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Headlines UN battles for control of the internet

Jung

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The UN summit concerning the debate over control of the internet root servers kicked off today. Multiple governments are arguing for UN control of the root DNS servers, the servers that assign every domain name to a unique IP address, and basically make the internet 'work.' So why should you care? The countries who started this initiative aren't exactly democracies(China, North Korea, et al), and stand to influence the UN to censor or restrict the internet in new ways. Ironically, the summit is being held in Tunisia - read the last article linked for a good take on that topic, and you'll understand why it's there.

For those who don't already know, as it stands now, and has for 15 or so years, a private American company, ICANN, currently controls the root servers and top level domains. (TLDs; .com, .net, etc) This is something other companies have taken a disliking to, and the driving reason behind this summit.

Here are a few articles to give you some background on this issue.

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EU Says Internet Plan Gains Support
The EU sees itself as tracing a middle path between those positions, proposing a system where governments collaborate to make decisions on governance issues like spam, cybercrime and ensuring people all over the world have access to the Net.

That last issue has brought the spotlight on the summit's host country of Tunisia, which activists call one of the worst Internet censors.

Already, rights watchdogs say, both Tunisian and foreign reporters on hand for the summit have been harassed and beaten.



Study Predicts Political, Economic Turmoil If UN's Internet Governance Schemes Succeed
As United Nations (UN) officials meet tomorrow in Tunisia to plot strategies for a new worldwide Internet governance structure, an "Issue Brief" from the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU) warns that such schemes could choke political freedoms and soak taxpayers.

"After so many conspiracy hoaxes over the years, there is now a serious, ominous effort to replace the efficient and adaptable non-profit entity guiding the Internet with a new UN-sponsored agency," said NTU Government Affairs Manager and Issue Brief author Kristina Rasmussen.

Rasmussen's study traces the push for a government-dominated online environment to the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG), created by the UN in response to detractors of the current, US-based International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (
ICANN). As the author notes, the advertised reasons for this proposal - increasing access and receiving global input -seem to be masking some less noble motives and outcomes:

- Censorship
- Taxes
- Bureaucratic Corruption



Text on Internet Governance Watered Down
Negotiators seeking to avert a U.S.-EU showdown at this week's U.N. summit on the information society watered down language on the Internet's governance in talks Tuesday.

U.S. officials considered the vague language a signal that world leaders would ultimately agree to leaving the U.S. Commerce Department ultimately in charge of the Internet's addressing system.

[...]

Since the latest round of talks began Sunday, the specific wording of the summit's draft declaration has evolved from "international management of the Internet," written by Pakistan, to far less specific language.

"We're two-thirds of our way to a good compromise," EU spokesman Martin Selmayr said.

The EU has been mediating between the United States and a group of countries including China and Iran that have sought to replace ICANN with a multi-country group under U.N. auspices.



So where are we up to with this internet governance thing?
With the internet now undoubtedly a global medium, the world's governments want more of a say in how it is run. The United Nations created a team of international experts to come up with a new model for running the internet. Unfortunately, because of the widely differing views, it could not agree on one model, but rather offered four. Each of these models, however, foresaw the US government handing over its overall control to an international body.

The problems stem from the US government stating immediately before publication of this report that it had no intention of handing over its "historic role". Many thought this was a clever bargaining tactic for future discussions. But the US administration stuck with this line throughout the last discussions before the Summit in Geneva in September, causing increasing frustration and anger among some countries.

Then, just before the end of that conference, the UK, as representative of the EU, stunned everyone by suggesting a hybrid solution between the US on one hand and Brazil, China, Iran and others, on the other.

That solution envisaged the US handing over ultimate control of the body that oversees the internet - ICANN - to a forum of world governments. Plus, the creation of a new forum would pull the public policy decision-making part of ICANN into a more open and international area.


World Summit blog: internet, freedom of speech and the UN
The most controversial aspect of this whole world summit hasn't been the ensuing fight of who should run the internet but where it is being hosted: Tunisia.

