while the us and virtually the rest of the world slugged it out over the control of the Internet, www.renewamerica.com, a resolutely neo-conservative website, carried an article entitled 'us control of the Internet is good for everyone'. The writer hankered on the " us tradition of free speech". "An Internet controlled by the un will inevitably move in the direction of controlling the content of the web," he noted.
The writer -- and many of those who want the us to remain in control of the Internet -- had of course forgotten that in recent times, the us has clamped down severely on a free internet. The country's new Federal Communications Rules, scheduled to take effect from May 2006, will make it easier for the us law enforcement agencies to monitor e-mails and internet-based phone calls. It's also another matter that un secretary general has disclaimed that the un will have very little role in monitoring the internet.
That apart, the worry of the neo-conservative writer is not totally unfounded. Supporters of a forum to manage the Internet's root servers have not exactly spelt out what the functions of this organisation would be. Will majority vote dictate what to proscribe on the Net? The fear is not unreal. After all, censorship by a caucus of countries, or organisations, is as bad as censorship by an individual country.
But in this bedlam over who controls the Internet, another important issue has got completely sidetracked: two-thirds of the world's web traffic comes from the us; Japan is a poor second with 7 per cent, while Germany constitutes about 5 per cent. So, English is the Net's main language. Of course web-based tools such as Transparent Language or Babelfish helps one get the gist of a site's contents in a variety of languages. But not everybody likes the idea, for good reason.
As the Internet assumes hegemony over the world's communications systems, these contradictions will come into greater relief. In 2000, Esther Dyson, the then chairperson of the Icann, the organisation that manages the internet, put the issue in perspective: "Many governments fear American imperialism of all kinds, whether it is our McDonald Burgers or the Internet, I think that the people like McDonald's hamburgers and they also like the Internet".
Yes people do like the Internet. But they don't want the sway of one country over it. And they also don't like it censored.