Internet Freedom Is In Jeopardy as the United Nations Proceeds With A Plan for Global Control and Global Taxes; U.N. Sponsors Foreign Takeover of U.S. Invention
By Cliff Kincaid
At the United Nations World Summit in September, a newsletter was circulated to participants declaring, in a front page article, that the U.N. should run the Internet. The newsletter was published by OpenDemocracy, a non-governmental organization (NGO) funded by some of the largest foundations in the world.  The author, a “new media pioneer” by the name of Bill Thompson, writes for the BBC and is a frequent contributor to the Guardian, the Register, and the New Statesman. An advisor to the British Labour Party on Internet policy, he claimed that putting the U.N. in charge of the Internet was a way to restore confidence in the world body. The claim is laughable. But unless the U.S. changes its policy on allowing the U.N. to guide the process of “Internet governance,” the U.N. is expected to acquire more influence and control over a medium created by the U.S.
The World Summit final document, endorsed by the Bush Administration, itself endorsed the goals of the forthcoming World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which was held November 16-18 in Tunis. It urged a “people-centered and inclusive information society,” the bridging of the “digital divide,” and support for the “Digital Solidarity Fund.”  These are words and phrases that serve to justify U.N. involvement in the process of controlling and taxing the Internet.
The WSIS attracted and hosted one of the most notorious dictators in the world, Marxist Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, where the government severely restricts freedom of speech and press and claims the right “to monitor all international email messages entering and leaving the country.” 
Mugabe used his speech at the WSIS to lash out “at the lack of democracy in the administration and control of the Internet” and call for “a more inclusive and equitable regime in the management of the global superhighway,” as one sympathetic website put it. At the previous phase of the WSIS, in Geneva in 2003, Mugabe asserted that the U.S. is using digital technology to dominate the planet and that it is behind a “false and failed global information society” that justified the “war of occupation” in Iraq. 
Despite these complaints, which were echoed by many Third World and European delegates, it was reported that participants at the U.N. event had agreed to leave the role of Internet “governance” in the hands of the United States. This was proclaimed to be a tremendous U.S. victory. In fact, the real danger from the U.N. has been not an immediate but a gradual takeover. This process is still on track. What’s more, plans have already been made to tax the Internet for global purposes. These plans are also still on track.
The arrangement that is developing is reminiscent of the “New World Information and Communication Order” (NWICO), backed by the Soviet Union and its allies. At the time, in the early 1980s, the major American news media saw the NWICO as a major threat because it would regulate the flow of global news and information by sanctioning censorship and government-controlled media. Ultimate authority over the world’s media was to be placed in the hands of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
In a December 16, 1983 editorial, the New York Times cited the UNESCO role in the NWICO as a reason to leave the world agency. Calling the NWICO an attempt “to legitimize state manipulation of international news,” the paper said it was “destructive and demeaning for democrats to have to defend their free institutions” at U.N. events against communist nations, led by the Soviet Union. The Reagan Administration left UNESCO in 1984.
In an October 30, 2005, editorial, the Times said it was “understandable” that other nations were “uncomfortable” with U.S. control of the Internet and “the United States has not been a model of receptiveness to other nations' concerns in recent years.” The editorial went on to say:
Ideally, perhaps, a single nation should not control the essential workings of the Internet - notably the regulation of who gets which name and what the various "dot" addresses mean. But United States control is working. One suggestion, to switch control to the United Nations, would mean too many cooks in the kitchen, with several of the most interested chefs being of the unsavory sort, like China and Iran. China's model for the Internet includes filters, censorship and - recently, with the shameful help of Yahoo - surveillance leading to arrest.
Note that there was no call for the U.S. to leave the WSIS process now underway. It’s apparently fine, from the Times’ point of view, for the U.S. to continue to have to defend Internet freedom. What the Times seems not to understand is that, under the guise of making the Internet available to the poor people of the world, the U.N. is pursuing many of the objectives of the old NWICO.
As Professor Andrew Calabrese noted, “With UNESCO no longer at the center of global media policy discourse, noteworthy struggles to develop democratic principles of global media governance have shifted to other forums, most visibly the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).” He said the WSIS represents “for many people throughout the world, particularly in the global South, new hope for making important progress in articulating global norms and related policies in the area of communication rights.” 
The modern-day version of this campaign includes the following misleading words and phrases, whose real meaning may not be apparent to outside observers:
While there is a need to debate the future of the Internet, that debate is already taking place in the U.S., where the Internet was created.  There is no reason why the U.N. should have any role in this domestic debate.
