U.S. do­main dereg­u­la­tion could re­sult in tan­gled Web

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY VIC­TOR KOTSEV

IS­TAN­BUL | When Turk­ish com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter Lutfi El­van told daily news­pa­per Hur­riyet last week that he was plan­ning to “de­tach” Turkey from the global In­ter­net, he quickly be­came a tar­get of ridicule around the World Wide Web.

“The man is clearly an id­iot,” An­drew Duff, a mem­ber of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, tweeted in one de­ri­sive re­sponse.

Oth­ers won­dered how such a move — to cre­ate a home­grown “ttt.” pro­to­col to re­place “www.” — was even pos­si­ble for Turkey, a NATO mem­ber and key U.S. ally.

“They would prob­a­bly pre­fer to have such an in­tranet [lo­cal on­line net­work] na­tion­wide like North Korea, but I don’t think they can pull that off,” said Erkan Saka, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Bilgi Univer­sity in Is­tan­bul. “They are still part of the global econ­omy, af­ter all.”

Even so, such plans il­lus­trate how cer­tain gov­ern­ments, frus­trated by the “Wild West” of the In­ter­net, are tak­ing ad­van­tage of ef­forts to reg­u­late it as Pres­i­dent Obama re­lin­quishes U.S. over­sight of do­main names that form the ba­sis of web­sites and vir­tual net­works.

Last month, the Na­tional Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and In­for­ma­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion, which is un­der the Com­merce Depart­ment, an­nounced that it would lessen the govern­ment’s role in over­see­ing web­site ad­dresses. The non­profit In­ter­net Cor­po­ra­tion for As­signed Names and Num­bers will help guide the tran­si­tion.

Crit­ics say the ad­min­is­tra­tion is ced­ing con­trol to for­eign coun­tries.

Although few na­tions be­sides North Korea can af­ford to cut them­selves com­pletely from the In­ter­net, dig­i­tal rights ad­vo­cates cau­tion that Mr. El­van’s com­ments re­flect how gov­ern­ments are threat­en­ing to chill on­line lib­er­ties.

At stake are the in­no­va­tion and free ex­change of in­for­ma­tion that have trans­formed global cul­ture and busi­ness over the past two decades.

“In the next two years, there will be de­ci­sions of sweep­ing pro­por­tions about the fu­ture of In­ter­net,” said Gigi Al­ford, se­nior pro­gram of­fi­cer at Free­dom House, an in­de­pen­dent hu­man rights watch­dog based in Wash­ing­ton.

“One se­ri­ous threat is the frag­men­ta­tion of the global In­ter­net into na­tional ‘spIn­ter­nets,’” Ms. Al­ford said. “If users in dif­fer­ent coun­tries have dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences of the In­ter­net, then we’re repli­cat­ing the old ana­log way of liv­ing as a frag­mented global com­mu­nity, with all the ana­log in­equal­i­ties and re­stric­tions.”

An­a­lysts point to the Great Fire­wall of China and Iran’s Ha­lal In­ter­net as ex­am­ples of gov­ern­ments’ walled-off vir­tual spa­ces that block ac­cess to thou­sands of in­ter­na­tional sites in fa­vor of tightly con­trolled do­mes­tic ver­sions of Google, Face­book and Twit­ter.

Though Turkey lacks such tech­no­log­i­cal so­phis­ti­ca­tion, its crack­down on so­cial me­dia has in­ten­si­fied over the past months af­ter leaks show­ing ap­par­ent govern­ment cor­rup­tion ap­peared on Twit­ter and YouTube.

Prime Min­is­ter Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan or­dered the two ser­vices blocked and threat­ened to “erad­i­cate Twit­ter” to show the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity “the power of the Turk­ish repub­lic.”

But these moves are meant mainly to in­tim­i­date so­cial me­dia users, Mr. Saka said.

“They are de­mo­niz­ing so­cial me­dia. We see more and more ar­ti­cles about the evils of so­cial me­dia, es­pe­cially in pro­gov­ern­ment me­dia,” he said. “Maybe in Turkey they can­not im­ple­ment a na­tion­wide in­tranet for now, but they are re­ally do­ing their best to re­strict In­ter­net us­age.”

Ah­met Sa­banci, an Is­tan­bul-based blog­ger and dig­i­tal ac­tivist, said cen­sor­ship of­ten takes place in sub­tle ways un­der the pre­text of pro­tect­ing the gen­eral pub­lic from on­line dan­gers.

“My blog is blocked to those us­ing the govern­ment-reg­u­lated fam­ily safety fil­ter but I don’t re­ally know why,” he said.

Turkey also is among a group of coun­tries seek­ing to force Amer­i­can and other for­eign so­cial me­dia com­pa­nies to open cloud com­put­ing, data stor­age and other fa­cil­i­ties on their territory, where they would be sub­ject to Turk­ish reg­u­la­tions, sur­veil­lance and tax­a­tion.

Mr. Er­do­gan has ac­cused Twit­ter of tax eva­sion and said he will “go af­ter” the so­cial me­dia com­pany even though it doesn’t have of­fices in Turkey.

“This lat­est plan to tax Twit­ter is a threat that Turkey likely hopes will cre­ate a cho­rus of com­plaints from other gov­ern­ments and force the com­pany to hand over some con­trol, whether le­gal or fi­nan­cial,” said an email by Jochai Ben-Avie, pol­icy direc­tor of Ac­cess Now, a New York-based non­profit ded­i­cated to de­fend­ing dig­i­tal rights. “I doubt the Turk­ish govern­ment will be suc­cess­ful.”

Mean­while, de­vel­oped coun­tries such as Ger­many have con­sid­ered creat­ing “na­tional In­ter­net spa­ces,” os­ten­si­bly to pro­tect their cit­i­zens from in­cur­sions such as those at­trib­uted to the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency.

In pri­vacy-ob­sessed Ger­many, out­rage was par­tic­u­larly strong af­ter rev­e­la­tions last year that the NSA had been mon­i­tor­ing Ger­man com­mu­ni­ca­tions, in­clud­ing those of Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel.

Turkey’s Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­istry backed off its sub­sti­tute In­ter­net plan af­ter a firestorm of crit­i­cism and de­nied any at­tempts to block off Web ac­cess. Min­istry of­fi­cials said Mr. El­van was re­fer­ring more broadly to the global de­bates over In­ter­net reg­u­la­tion.

De­spite that de­nial and skep­ti­cism of Mr. El­van’s threats, crit­ics of the Turk­ish govern­ment are pre­par­ing to by­pass any ma­jor road­blocks to the Web.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.