from agencies like the NSA were not there to protect free speech.

Barack had the guts to be publicly interviewed by Kara Swisher, the toughest reporter in technology. His comment, 

“What we’re going to need to do is to find some international protocols that, in the same way we did with nuclear arms, set some clear limits and guidelines, understanding that everybody’s vulnerable and everybody’s better off if we abide by certain behaviors.” — President Barack Obama

The hacks on Sony, the Washington Post & the NY Times grabbed headlines. The story of a $billion hack of major banks is now breaking. The U.S. is now suffering the kind of attacks that have horrified the world, although nothing comes close to what Ed Snowden revealed the U.S. is doing. (The U.S. only has the best of motives, of course.)

U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer broke open Internet Governance at WCIT Dubai in 2012. The big issue was whether governments through the U.N. had a role in Internet security. The actual proposals would have at most a trivial effect, reported the Economist and NY Times. The U.S. wanted to block anything that even smelled of international involvement in Internet policy. Europe unanimously backed the U.S., as did Australia after major U.S. pressure. Two-thirds of the world supported the treaty, led by the BRICs.

Since WCIT, Ambassador Danny Sepulveda has been tirelessly criss-crossing the globe trying to convince other nations to break from theIR WCIT positions and support the U.S. protecting the current, ungoverned Internet. I’ve been having a running debate with Danny and others who believe we can rule the Internet successfully through institutions like ICANN effectively dominated by the US. and allies. (75-90% of the decisionmakers in ICANN, ISOC, IGF and the like come from the U.S. and allies.) Danny’s 12,000 miles in airplane middle seats and other efforts were remarkably successful. He broke Brazil from the BRICS by giving them a taste of power (Net Mundial) and took the fight out of many others. The result: the recent ITU Plenipot in Busan essentially did nothing. Danny and friends called that a great success.

A warning to friends: be careful saying things like this around D.C.  I literally had my microphone cut off for saying that we need to include the nations who make up the majority of the Internet to be legitimate. The Beltway Consensus is very strong.

As Obama also put it

“The cyberworld is the Wild Wild West — to some degree we’re asked to be the sheriff.”

The rest of the world – even many U.S. allies – do not think the U.S. should be the sheriff – especially after Snowden. But if we continue to sabotage any governance institution we don’t effectively control, we’ll never “find some international protocols.”  Nixon had to go to China and the U.S. had to negotiate with Russia to make the international arms progress. On the Internet, the U.S. and friends are doing everything possible to limit any role for Russia, China and others who disagree with us. 

The million-dollar silver tongues in D.C. can convince many that 2+2=5 but there’s no plausible way to achieve the President’s goal without including some countries we dislike. 




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