Stories about the clampdown on freedom of speech by the government in Tunisia have been the main focus of most stories up to now. It is nowhere near as bad as, say, China but many countries have questioned why a summit about the Information Society (essentially, the Internet) should be based somewhere that denies the most inspiring and revolutionary aspect of this new medium - ready access to enormous, global amounts of information.
*snip*
The Tunisian ambassador was embarassed and incensed. He testily told the gathered governments, organisations and media that Tunisia had stated time and again that usual UN rules would apply at the conference - which meant complete freedom of representation.

But despite these words, no heads of governments from Western "liberal" countries are attending. And the UN has had problems getting big names to take part because they don't want to provide the Tunisian government with legitimacy.

If this wasn't indication enough, the United Nations has actually produced an FAQ document covering "the privileges and immunities granted to participants" of the Summit.
*snip*
There is also a bizarre tendency for my hotel to try to keep hold of my passport whenever possible. First, it was just to make a copy of it. But that copy would for some reason take five hours. I went back and got it. But today, another reason was found to take it off me. What about the copy, I asked. "Oh, the copy didn't work, we need another one."
*snip*
Which inevitably leads to the question: why did the UN choose Tunisia of all places to host the World Summit on the Information Society when it must have known it would be controversial?

The answer, of course, is money.

It is unbelievably, incredibly expensive and complex to host a World Summit. The Tunisian government has clearly invested millions doing up the roads, adding road signs, building a brand new conference complex (which didn't have a roof until a week ago), planting god-knows how many palm trees and plants, assembling a fleet of buses to ferry the thousands of delegates to and from the centre all day every day. And so on, and so on. It should be justifiably proud of the job it has done.



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Personally I can't think of any valid reason to turn control over to the UN. Americans more-or-less invented the internet, funded most of the research and provided it freely to the world. We have also maintained the internet without incident since it's inception; the internet has remained uncensored and unfettered by the American way of life. The only control American exercises is over creation of new TLDs and pursuit of child pornographers.

The UN wants control now after a group of countries including China, Iran and North Korea voiced their concern about US control. In my opinion, the UN's track record isn't exactly the greatest when it comes to management, especially when in regard to the world's main communication infrastructure. I don't trust a multinational 'board' to maintain the internet as we know it today.

So far the US has done a really great job of maintaining it, so I say "if it ain't broke don't fix it." Handing control of the roots over to the UN has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with politics. Bullshit tyrannical politics. Do you really want countries like China and North Korea deciding what TLDs can and can't be created, or what flies in regard to censorship?
 

countrygrl

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I agree with you. I know that's boring but it's the simple truth. :)



I could say something like, I wish the UN would just go away. That would start a huge amount of bitching and whining though so I won't say that.
 

ChilianFuckFace

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It seems to be purely political. It's been running without major issues since the beggining of the internet. I say let it stay the way it is.
 

Sektor

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There is no valid reason to turn over control of the internet to the UN. They're useless, so much so that they can't enforce their own laws. How do they expect to control the internet when they don't even have control over its own members?

Sometimes, I DO wish the UN would go away.
 
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That's retarded. The internet was designed to be a free expression of beliefs, totally uncensored, for all to see. IF they control it, where will we all be able to express ourselves?
 

MetalHead

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Their attempt is pointless anyway. Regardless of where the Root Servers are or whose name is on the side of them, the internet is run by the thousands maybe millions of hackers skimming its surface everyday. I don't know about the rest of you, but I would rather see the internet distroyed (by way of a supervirus maybe) than be run by the already out of control world governments. Especially countries such as China or North Korea. The internet can't be controlled anyway. Who remembers the Copyright Battles of '98, and who still downloads music? My point exactly. The internet is at its core, a denial of all that controls us, to control it is not only contradictory to its being, but futile. For every creative way of enforcing a law there are 1000 's od ever more creative ways to break it. Not only that. The internet is basically, a big-ass LAN. Its more aesthetic than most, but it is still just the connection of my computer to yours. It would be difficult and monumental, but there is absolutely nothing keeping us from creating another internet. A truly free internet, and an unmitigated internet.

