U.S. Surrender: Internet Giveaway to the U.N.?

If the U.S. abdicates internet stewardship, the United Nations might take control.

renocol_GordonCrovitzL. Gordon Crovitz writes: When the Obama administration announced its plan to give up U.S. protection of the internet, it promised the United Nations would never take control. But because of the administration’s naiveté or arrogance, U.N. control is the likely result if the U.S. gives up internet stewardship as planned at midnight on Sept. 30.

“It’s shocking the administration admits it has no plan for how Icann retains its antitrust exemption. The reason Icann can operate the entire World Wide Web root zone is that it has the status of a legal monopolist, stemming from its contract with the Commerce Department that makes Icann an ‘instrumentality’ of government.”

On Friday Americans for Limited Government received a response to its Freedom of Information Act request for “all records relating to legal and policy analysis . . . concerning antitrust issues for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers” if the U.S. gives up oversight. The administration replied it had “conducted a thorough search for responsive records within its possession and control and found no records responsive to your request.”

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“As the administration spent the past two years preparing to give up the contract with Icann, it also stopped actively overseeing the group. That allowed Icann to abuse its monopoly over internet domains, which earns it hundreds of millions of dollars a year.”

It’s shocking the administration admits it has no plan for how Icann retains its antitrust exemption. The reason Icann can operate the entire World Wide Web root zone is that it has the status of a legal monopolist, stemming from its contract with the Commerce Department that makes Icann an “instrumentality” of government.

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“Without the U.S. contract, Icann would seek to be overseen by another governmental group so as to keep its antitrust exemption. Authoritarian regimes have already proposed Icann become part of the U.N. to make it easier for them to censor the internet globally.”

Antitrust rules don’t apply to governments or organizations operating under government control. In a 1999 case, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the monopoly on internet domains because the Commerce Department had set “explicit terms” of the contract relating to the “government’s policies regarding the proper administration” of the domain system.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

Without the U.S. contract, Icann would seek to be overseen by another governmental group so as to keep its antitrust exemption. Authoritarian regimes have already proposed Icann become part of the U.N. to make it easier for them to censor the internet globally. So much for the Obama pledge that the U.S. would never be replaced by a “government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution.”

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Shutterstock

“So much for the Obama pledge that the U.S. would never be replaced by a ‘government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution’.”

Rick Manning, president of Americans for Limited Government, called it “simply stunning” that the “politically blinded Obama administration missed the obvious point that Icann loses its antitrust shield should the government relinquish control.” Read the rest of this entry »


After Arrests, Hong Kong Government Quietly Deletes Articles Gushing About Uber

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Laurel Chor writes: While the city’s Type-A, over-privileged, impatient residents complained about yesterday’s arrests of Uber drivers and debated whether that sounded the death knell for the company’s services in Hong Kong, InvestHK quietly erased online evidence that it once gushed about the car-hailing app.

In May, InvestHK, a government department that aims to “attract and retain foreign direct investment”, published a piece proudly talking about the company’s decision to launch in Hong Kong.

Sam Gellman, Uber’s Asia expansion lead, happily provided pro-Hong Kong quotes for the article: “Hong Kong is an incredible city, combining global commerce and local culture, large industry and startup entrepreneurship and innovation. It makes a fantastic regional headquarters for us as expand into the Greater China area.”

InvestHK continued to boast that it had provided Uber with “significant support, including information on public transportation and advice on market entry strategy prior to its launch.

Uber is now probably pretty pissed, and InvestHK likely a widdle bit embarrassed, as the Hong Kong police arrested five Uber drivers and raided the company’s local office, taking away three people. The police said that the drivers were “illegally driving cars for rental purpose” and for operating “without third-party insurance”. Whoopsies! Read the rest of this entry »


Reddit Revolt: ‘AMA’ Moderator Sacked the Day After a Disastrous Jesse Jackson Q&A

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Reddit is in Meltdown

Allum Bokhara writes: The hugely popular link-sharing site is in a state of virtual lockdown after the volunteers who run some of the site’s biggest communities (known as “subreddits”) went on the digital equivalent of a general strike. This followed the sacking of Victoria Taylor, a popular site admin, after a Reddit Q&A with the Rev. Jesse Jackson went badly for the activist preacher.

