Re: Excellent question
"So while it is a great idea that there be an internet community effort to fix issues around privacy, online security, spam, child protection and so on, everything that has been said and done is more about trying to become the main venue for controlling conversation about the internet itself."
This sort of answers my question. It does raise in me a few other questions, some out of pure fear.
1) How do you "fix" issues around privacy and security through the creation of an unelected quango with what amounts to negative oversight? All I picture is Baron Harkonen telling Dr. Yueh that he has "released" his wife...released her from her mortal coil, that is.
A power-mad dictatorship whose existence relies on the tacit approval - or at least tolerance - of the world's nation states does not remotely seem like an organisation which can be made to bring those selfsame entities to heel, and unless the governments of the world are full participants in agreeing that privacy and security of anyone other than themselves is an issue then the whole thing is a farce.
Internet privacy and security must begin with an international digital armstice, not the declaration of a global quango.
2) How, exactly, do you solve "spam and child protection" issues in a non-technical manner? I suppose one avenue might be government cooperation and/or treaties which harmonize relevant laws. Unfortunately, I don't see how that can occur without also running up full against the issues of privacy and security discussed above.
Ultimately, all of these issues come back to one - and only one - thing: what are the fundemental rights of human beings? What are the rules by which we will govern our interactions with <i.all</i> humans, regardless of race/gender/sexuality/etc and most especially, how we will treat members of other nations.
The west created the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and most of the world saw that it was good. It became the basis of a great many legal systems, including the new constitution of Canada in 1982, and our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Unfortunately, it is not universally accepted. Islamic nations took particular issue with the UDHR, stating that it violated Sharia. They instead signed the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam which, to be blunt, if fucking terrifying.
Similarly, Asian nations took offense to the UDHR. They believe in a Cardassian-like subsumation of the individual's will to that of the state. The Bangkok Declaration was signed and it reads like a sham document that says a human's purpose is nothing more than to do whatever his society tells him to. A drone who is to be bereft of individuality and who must like that state of affairs, or die.
So here we have three major differences in belief to start with. The UDHR itself getting the majority of the world behind it, and - to my mind at least - seem to provide the most rational balance between "the needs of the many" and "the needs of the few, or the one".
Unfortunately, instead of helping to spread it's ideals, some of the UDHR's staunchest supporters are looking for a way out.
The United States, for example, clearly views itself above the spirit and letter of any human rights documents. Furthermore, non-American citizens are not deserving of human rights (such as the right to be considered guilty unless proven innocent, the right to life, etc) unless those rights can be used as a political tool to leverage a recalcitrant nation into doing what the US wants.
Consider, for example, that the United States is a signatory to the International Criminal Court, but they have not ratified it. In other words, they believe they have the right to send people to the ICC whenever it is convenient for the US, but they absolutely refuse to allow any American citizen to be held accountable for their actions by the ICC. Meaning, amongst other things, that the US believes their citizens should never be prosecutable for war crimes.
In addition, powerful groups within the UK have made leaving the European Union a priority, stating openly their desire to be free of human rights legislation. This is largely driven by a desire to be free of any "right to privacy" or a need to treat non-British citizens with any amount of basic rights.
How - how I ask you - can a digital dictatorship set up by people the world's power brokers only barely tolerate even begin to sort out the issues above? And if they don't sort out the issues above, how can we ever come to agreements on privacy and security, let alone spam and child protection?
I fear the answer. If we cannot meet at a position of maximum rights for the individual, and these people are determined to continue until they "succeed" at something, the result is likely to be a position of minimal rights for the individual, and a diminution of the status of the citizen across the the world.
I would dearly love to be wrong about this, but it all seems so deeply rooted, and so many of these topics are live wires. It may sound melodramatic, but my analysis of this situation says that a continued attempt by ICANN to become a political force around internet governance may ultimately lead to an international agreement to repeal large chunks of human rights which would damn - and potentially doom - us all.
Your thoughts would be welcome, sir.