/long-winded rant on things that probably don't matter anyway
 

Jung

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MetalHead said:
Their attempt is pointless anyway. Regardless of where the Root Servers are or whose name is on the side of them, the internet is run by the thousands maybe millions of hackers skimming its surface everyday.
I’m not sure how much you understand about how the internet works, but whoever controls the root servers and TLDs effectively controls the internet. The US could shut off any part of the world if it wanted to, erase their DNS records, deny their TLDs or prevent them from creating new ones. All it would take to shut off an entire country is to drop their DNS records – the internet would still work technically, but whatever.com would no longer be a valid address - so unless you’ve made a point of committing the IP addresses of all the sites you visit, or plan to visit, to memory the internet would be worthless to you.

Of course this hasn’t happened, and it would probably make us the target for World War III, but it is possible. However, there is no evidence that our country would ever do something like that; if anything, we would've already targeted countries like North Korea and China.
I don't know about the rest of you, but I would rather see the internet distroyed (by way of a supervirus maybe) than be run by the already out of control world governments.
I’m pretty sure we don’t have anything to worry about, but I would rather have a lesser internet than none at all.
Especially countries such as China or North Korea. The internet can't be controlled anyway. Who remembers the Copyright Battles of '98, and who still downloads music? My point exactly.
The internet most certainly can be controlled in that fashion, and the copyright issue is a horrible example. China already censors the internet that comes into their country; the technology is certainly available.

Copyright is a horrible example because the government doesn’t really care about piracy on that level. Sure, they will take down high profile sites and such, but the government isn’t going to spend the money or resources it would require to do a large scale anti-piracy operation. BUT, a country dead set on censoring content would be inclined to put forth the effort and money, or, in the case of UN control, pressure for allied nation’s support.

Piracy is still rampant on the internet because the industries it affects aren’t important enough to our country to bother fully backing in offense. And in some cases, it would require shutting down major networks that have valid uses (USENET, IRC), just to stop the piracy on them. Again, it’s possible, but not likely.
The internet is basically, a big-ass LAN. Its more aesthetic than most, but it is still just the connection of my computer to yours. It would be difficult and monumental, but there is absolutely nothing keeping us from creating another internet. A truly free internet, and an unmitigated internet.
We already have Internet2, which is capable of becoming a new American internet should the need arise. But what then? You lose the main purpose of the internet; to connect people for the purpose of sharing information. The internet should be a global entity, not a domestic one, and it would seriously reduce the value of the internet if it were only shared between Americans, and maybe a few allies.
 

mmm...cheese

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I believe the saying, "Don't change what works," would come in to play here... The interweb is fine as is, why change it?:confused: The idea of giving control of the interweb to the UN just baffles me...
 

countrygrl

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I go through withdrawal if I'm away from an internet connection for too long. I gotta have it. We're looking for some property to buy right now and it has to have access to cable internet or I won't even consider it.
 

MaxPower

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Some countries use content filtering at the Internet core or ISP level, to limit what their people can view. URL's or keywords are filtered as well as frequently updated Proxy server IP addy's. To allow any official organization to control the internet is obsurd. It's e-Blasphamy!
 

MetalHead

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junglizm said:
China already censors the internet that comes into their country; the technology is certainly available.
Again this goes back to my main theme. They can only control us if we allow it. China's sensorship only applies to their local (relatively speaking) providers. If a person were to dial into an American ISP, they would be free of any censorship, also subject to huge long-distance charges. A cheaper alternative is to purchase a cellular modem and use an American based, wireless provider. Not necessarily easy, but altogether doable. China, or any other country for that matter, can only control something as worldwide as the internet by making it incredibly inconvenient to go around the blocks. It may not be easy to out maneuver the government but it is certainly not impossible.

I digress however, when I made my original post, I was somewhat heated and frustrated with the "Powers that Be". A lot of what I said was illogical and lead by nothing but my hatred of censorship. In hindsight it was somewhat misguided and somewhat laughable. My point remains the same though. We can only be controlled if we ALLOW ourselves to be controlled.
 

