Given recent revelations about the National Security Agency's global digital surveillance apparatus, the European commission on digital affairs said on Wednesday that the United States can no longer be trusted to maintain its strong hold on internet governance and that this authority should be made less U.S.-centric and more open to international control and democratic transparency.
"Recent revelations of large-scale surveillance have called into question the stewardship of the U.S. when it comes to internet governance," said the commission in a statement which also offered recommendations for reforms.
"Given the U.S.-centric model of internet governance currently in place, it is necessary to broker a smooth transition to a more global model while at the same time protecting the underlying values of open multi-stakeholder governance," the declaration continued. "Large-scale surveillance and intelligence activities have led to a loss of confidence in the internet and its present governance arrangements."
As the Guardian reports:
Besides criticising US domination of how the internet and digital traffic is organised, including the allocation and determination of domain names, the Brussels institution also warned against increasing governmental attempts to control the internet, as in China, Russia, Iran, and increasingly Turkey which passed a stringent new law last week curbing online freedoms.
"Governments have a crucial role to play, but top-down approaches are not the right answer. We must strengthen the multi-stakeholder model," said Neelie Kroes, the commissioner for digital affairs. "Our fundamental freedoms and human rights are not negotiable. They must be protected online."
She spoke out against giving the United Nations the power to organise and supervise the internet or to grant such authority to the International Telecommunications Union, voicing fears that it would confer too much power on governments.
The commission called for a clear timeline diluting US authority over Icann and making it more "global"; agreement on "a set of principles of internet governance to safeguard the open and unfragmented nature of the internet"; and a mediation body that would scrutinise conflicts arising from contradictory national jurisdictions over the internet.
Decisions over domain names and IP addresses should also be globalised, Brussels said. "The next two years will be critical in redrawing the global map of internet governance," said Kroes.
On Tuesday, a global web-based protest was organized by internet freedom and anti-surveillance organizations calling for international reform and adherence to a set of 13 guiding principles for a free and open internet. Web users from around the world endorsed the call and more than 6,000 websites participated in the event protesting the behavior of the NSA as the announced their intent to "fight back" against the encroaching surveillance made public by the leaks of former intelligence contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden.