back to article Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet

The Arab States will push for greater control of the internet next week – by arguing that only governments should steer how the web is run, rather than independent bodies. In a late submission [PDF] to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) meeting in Busan, South Korea, the 22 states collectively asked for revisions …

  1. ashdav

    "only governments should steer how the web is run"

    They can go to Hell.

    (other choices of eternal damnation are available)

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      I wish they could

      In order to do that we will have to stop buying oil and gas from them first.

      So for the time being we have to pretend to listen. At least those of us who live in places that do not frak.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I wish they could

        "In order to do that we will have to stop buying oil and gas from them first."

        I have a simpler solution: Instead of telling the rest of the world how to run the web, the Arabs could just turn off all digital telecommunicatons, and do without the internet.

        1. Someone Else Silver badge

          @ Ledswinger -- Re: I wish they could

          [...] the Arabs could just turn off all digital telecommunicatons, and do without the internet.

          No, that would never work. You see, the PTB (Powers That Be) need the internet to perform all their banking, control the oil market, and of course, get their daily doses of pr0n. What they really want is to turn off all digital communications for the hoi polloi, while reserving said digital communications capabilities for themselves.


    2. Graham Marsden

      Oh, but really...

      ... governments have *so much* experience of running things like this! And they never get it wrong or screw up, do they? And they always respect the rights and liberties of their citizens, don't they? And they never pass laws which are solely to benefit rich donors or...

      ... excuse me, I can't type any more due to excessive cynical laughter...

    3. Oninoshiko

      only goverments should steer how the web is run because governments do mass surveillance.


    4. Fungus Bob Silver badge

      "(other choices of eternal damnation are available)"

      New Jersey, for example.

  2. dan1980

    Governments tend to hate any tool that can be used for the free expression of ideas when they don't control it.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sure, because the Arab states track record on basic rights or freedom of expression for anyone who doesn't have 'Sheik' or similar in front of their name is absolutely stellar...

    1. Amorous Cowherder

      Sadly a darn sight less even than that if you've had the "misfortune" to have been born with a uterus!

  4. thames

    How it works in theory, and how it works in practice.

    There is theory, and there is practice. In practice, the US controls the Internet because most of the businesses who drive the agenda are headquartered in the US. The US government and US businesses operate hand in glove, so distinguishing between them is arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

    Making governments have more of a *formal* say effectively means increasing the non-US influence in the formal bodies because any change at all means the US having less influence.

    Why does this matter? It has nothing to do with censorship. There is absolutely nothing preventing any government in the world from censoring their national portion of the Internet. Many countries do it right now. Western countries do it for reasons of money (e.g. "copyright violations"), and other countries do it for reasons of politics. Any country that wants to censor can and will simply go ahead and do it without needing to consult with anyone else.

    What does matter is the question of who pays for data charges. The way things are set up now, the money for bandwidth charges tends to flow to the US. If you are in Egypt, then Egypt has to come up with the foreign exchange to pay the overseas bandwidth charges for all the time you spend on the Facebook servers in the US. What some countries would like to do is to make Facebook pay the bandwidth charges (or at least the foreign portions). This is the reason for wanting to put things through the ITU, because the ITU is a lot more in tune with the idea of splitting charges.

    Nobody is willing to say that it's really all about the money though. Instead it's all being hidden behind "principle" with each side insisting that they are driven by the purest of motives. It's really just a different form of the "net neutrality" argument currently playing out in the US which at its root is really just about who pays for what share of the bandwidth charges.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: How it works in theory, and how it works in practice.

      And to add more gasoline to the auto-da-fe, the UN/ITU would like a piece of the action (revenue) independent from individual nation states that like to hold there feet to the fire over actions they might not like (U.S. v. UNESCO). Did I mix enough metaphors there? It's all a continuation in the clashes between oligarchs all around the world. U.S./Western interests love to use modern media (print to the internet) to bypass the locals and say it's not their intent. And we see the flip-side when local or regional organizations (EU anyone?) counter.

      If this is your thang, I've got a stock tip. (Pop)corn futures.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How it works in theory, and how it works in practice.

      You missed the point.

      What these guys are insisting on is that several key operational and design aspects are moved to state control. If US government had the hand-in-glove influence you are claiming, then we would have still used 40 bit export crypto and sites would have been mandated to use http instead of https.

      If anything really works hand-in-glove it is the telecom operators in arab countries with their governments. What is being advocated there is a submarine return of the incumbent monopoly model as a part of the states sovereign right to run the Internet. They will be supported by delegates from our favourite dinosaurs like BT in that as this will be the "pay for long distance browsing" scenario they have been wetting themselves over for decades.