Darklight

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well the third world nations already have the tech support so I guess the lesser nations think they should get the shebang...
 
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The reasons for turning over the internet to the world are not bad arguements. One of the best examples is Brazil: the tax system of Brazil is highly internet-based. This means that, if the US wanted to really put the screws on Lula (the left-leaning president of Brazil), they could threaten to fuck his government's revenue.

On the other hand, the arguements against turning over the internet are also robust: I certainly wouldn't want the Chinese interfering with my internet usage. The US has, so far, respected freedom of speech on the internet, and has not threatened to wreak bloody vengence on Brazil.

I propose a third option, that given the internet's reality as a global institution, it should be controlled by a global institution. I can hear it now, you are thinking, "Surely pov, that is the same as the first option?" Well, you would be wrong. The first option is an international institution, an institution composed of the world's governments. This is a problem because many of those governments are not democratic. I envisage a democratic organisation that bypasses the national level altogether. By polling among internet users, over the internet, this 'internet government', if you will, would be elected by those who actually use the internet, which makes sense to me.
 

Jung

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canadian_pov said:
The reasons for turning over the internet to the world are not bad arguements.
Bullshit. It's all political arrogance that amounts to "we don't trust Americans." Or rhetoric from poor countries who's governments haven't invested capitol into developing their own infrastructure.

For instance, in one article I read an African man was complaining that the problem with the internet being controlled by the US was that the poor people in his country were having trouble getting internet access, and when they did, the content on the internet reflected American values and not the values of wherever the guy was from. Well no shit, that's nothing profound. Those people can't get Internet access because their country's main industry is pounding dirt when they're not busy getting hacked apart by rebels, and their government has done absolutely nothing to establish its own internet presence. African has two TLDs, .cf for the Central African Republic and .za for South Africa, which were approved by ICANN.

So why are his people still stuck reading about Britney and Kevin instead of Mbutu and Bwana? It's certainly not because the US has gotten in their way. Moreover, I don't see how a UN controlled internet would do anything to change their situation, or the situation of countries like theirs.

This isn't all about Internet control; this is about countries unwilling to take responsibility for their own problems, and animosity towards America. And those that to seek to influence Internet control are just interested in censoring the Internet for partisan interests.

Also, frankly, I could care less if other countries trust us to run something we funded, invented and then gave out freely.
One of the best examples is Brazil: the tax system of Brazil is highly internet-based. This means that, if the US wanted to really put the screws on Lula (the left-leaning president of Brazil), they could threaten to fuck his government's revenue.
Not really. Any country could break off from the global internet at any time they choose, set up their own national root servers and continue inter-national commerce/tax dealings as they see fit. Keep in mind that the internet is nothing more than multiple networks connected together. Short of physically disabling Brazil's infrastructure by force, the U.S. has no means of affecting their inter-national network.

Also, think about that objectively. Our country isn't exactly a dictatorship, no matter what the tin hat wearing Bush haters would like to think. We have never shown an interest in aggressing on any country in that fashion, and don't you think it would cause more harm than good? An action like that would set us up for being a target for the next world war, in all probability a world nuclear war. I can't see our government going that far over something like the internet.
 

ThomConspicuous

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Good read Jung.

Am I correct in assuming that the key players in this initiative are countries oppressed by governments? As in the above example about Africa being unable to get Internet access period.

Seems to me that 'free-minded' areas of the world, North America...Europe, don't seem to have any beef with keeping things the way they are. I wouldn't know statistics on who has the majority of content on the Internet, but from my experience most content comes from N America and Europe.
 
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junglizm said:
Bullshit. It's all political arrogance that amounts to "we don't trust Americans." Or rhetoric from poor countries who's governments haven't invested capitol into developing their own infrastructure.