Within a global system of sovereign states, national governments will always have some ability to exercise control over access to Internet information or material. The problem comes when totalitarian regimes block or control citizen access to the Internet for information about human rights and democracy.  The U.N. could pressure these governments to stop censoring Internet content. But the U.N. will not do so because they are members in good standing of the U.N. One of them, China, is a member of the U.N. Security Council.
The danger grows more serious when national governments opposed to the spread of freedom and democracy collaborate with the U.N. and associated NGOs for the purpose of controlling or manipulating the Internet on a global basis. Some of the NGOs may not favor Internet censorship but the international process they have set in motion makes it more likely. That danger is represented by the U.N.-sponsored World Summit for the Information Society and its embrace of a dictator like Mugabe.
These governments could not censor the Internet or use it for surveillance if it were not for Western companies such as Cisco Systems that sell these governments Internet equipment. But far from condemning Cisco, for example, for reportedly assisting China in developing Internet censorship and surveillance systems,  the U.N. works closely with the company and gives it a U.N. seal of approval.
John Chambers, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cisco, is a member of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Information and Communication Technologies Task Force. Cisco has assisted the U.N. in its website operations  and collaborates with the U.N. Development Program.  The company since 2001 has been a member of United Nations Global Compact, described as “an international commitment to principles on bribery and corruption, human rights, labor, and the environment.”  The principles of the compact include respecting “the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights” and not being “complicit in human rights abuses.”
CISCO also works closely with China. Indeed, Chambers has reportedly declared that, "China will become the IT [Information Technology] center of the world, and we can have a healthy discussion about whether that's in 2020 or 2040. What we're trying to do is outline an entire strategy of becoming a Chinese company."
Another member of the UN ICT is Juan Fernandez, an official of the Cuban Commission of Electronic Commerce of the Cuban Ministry of Informatics and Communications. Other members include Songde MA, a Vice Minister in the Ministry of Science and Technology in the Chinese Communist regime, and Sirous Nasseri of Iran. A key figure at the U.N.’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is Houlin Zhao, a former government official in China's Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications who predicts a major U.N. role in “Internet governance.”  The ITU is the U.N. agency that took the lead role in organizing the WSIS.
The prospect of the U.N. trying to seize control of the Internet from the U.S. led both Houses of the U.S. Congress to pass resolutions on the matter. On the eve of the WSIS in Tunis, the Senate passed Senator Norm Coleman’s resolution (S. Res. 323) raising an alarm about a “new model of international cooperation” for the Internet “which could confer significant leverage to the Governments of Iran, Cuba, and China, and could impose an undesirable layer of politicized bureaucracy on the operations of the Internet that could result in an inadequate response to the rapid pace of technological change.”
The resolution also declared that
After the recent WSIS, however, U.S. officials confidently declared that the U.N. agenda for control of the Internet had been beaten back. David Gross, U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and the person who led the American delegation, declared that the final conference document was “fabulous.” 
If Gross meant that the world organization had not tried to directly seize direct control of the Internet at this meeting, he is correct but his point is irrelevant. If the U.N. and its allies had attempted to stage a direct and immediate takeover of the Internet, that approach would have been both unsuccessful and likely to have generated a U.S. walk-out. The U.N. approach is to wear down U.S. opposition over time, and to incrementally acquire influence and control. The U.S. fell into this trap at the WSIS.
The final conference document states that the future of the Internet will be decided through an “Internet Governance Forum” that will be established by the anti-American U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
The final conference document also declared:
The international management of the Internet should be multilateral, transparent and democratic, with the full involvement of governments, the private sector, civil society and international Organizations. 
But the word “democratic” at the U.N. means allowing the many undemocratic members of the world body to have as much or more influence than democratic countries such as the U.S.
In fact, the Internet is well on its way to coming under international influence and control.
Playing a critical role in the process is the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), a group funded by the Open Society Institute of billionaire George Soros, the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Canadian Government. The APC recommended the creation of Annan’s Internet Governance Forum. 
A Department of Defense report described APC, as far back as 1995, as one of the largest and most active left-wing international political groups using the Internet. Founded in 1990, APC describes itself as “an international network of civil society organizations dedicated to empowering and supporting groups and individuals working for peace, human rights, development and protection of the environment, through the strategic use of information and communication technologies (ICTs), including the internet.”  APC, which says it has “worked closely with the United Nations to assist civil society organizations to participate in global policy-making through the use of ICTs,” has consultative status with the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). 
In a document prepared for the November 2005 WSIS,  the APC noted that the groundwork for “international participation” in the management of the Internet was actually laid by the Clinton Administration in 1997, when it issued a “Framework for Global Electronic Commerce.” In 1998, again under the Clinton Administration, the U.S. entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which was supposed to be “internationalized”  through official U.S. agreements “with other governments.” Indeed, ICANN describes itself as an “international organization” that seeks to “transition management of the Domain Name System (DNS) from the U.S. government to the global community.” 
The Internet is regarded by APC as being under the “political oversight” of the U.S. because it is based here and it is a U.S. company. APC wants to completely sever ICAAN from the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) has declared that “NO single government should have a preeminent role in relation to Internet governance.”  A preeminent U.N. role is what they seek.
It is significant and ominous that billionaire George Soros, an outspoken proponent of global taxes, has had a major hand in the attempt by NGOs such as the APC to bring the Internet under global control. Publicly, Soros declares that “the free flow of information is one of the best ways to protect the freedom and the openness of society"  and was named chairman of a global conference sponsored by the Internet Society. 
In addition to funding the APC, Soros’s Open Society Institute financed the creation of an “Internet Democracy Project” involving the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation (ACLU), Computer Professional for Social Responsibility (CPSR), Georgia Institute of Technology, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). The project was described as seeking to “enhance the participation of Internet users worldwide in non-governmental bodies that are setting Internet policy and to advocate that these bodies adhere to internationally recognized principles of human rights.”  One element of the campaign was to influence the make-up of ICANN.
The co-sponsors of this campaign were the Kellog Foundation and the Markle Foundation. Zoe Baird, president of the Markle Foundation, is a member of the UN ICT.
One tactic being employed by the anti-American lobby is to threaten to establish a rival to ICANN and create “chaos on the Internet with two divergent standards,” as the Christian Science Monitor put it. This paper, which has a left-wing editorial bent, urged the U.S. in a September 16, 2005, editorial to “engage” in the process and help mold “international governance” of the Internet. In other words, surrender to the threats.
Conservatives have long regarded ICANN with suspicion. When the Department of Commerce under the Clinton Administration created ICANN, some conservatives complained that this “private” non-profit corporation was too secretive and was being given what amounted to governmental powers to set Internet standards and make policy. Some said the revenue it received for registering domain names on the Internet amounted to a kind of tax. Today, there is a group that monitors ICANN. 
At the time, Clinton had directed the Secretary of Commerce to privatize the domain name system in a manner that “facilitates international participation in its management.” However, the Clinton Administration did draw a line at the suggestion that the DNS should be “managed by international governmental institutions such as the United Nations or the International Telecommunications Union,” the ITU. The U.S. response at the time was that:
While international organizations may provide specific expertise or act as advisors to the new corporation, the U.S. continues to believe…that neither national governments acting as sovereigns nor intergovernmental organizations acting as representatives of governments should participate in management of Internet names and addresses. Of course, national governments now have, and will continue to have, authority to manage or establish policy for their own ccTLDs [country code top-level domains]. 
While the process of asserting international influence over the Internet is well underway, with ultimate control still at issue, the U.N. and its associated NGOs are pursuing global taxes on the Internet.
The conference document described by Gross as “fabulous” affirms the need for “existing mechanisms, both private and public, which provide financing for ICTs in developing countries,” and declares that “we have considered the improvements and innovations of financing mechanisms, including the creation of a voluntary Digital Solidarity Fund, as mentioned in the Geneva Declaration of Principles.” 
The phrase, “innovations of financing mechanisms,” is U.N.-speak for global taxes. The “Digital Solidarity Fund” is similar to the approach taken by France and other nations with their “solidarity contribution on airline tickets,” a euphemism for an international tax on airline travel.
Indeed, Roberto Bissio of APC declared in a statement that while the Digital Solidarity Fund was a welcome development, “a global tax on microchips or on domain names would be justified and provide reliable resources for developing countries to connect their people.”  Bissio serves as coordinator of Social Watch, an “international NGO watchdog network,” and Latin American secretary of Third World Network. 
In another forum, Bissio’s position was stated this way:
Bissio said that it is important for the whole world to increase the value and the size of the global communication network, yet this public good is not paid by those who benefit most -- the Global North and its businesses -- but instead the poor people of the world pay for raising this common value. Bissio proposed global taxes to finance the global public good of communication and pointed to several possible models, including taxes on computer applications, microchips, and domain names. He noted that even the business sector has started to acknowledge the need of taxes to finance global public goods and expressed his conviction that a consensus on global taxes may eventually emerge. 
The U.N. agenda for the Internet, including the idea of global taxation, was set forth in the 1999 United Nations Human Development Report. A key section of the report declared:
“The Web began as a free-for-all, an unregulated domain, with a spirit of exploration and spontaneity. Now that it is of commercial interest, laws and regulations are needed in matters of privacy, liability, censorship, taxation and intellectual property.” 