      The short summary is - they can f*** off. And the long summary is they can f*** off.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How it works in theory, and how it works in practice.

        I quite liked the bit about the middle eastern governments not liking anyone taking private data. Lets face it governments never like competition; taking private data is no exception. Other governments taking private data can disrupt their own local country government monopoly on this work.

        The only hand-in-glove-puppet aspect of the US involvement was to ensure that their major business operators could expand rapidly which is why most are based where? Also why the 'competition' from elsewhere is so good most have never heard of them; so perhaps their government hobbling really works well - NOT. What they really screwed up was the provision of service in country, result 'maximum cost minimum service quality'.

        I used to like the ITU meetings I attended meeting with and listening to those with a good technical grasp of how to get things to work and stay working. I stopped going while the political stuff was still a small blip on the horizon. I am glad I am too old to be part of any delegation as I would not shutter my mouth now.

        Sadly it will only get worse as the various tin pot dictatorships seek a straight jacket version where only their 'wise words' can be heard.

        I bet the fat NORK kid is salivating at that prospect.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How it works in theory, and how it works in practice.

          RE: theory vs practiize. We hear so much about the lovelyness of Islam (the theory I assume), and the news of Islam in practise. Rape, slavery, murder.

  5. hro001

    Oh, noes ... not another UN control grab?!

    IMHO, this is yet another control grab on the part of the far-too-many-tentacled UN. Which in a way is somewhat ironic considering that many of its arms have been so reluctant for so long to embrace the technologies that have evolved in the past ten years!

    This has been changing over the past year or so. However, while the mileage of some may vary, I haven't seen anything in which the UN is involved that has not resulted in a lowering of standards and progress concomitant with an expansion of UN self-serving - and self-perpetuating - bureaucracy.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Maybe if Arab States (et al) ran their countries in a more open and fair manner they wouldn't need to control the Internet.

    Or are they just petty dictators afraid of educated people (In particular; women)?

    Just a thought.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hmmmm

      Maybe if the US ran the internet in a more open and fair manner, the Arab States (et al) wouldn't feel the need to wrest control.

      Or is the US administration just petty dictators afraid of collaboration?

      Just a thought.

    2. stygis

      Re: Hmmmm

      "Maybe if Arab States (et al) ran their countries in a more open and fair manner they wouldn't need to control the Internet."

      I'd argue that a lot of 'Arab States' are far more up front and 'honest' in the way they control their populations that the west. We get controlled via the media tied to corporate interests whereas authoritarian regimes tend to exert control via more in your face methods. Just different ways of achieving the same goal. Not sure which i'd prefer tbh, at least I'd know who the enemy was if I lived under an authoritarian regime.

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: Hmmmm

        I tire of reading things like "We get controlled via the media tied to corporate interests ..." with scarcely a hint of exactly how, other than our presumed laziness, this is done in the US (and other Five Eyes countries, and NATO, and quite a few others).

        Those who make such claims should occasionally explain just how this is equivalent to expropriating, jailing, or killing the opposition, as done in some countries that all of us could name.

    3. techcafe

      Re: Hmmmm

      they just petty dictators afraid of educated people…

      yeah but these medieval puppet regimes are OUR petty dictators, or petro-dictators to be more precise; so they are likely to get whatever they want, in order to suppress & control their populations.

  7. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Ok.. I'll get behind this...

    Let the UN have it and run for, oh say.... 30 days. After they've made a mess of it, they can give it back and pay to have it fixed.

    I suspect that even 30 days would be too long given the way they piss and moan and argue.

    1. Raumkraut

      Re: Ok.. I'll get behind this...

      In 30 days, the UN might just about have gotten around to scheduling the first pre-pre-planning meeting, for deciding how to decide who should be involved in the pre-planning meeting.

      If you're afraid of rapid change, the UN is not your enemy.

  8. solo


    Oh, the dark lord has contacted them. Soon US will have to unleash its army of the clones.

  9. Suricou Raven

    That's how it works already.

    Ultimate control of the internet rests, as it always had, with whoever has the power to order the technical staff what to do. Either through business processes ('Censor this website or we'll fire you and hire someone more cooperative') or through government process ('Censor this website because we passed a law requiring you do so or face jail time').

    This is why, even though the US by far wields the most influence and all other key functions of internet management are run by technical bodies opposed to censorship, many countries have had no problem whatsoever imposing censorship requirements within their border. They don't need to clear their decision with the ITU: They simply have to order the hardware on their own territory configured to block the undesireable content. This is just unavoidable. The US, ITU, or some UN body might make a stern resolution condemning censorship, but they don't have any power to send someone to storm Iranian ISPs with assault rifles and reconfigure their DNS servers.

