July 14, 2013

Touting Snowden, Russia Again Demands UN Takeover of Internet

It was only late last year that freedom-loving Internet users around the world were transfixed with concern regarding a possible United Nations takeover of the Internet -- largely pushed by Russia and other repressive regimes.

A massive effort to fight back against this was triggered, including this strong campaign by Google, which I supported.

The threat from the UN's International Telecommunications Union (ITU) was fought back for the moment -- and we all gave a sigh of relief.

But now, in a clear demonstration that actions do have consequences, often unintended ones, "The New York Times" reports that Russia is again demanding a UN Internet takeover of exactly the sort repressive governments around the world have long been lusting after, and using Edward Snowden's continued presence in Russia as a foundation for this new thrust.

Acting as a catalyst for a crackdown against freedom of speech on the Net was certainly not Snowden's intention -- quite the opposite, it's reasonable to assume.

But even many of Snowden's most dedicated supporters have seemed increasingly uneasy at his continuing presence in Russia, under at least the putative control of Putin -- in a country where you can spend years in a forced labor camp prison for the crime of blasphemy, and where freedom of speech is still largely an unfulfilled dream.

And while Snowden's supporters and Snowden himself suggest -- with considerable merit -- that the focus should be on global intelligence agencies and not on Snowden, the fact is that the way events have unfolded, Snowden has become the center of attention, and continues to be in the spotlight.

This puts him -- we can assume unwillingly -- in something of the position of an "international pawn" to be played by the various powers with their complex agendas, like icebergs, mostly hidden below the surface.

It may well be the case that Snowden saw no practical alternative other than fleeing to Russia and asking for asylum there. This course of action may yet well serve his needs.

But it would be naive for anyone -- for any of us -- to assume that Russia would not attempt to leverage a situation like this for their own purposes of Internet control. Whether or not they succeed is a wholly different question, and all of us will have a say in that, one way or another.

Yes, planned or not, incidental or not, actions do have consequences, and it would be ironic indeed if Edward Snowden's stated quest to promote the cause of freedom around the world, had the unintentional effect of helping to crush Internet freedoms at the hands of his benefactors of the moment.


Posted by Lauren at July 14, 2013 06:14 PM | Permalink
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