The report went on to talk of an “urgent need to find the resources to fund the global communications revolution – to ensure that it is truly global.” It said one proposal is a “bit tax,” described as a “very small tax on the amount of data sent through the Internet. “Globally in 1996,” the report explained, “it would have yielded $70 billion – more than total official development assistance [i.e. foreign aid] that year.” 
The U.N. does not need to control the Internet in order for it to be taxed for international purposes. In fact, the process of taxing it on a global basis has already been set in motion. The “Digital Solidarity Fund” is the first step in this process.
Gross, the lead U.S. representative to the WSIS, is a member of the U.N. Information and Communications Technologies Task Force (UN ICT),  which produced a document including a report by Roberto Bissio of the APC declaring that the “information society” is a “global public good” and therefore can be taxed on a global basis. This report, which called for taxes on the producers of microchips in order to generate “millions of dollars annually” for foreign aid,  also noted that:
This is all a popular issue now, and when Presidents Lula, Zapatero Lagos and Chirac proposed new funding mechanisms, including taxes, they gathered 40 heads of state last September to support them and within twenty four hours they got the signatures of 110 countries. So it is not possible to say that taxes to fund global public goods are not popular around the world anymore. Moving this issue forward would quite simply make an enormous difference to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. It is an issue that the UN ICT Task force could pursue with great potential benefit this year through the MS+5 [Millennium Plus Five meeting of the U.N. General Assembly] and the WSIS. 
This report is extremely revealing. The above is clearly a reference to the “solidarity contribution” on airline tickets – the international tax on airline travel – that was originally proposed by France and endorsed in the final document of the U.N.’s World Summit in September 2005. The tax was approved by the French government on November 23, 2005. The UN ICT report is saying that the U.N. should follow the same approach in handling the Internet issue. Other countries will gradually increase the pressure on the U.S. to give ground.
A key objective of the UN ICT “action plan” is to “Explore and develop innovative funding arrangements and mechanisms that bring together existing and new resources, both financial and other, of public, private and non-profit stakeholders for ICT-for-development programs aimed at poverty eradication.” (emphasis added).  The term “innovative funding arrangements and mechanisms” usually refers to global taxes. The purpose, quite clearly, is to figure out a way to exploit information and communications technologies for the purpose of raising money for international purposes.
The UN ICT Bissio report refers to a policy paper, Financing the Information Society in the South: A Global Public Goods Perspective, published by the APC. This June 2004 report referred to the 1999 UNDP proposal and went on to say:
Taking into account the growth in email traffic in recent years and their increase in size, even smaller tax rates would produce considerable revenue that could be used to finance the development of communications in the South. 
However, the report also went on to note that, “The proposal contained in the UNDP report was rejected outright by countries like the United States” and the UNDP issued a statement saying it did not “officially” support the proposal.
Indeed, then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey sent a letter to his colleagues in Congress and President Clinton, urging them to reject the proposal as an "unnecessary and burdensome tax on the Internet." He explained, "Every time you turn around, it seems there is another agency or bureaucracy looking to get its greedy mitts on the Internet through new taxes. U.S. taxpayer dollars should not be used to support UN reports pushing this kind of redistribution policy. I urge the Administration to reject this report and the policy suggestions it makes." 
The pressure was so great that Mark Malloch Brown, then-administrator of the UNDP (who later became Annan’s chief of staff), said that the bit tax on Internet usage was not an official UNDP proposal. He also claimed the Human Development Report was commissioned as an independent publication.  In fact, however, the UNDP has been associated with global tax proposals since 1994, when its Human Development Report not only endorsed global taxes but world government. 
The first major proposal for taxing “electronic information” was offered by economist Arthur Cordell  in a 1994 Club of Rome report. It was further developed in a number of papers by Cordell and Ran Ide in 1995. In 1997, they wrote the book, The New Wealth of Nations: Taxing Cyberspace. Cordell says:
“My proposal is to tax the digital traffic on the Information Highway. Proposed is an easily administered tax on each digital bit of information. A ‘bit tax’. Whether the digital bit is part of a foreign exchange transaction, a business teleconference, an Internet e-mail or file transfer, electronic check clearance or an ATM transaction, each bit is a physical manifestation of the new economy at work. Whether the tax is levied on the traffic carried by a fibre optic cable or on microwave or whether the tax is levied on interactive satellite traffic, the bit tax presents a way of accessing the new wealth being created by the New Economy.” 
At the December 2003 World Summit on the Information Society, proposals were discussed that the ITU could assume responsibility for a tax “that would fund third world telecommunication infrastructure initiatives that had failed to secure substantial support from either the UN or major governments such as the US, France, Germany and Japan.” 