    The only way that could change would be to redesign the technology to resist censorship. But that brings difficulties too - not least of which is that even in the most 'free' of countries there are legitimate uses for censorship that few object to. The only difference between an office blocking pornography on work computers and a state blocking access to reports of their latest injustice is one of scale. The technology is pretty much the same.

  10. jake Silver badge

    Which of the so-called "Arab States" will police this option?

    Serious question ... Seems that none of 'em agree on much of anything. Ever.

    ::wanders off, muttering::

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Which of the so-called "Arab States" will police this option?

      They could just follow the old tactic of looking the other way while someone in the vicinity funds some fanatics to bully (or murder) dissenters until they get what they want. But which set of it fanatics will they chose?

  11. schotness

    On the one hand, doesn't a legitimate government have a mandate to at least try to decide on what content is available in its country ?

    On the other hand which of these Arab governments is legitimate

    On the third hand, the great Arab spring didn't/hasn't turned out exactly as we hoped has it ?

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      doesn't a legitimate government have a mandate to at least try to decide on what content is available in its country ?

      To a first approximation in the US: No.

      Copyright and copyright enforcement, although seriously damaged or broken, would be an exception; like it or not, they were established by processes generally considered legitimate and the way to change them, if we wish, is to use those same processes.

      Porn might be an exception, but courts have not, in the end, treated its suppression with favor except in the matter of child porn.

      Some statements published via the Internet may be legally actionable in civil courts and subject to takedown orders, although the effectiveness of such orders might be quite limited.

      In other countries, the government's authority - legitimate power - to limit content availability may be much greater. The government of the People's Republic of China certainly is legitimate (on the mainland), yet it exercises great control over content availability without calling its legitimacy into question.

  12. Tom 13

    The real world can be a real biatch.

    If you want the most open internet possible, you have to support the country that slurps the most data regardless of how much you dislike their data slurping.

    If you're in a non-US country, because of the data slurping, the US will try to keep the pipes as wide open as possible.

  13. ElectricRook

    missing the point

    The point is that when the UN runs ICANN the members of the UN - ICANN committee can direct the techs to remove any name from the registry.

    The sad fact is that there are a whole lot more countries who would conspire to silence a lot of voices than there are countries who believe in freedom of expression.

    What will this look like? When you type in you would be directed to whomever UN-ICANN said is the owner of that domain, which could be SomeNastyDictator. Who could then demand to know why you surfing heretical web sites and not at prayers.

  14. Earl Jones Of Potatoes

    arab "gouvernments"

    they hardly represent their people

    most if not all are puppets placed through coup d'etat that we support and often finance.

  15. Anomalous Cowshed

    In general - and not specifically about Arab States...

    What's this fashionable bullshit about the sovereign rights of States? Why should a State have any rights, as opposed to individual citizens having the rights?

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: In general - and not specifically about Arab States...

      "Why should a State have any rights ..."

      Traditional answers often have come down to "because God wills it."

      One early 20th century answer was "the vanguard of the proletariat, because it understands their proper will better than they do themselves".

      One reason for the enormous disconnect between "The West" and most of the Middle East is that the fundamental idea that legitimacy derives from the consent of the citizens is not well rooted there. That notion is far from universal even in modern countries with liberal democratic regimes.

  16. Spanners Silver badge

    Only governments that meet certain criteria please!

    There are some advantages to goverments having the final say IF...

    They are democratic

    Not Jerrymandered constituencies

    Not under the control of business - big, small, home or foreign

    Ones that provide for their citizens - free universal healthcare, education welfare etc

    Ones that do not think their national laws are global

    Ones that follow international law

    International court of human rights

    and so on.

    No government that does not fill these criteria as a basic minimum should have any say in any international bodies.

  17. sisk Silver badge

    Let them try

    It'll work out almost as well as using legal bludgeons to stop online file sharing has worked. Just look at governments that have tried to lock down the Internet and how well that's worked on people who actually give a <insert expletive of choice here>.

  18. OmgTheyLetMePostInTheUK

    Yes let governments control the internet, and it will be dead in less than 5 years. Especially the Arabs, Chinese, Russians, North Koreans.

    The very reason the internet has grown to where it is now because for the most part, Governments have been hands off, and the people have demanded access to it.

  19. techcafe

    well of course medieval Arab regimes want control over the internet, they are despots. the Arab states should stick to what they know: trading blood for oil

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019