U.N. committee addresses Internet governance

A U.N. committee established to study Internet governance has concluded that no single government should have a dominant role. In a report released yesterday, the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) suggests four possible models of international governance.

The group proposed one model that would enhance the role of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN is the California-based nonprofit organization charged with administering the Internet's domain name system.

Another model would replace GAC with a global Internet council. That group would consist of government representatives who would establish international Internet public policy and oversee Internet resources. It would be affiliated with the United Nations, and ICANN would be accountable to it.

A third model would create an international Internet council to address public policy issues and would effectively replace ICANN’s advisory committee.

A fourth proposal would create new three new structures for Internet governance, oversight and global coordination.

According to the report, governance functions would include auditing, arbitration, coordination, policy-setting and regulation. They would not include daily operational management functions related to the Internet.

The WGIG’s findings and recommendations will be considered during a second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society in November in Tunis, Tunisia. WGIG is an independent group with 40 members from government, industry and the public.

The report includes recommendations for a global forum that would allow stakeholders from industrial and developing countries to discuss Internet-related public policy issues, such as Internet security, cybercrime, spam, data protection and privacy rights.

According to the report, such a forum is necessary because some organizations don’t provide broad stakeholder participation. Also, other institutions, such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, generally do not include all countries as participants, which means that developing countries often lack a forum for discussing Internet-related public policy issues.

The proposed forum would allow equal participation from all stakeholder countries, including equal representation of men and women at all levels, the report states.

In addition, the report recommends that governments develop tools and mechanisms such as treaties and cooperation for “effective criminal investigation and prosecution of crimes in cyberspace and against networks and technological resources.”

The authors of the report also urge that countries that lack privacy and personal data protection laws develop clear rules and legal frameworks against misuse of personal data.

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