The push for international taxes on the Internet remains on track.
Unfortunately, the resolution that passed the U.S. House on the eve of the 2005 WSIS affirmed that oversight of the Internet should remain with the U.S. Department of Commerce and ICANN but also declared the legitimacy of the WSIS process and committed the U.S. to continued participation in it. The resolution  acknowledged the first WSIS in Geneva in 2003 and then declared:
Discussion is one thing. But the goals of the WSIS go far beyond mere discussion.
In order to lay the groundwork for global taxes, U.N. agencies and NGOs have advocated that national governments impose taxes on the Internet.
In their March 2002 report, Global Taxes for Global Priorities, prepared for a major European NGO, James A. Paul and Katarina Wahlberg discussed the subject of email or Internet taxes, noting that:
In 1998, the United States persuaded the OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] to impose a moratorium on Internet taxation, but the idea continues to stir interest and on February 12, 2002, EU finance ministers approved sales taxes on Internet transactions. New technology and changing politics may bring this proposal swiftly forward. 
The UNDP published a study, UNDP and the Communications Revolution,  which called Internet commerce “an unexpected tax drain for state and local authorities” in the U.S. because “buying and selling is not subject to state and local sales taxes and hence erodes the tax base and financial viability of communities.” The report said that “moving to a taxation of mail-order and Internet sales would be an appropriate response.” 
The U.S., however, has taken a different approach. President Bush signed the Internet Tax Non-Discrimination Act into law on December 3, 2004. The legislation authored by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Rep. Chris Cox (R-Calif.) and Senator George Allen (R-Va.) extended the ban on multiple and discriminatory taxation on the Internet until October 31, 2007. 
But a new U.S. strategy is urgently needed on the global level.
&The bankruptcy of the current U.S. approach is evident in what is happening at UNESCO. Over U.S. objections, UNESCO in October passed a “Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions,” which was described by U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO Louise V. Oliver as a treaty that could limit freedom of cultural expression and trade. The treaty passed 148-2, with four abstentions, despite personal pleas from Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice that the document was fatally flawed and should not be approved. Only the U.S. and Israel voted against it.
Ironically, the Bush Administration had rejoined UNESCO in 2003, becoming UNESCO’s biggest benefactor at a cost of $70 million a year, because UNESCO had supposedly been reformed since the days when it was pushing the New World Information and Communication Order. Now the U.S. finds itself isolated in the world because of a U.N. process that the U.S. principally pays for. The same could happen with the Internet. Curiously, in the case of the Internet, the U.S. is participating in a U.N.-sponsored foreign takeover of a U.S. invention.
 The Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, among others.
 See Zimbabwe section in State Department human rights report http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41634.htm
 The Family Research Council, for example, objected to a plan by the Internet Corporation for Assigning Names and Numbers (ICANN) to establish an .XXX domain for porn Web sites.
 A “Global Internet Freedom Act” introduced in both Houses of Congress sought to establish an “office of Global Internet freedom” in the International Broadcasting Bureau to counter Internet jamming and blocking by repressive regimes.
 Gross has served since August 2001 as the U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs. He was nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate. His bio states that, at the law firm of Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan., he became a partner specializing in communications and telecommunications issues. He remained at Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan until 1994, when he was named Washington Counsel for AirTouch Communications. AirTouch was the world's largest wireless telecommunications company, with extensive interests in the United States, Europe, Asia, and elsewhere.
 See statement of the APC’s Roberto Bissio at http://lists.apc.org/public/apc.press/2005q1/000068.html
 A list of members, who are appointed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, can be found at http://www.unicttaskforce.org/panel/
 The Bissio report is included in “Creating An Enabling Environment. Toward the Millennium Development Goals. Proceedings of the Berlin Global Forum of the United Nations ICT Task Force.” http://wbln0018.worldbank.org/ict/resources.nsf/a693f575e01ba5f385256b500062af05/fb1e6ab1bcd0b1b985256ffe006ad77c/$FILE/enablingenvironment_ebk.pdf
 Letter to the editor, The Washington Times, July 27, 1999, page A20.
 Ibid. Caslon
 H. Con. Res. 268 introduced by Rep. John Doolittle.
 The author of the UNDP report, Hans d’Orville, was the co-author of a 1995 book, Towards a New Multilateralism: Funding Global Priorities, completely devoted to “innovative financing mechanisms” or proposals for international taxes.
 The Internet Tax Non-Discrimination Act extended the original Internet Tax Freedom Act of 1998, written by Sen. Wyden and Rep. Cox. The moratorium created by that legislation and then extended in 2001 had expired in November 2003.