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EU body calls for US to give up internet control, pushes for international governance

Published time: February 12, 2014 17:40
Edited time: February 14, 2014 11:51
European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes (Reuters / Yves Herman)

European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes (Reuters / Yves Herman)

The European Commission has said it is determined to “redraw the global map of internet governance” as massive US surveillance has damaged public trust in the web, and said it is ready to negotiate with Washington for control of web architecture.

The commission, the EU’s top executive body, on Wednesday proposed a key reform to the way the internet is managed and run, saying that Europe will “pursue a role as honest broker” in future global negotiations on the issue.

“The next two years will be critical in redrawing the global map of Internet governance. Europe must contribute to a credible way forward for global internet governance. Europe must play a strong role in defining what the net of the future looks like,” EC Vice President Neelie Kroes said in a statement.

Kroes directly connected her demands of a “more transparent, accountable and inclusive governance” of the web to the revelations on large-scale internet surveillance conducted by the US government, which was exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The revelations “have called into question the stewardship of the US when it comes to Internet Governance” and pointed at the need to switch to a “more global model,” the EC statement said.

“Our fundamental freedoms and human rights are not negotiable. They must be protected online,” Kroes said.

Currently, some vital functions of internet management are in the hands of US-based companies. For instance, top-level domain names (as .com, .net, .org) and IP address spaces are controlled and managed by the California-based corporation ICANN, which operates under a contract with the US government.

But according to the EC statement, ICANN and other key decision-making internet institutions must be globalized to “safeguard the stability, security and resilience of the Internet.”

It also called for the creation of the Global Internet Policy Observatory – an online platform for “creating transparency on internet policies.”

The “open and unfragmented nature” of the global web must be protected by a special set of principles, the Commission said.

Previously, when a UN agency, the International Telecommunication Union, came up with detailed proposals on more diversified global internet control, the US, the UK, Canada and Australia rejected the plan. The four governments – allies under the so-called Five Eyes intelligence sharing group – claimed that internationalization of internet governance would lead to internet censorship in some countries.

Kroes also appeared to be skeptical of the UN’s proposal, calling it a “top-down approach.” A multi-polar internet should be the world’s aim, she believes.

“We must strengthen the multi-stakeholder model to preserve the Internet as a fast engine for innovation,” the EC official said.

Kroes’ words came as European Parliament lawmakers were preparing a response to US snooping activities. The MEPs are keen to demand that virtual data be stored on computer servers in Europe to improve oversight, Reuters reported.

Before any concrete steps are taken by Europe, both the lawmakers and the EC need to gather support of EU member states, some of which have been reluctant to get tough with the US, despite vigorous rhetoric.

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