For instance, in one article I read an African man was complaining that the problem with the internet being controlled by the US was that the poor people in his country were having trouble getting internet access, and when they did, the content on the internet reflected American values and not the values of wherever the guy was from. Well no shit, that's nothing profound. Those people can't get Internet access because their country's main industry is pounding dirt when they're not busy getting hacked apart by rebels, and their government has done absolutely nothing to establish its own internet presence. African has two TLDs, .cf for the Central African Republic and .za for South Africa, which were approved by ICANN.

So why are his people still stuck reading about Britney and Kevin instead of Mbutu and Bwana? It's certainly not because the US has gotten in their way. Moreover, I don't see how a UN controlled internet would do anything to change their situation, or the situation of countries like theirs.
Well no shit, I'm not even arguing in favor of a UN-controlled internet, I think it would be a bad idea to turn various authoritarian governments loose on my freedoms. I furthur agree that African content is lacking on the internet because there is little or no infrastructure there. I am not arguing that.
This isn't all about Internet control; this is about countries unwilling to take responsibility for their own problems, and animosity towards America. And those that to seek to influence Internet control are just interested in censoring the Internet for partisan interests.
No, this is very much about internet control. I really don't trust the American government to safeguard freedom of speech on the net. I don't trust them with the power to cripple a developed country by fucking their internet. I believe the internet should be run by the people who use it. Is that such a bad idea?
Also, frankly, I could care less if other countries trust us to run something we funded, invented and then gave out freely.
Doesn't that seem the slightest bit selfish to you? The internet is global now. Sure the US started it, but that doesn't mean that the millions of users from other countries should have no say.
Not really. Any country could break off from the global internet at any time they choose, set up their own national root servers and continue inter-national commerce/tax dealings as they see fit. Keep in mind that the internet is nothing more than multiple networks connected together. Short of physically disabling Brazil's infrastructure by force, the U.S. has no means of affecting their inter-national network.
I will take your word for it there, though it seems wrong somehow. Couldn't the US cut off the Brazilians from the rest of the world, at least?
junglizm said:
Also, think about that objectively. Our country isn't exactly a dictatorship, no matter what the tin hat wearing Bush haters would like to think. We have never shown an interest in aggressing on any country in that fashion, and don't you think it would cause more harm than good? An action like that would set us up for being a target for the next world war, in all probability a world nuclear war. I can't see our government going that far over something like the internet.
Well, I would wholeheartedly disagree with the suggestion that the US is a peaceful, non-agressive nation on the world stage. The USA is the only country ever to be condemned by the World Court for international terrorism. It is presently conducting a war that runs contrary to international law, and is heavily in the business of only honouring treaties when it suits them.
 

BrIONwoshMunky

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canadian_pov said:
No, this is very much about internet control. I really don't trust the American government to safeguard freedom of speech on the net. I don't trust them with the power to cripple a developed country by fucking their internet.
But you'd trust other countries like China, and Korea to protect it?

I wouldn't trust them before I wouldn't trust the USA.

I believe the internet should be run by the people who use it. Is that such a bad idea?
As Jung pointed out, the internet IS run by the people who use it... AMERICANS, and AMERICAN companies.

Doesn't that seem the slightest bit selfish to you? The internet is global now. Sure the US started it, but that doesn't mean that the millions of users from other countries should have no say.
Now I know this was directed at Jung, but how can you see that as selfish. I guess by your logic, we should hand over all trade secrets, weapons technology and any other thing that no other country has. That's just stupid. And if you use, "Well we/you are giving internet technology away already," : to that I say, So what? And I would also bet that most countries that are throwing the bitch fit aren't going to free up their end of the internet, but rather try to constrict ours. Now THAT isn't fair.

Well, I would wholeheartedly disagree with the suggestion that the US is a peaceful, non-agressive nation on the world stage. The USA is the only country ever to be condemned by the World Court for international terrorism. It is presently conducting a war that runs contrary to international law, and is heavily in the business of only honouring treaties when it suits them.
And no one else ever listens when they don't want to either. America isn't alone there.
 