“The collective shutdown has rendered Reddit virtually unusable. In the space of a single evening, over 100 subreddits with tens of millions of subscribers have gone dark.”

High-traffic subreddits dedicated to movies, gaming, videos, history, science and art have been voluntarily locked by their moderators as an act of protest against the decision, which they saw as a symptom of an increasingly overbearing management that takes its users and volunteer moderators for granted.

“It’s another blow for interim Reddit CEO Ellen Pao, with users dubbing her ‘Chairman Pao’ ever since the June crackdown.”

The collective shutdown has rendered Reddit virtually unusable. In the space of a single evening, over 100 subreddits with tens of millions of subscribers have gone dark. Users are now flocking to Reddit’s competitors, such as Frizbee and Voat, the latter of which is struggling to accommodate its latest spike in traffic.

This is not the first time Reddit has seen a revolt against its management. Around mid-June, users waged a week-long rebellion against the site management after Reddit shut down a number of “politically incorrect” subreddits. But this is the first time that so many big moderators have simultaneously shut down their subreddits.

It’s another blow for interim Reddit CEO Ellen Pao, with users dubbing her “Chairman Pao” ever since the June crackdown.

[Read the full story here, at Breitbart]

The current revolt was triggered by the sacking of Victoria Taylor, a veteran administrator on the site who specialized in arranging high-profile Reddit Q&As, known as “Ask Me Anything” or “AMA” sessions. Ask Me Anythings are probably Reddit’s best-known feature and are known for featuring world-famous guests including Barack Obama, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Julian Assange. Read the rest of this entry »


Gawker Employees Vote to Unionize, Join Writers Guild of America

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In a Web posting, Gawker Media writers said they voted 75 percent to 25 percent to join the Guild. The union said 90 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.

Gawker first said it was planning to unionize in April. The employees said in the post Thursday that the next step will be determining what they want to bargain for and forming a bargaining committee.

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While no digital media sites have been unionized, The Associated Press, The New York Times and other newspaper staffers have union representation. Read the rest of this entry »


Now Available Worldwide

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The Unbearable Overuse of Website Pagination (or: “How to Annoy Readers and Alienate Advertisers”)

Why websites should not make you click and click and click for the full story

By 

Slate’s editorial guidelines call for articles to be split into multiple pages once they hit the 1,000-word mark, so I have to keep this brief: Splitting articles and photo galleries into multiple pages is evil. It should stop.

Pagination is one of the worst design and usability sins on the Web, the kind of obvious no-no that should have gone out with blinky text, dancing cat animations, and autoplaying music. It shows constant, quiet contempt for people who should be any news site’s highest priority—folks who want to read articles all the way to the end.

Pagination persists because splitting a single-page article into two pages can, in theory, yield twice as many opportunities to display ads—though in practice it doesn’t because lots of readers never bother to click past the first page. The practice has become so ubiquitous that it’s numbed many publications and readers into thinking that multipage design is how the Web has always been, and how it should be…

More >> via Slate Magazine

Could the Internet ever become conscious?

In the world of sci-fi movie geekdom, Aug. 29, 1997, was a turning point for humanity: On that day, according to the Terminator films, the network of U.S. defense computers known as Skynet became self-aware—and soon launched an all-out genocidal war against Homo sapiens.

Fortunately, that date came and went with no such robo-apocalypse. But the 1990s did bring us the World Wide Web, which is now far larger and more “connected” than any nation’s defense network. Could the Internet “wake up”? And if so, what sorts of thoughts would it think? And would it be friend or foe?

Neuroscientist Christof Koch believes we may soon find out—indeed, the complexity of the Web may have already surpassed that of the human brain. In his book Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist, published earlier this year, he makes a rough calculation: Take the number of computers on the planet—several billion—and multiply by the number of transistors in each machine—hundreds of millions—and you get about a billion billion, written more elegantly as 1018. That’s a thousand times larger than the number of synapses in the human brain about 1015.

Koch, who taught for more than 25 years at Caltech and is now chief scientific officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, is known for his work on the “neural correlates” of consciousness—studying the brain to see what’s going on when we have specific conscious experiences. Of course, our brains happen to be soft, wet, and made of living tissue, while the Internet is made up of metal chips and wires—but that’s no obstacle to consciousness, he says, so long as the level of complexity is great enough…

More >> via >> Christof Koch, Robert Sawyer – Slate Magazine.