Jung

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canadian_pov said:
No, this is very much about internet control. I really don't trust the American government to safeguard freedom of speech on the net. I don't trust them with the power to cripple a developed country by fucking their internet. I believe the internet should be run by the people who use it. Is that such a bad idea?
Well obviously it is about internet control, but it's all political bullshit and anti-American nonsense. I'm sorry, but I'm not willing to allow countries like China and North Korea "control" of the internet, when Americans, who have freedom of speech and press guaranteed in our constitution, have thus far done a flawless job. Aside from the whole "well, I just don't trust America" bit, I've yet to hear a single compelling argument for global control.

And I'm sorry, but the whole "cripple a developed country by fucking their internet" is nothing more than paranoia. Without proof, I could use the same arguement against a global power, and it would be just as weak of an argument. Take off the tin hat, and think about this objectively and rationally.

Aside from all of that, America stands to benefit from remaining non-partisan in issues concerning the internet. If that's not already blatantly obvious to you then I don't know why I've even bothering to reply.
Doesn't that seem the slightest bit selfish to you? The internet is global now. Sure the US started it, but that doesn't mean that the millions of users from other countries should have no say.
It doesn't seem selfish to me at all, because as it stands all nations already have a say in what goes on as far as TLDs and things that benefit their internet presence. ICANN, although a private organization, is very diplomatic about their business. And to date, there have been no countries that have been shafted because we didn't like them, nor any evidence that ICANN would ever do that.

Also, I'm not keen on the fact that all these countries sat back and let us fund research for all those years, and now that infrastructure is in place they want a piece. I think the term 'protecting your investment' would fit in nicely here.

The internet as it is right now is already free, nonpartisan, uncensored and very useful. We don't need any help in that regard, but thanks for offering.

Also, "millions of users from other countries" is an ignorant assertion, since those people already have a say in their own countries, and with their ISPs - the only places where their say makes a difference to the experience they have. How the root servers are run is of no concern to individuals, and "having a say" in that is pointless to anyone not 1) requesting a new TLD, which an individual isn't going to do anyway, or 2) someone looking to censor or block routes via the root DNS records.

I don't know about you, but I'm all for a free and uncensored internet. If fascist countries want to censor their internet, let them do it within their own borders.

I will take your word for it there, though it seems wrong somehow. Couldn't the US cut off the Brazilians from the rest of the world, at least?
Yes, just as well as any other country or body operating the root servers. That possiblity is a very real one, which is exactly why I'm opposed to countries like China and N Korea having a say in the very system that makes the internet work (DNS).
Well, I would wholeheartedly disagree with the suggestion that the US is a peaceful, non-agressive nation on the world stage. The USA is the only country ever to be condemned by the World Court for international terrorism. It is presently conducting a war that runs contrary to international law, and is heavily in the business of only honouring treaties when it suits them.
And the initiating parties of this summit are better? Did ICANN, a private American company, start that war or commit those terrorist acts? That ridiculous tripe is exactly what I mean when I say anti-American nonsense.

The US might have done some fucked up things, and Bush has shit on our international image, but there is no evidence that we would ever attack in such a way. Nor is ICANN a government agency to be so easily manipulated in such a way. Furthermore, there is no assurance that any other country wouldn’t just do the same, so that argument is pretty speculatory and bias.

This brings me to another point. Say we do relinquish control of the root servers, what's keeping this global body from deciding that the US should be disconnected? Since the US is apparently a horrible nation, and it's private companies are horrible as well and can't be trusted. What about a rogue body inside this global body? I mean we would have more than one or two enemies on this board.

Logically, it's simply in our best interest to continue maintaining our creation, as well as providing the same level of stability and service we have in the past. No argument you try to present will change that, and I've still yet to hear one compelling reason to relinquish control. Much less to a global body consisting of some of our enemies.

I'm sorry, but your points are illogical and near-sighted.
 

papagnome

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lets get one giant super sever put in an anti nuke underground safe area

jung is smart he can make all the protocal for us web hosting will be free alloted at brith gain more space by contribbuting to society hobos loose their space

make super sized never run out of room share with everone we will lay our own wirein for 9999999999 gbits per second everoyone can pitch in !!!


the above is sarcastic