Friday, May 20, 2011

Middle-power diplomacy and cyberspace.

The release by President Obama of the US "International Strategy for Cyberspace" was greeted by some in the Australian commentariat as flagging that the strategy stood in stark contrast to Australia's efforts to introduce a mandatory Internet filter.

Today in Crikey Bernard Keane notes (behind paywall) "the main media message for which seemed to be that the US reserved the right to respond to cyber attacks with real-world attacks if necessary."

However, he goes on to note that "the principles espoused in the strategy document clash fundamentally with the enthusiasm of the Obama administration ... to act as the enforcement arm of the US copyright industry." After discussing the processes the US is attempting to use through treaties he notes "The attitude of the Obama Administration to the "PROTECT IP" bill before Congress will also be instructive. This bipartisan bill ... would mandate an internet filter for the United States by requiring ISPs to block the DNS for sites alleged to be engaged in "infringing" activities by the copyright industry."

It is all too easy in the Internet space to grab hold of a half-truth and then wilfully or unwittingly misrepresent it.

But in the context of our vary own Convergence Review we have an opportunity to consider how we would at least like the Internet to work.

In the case of television the TV broadcaster makes an assessment of the content against an agreed set of criteria and puts a rating on the show. Where the show is "live" the production process is designed to ensure that it stays within rating, and there are "kill switch" mechanisms if it doesn't (and on talk-back radio a delay to ensure the offending bit can be suppressed before going to air).

Domain name owners have the same ability to control the content on their site. Even the big social media sites have a take down policy of things that they get alerted to. That means it would be theoretically possible to put a classification system in the DNS to advertise to browsers the classification of a site.

In TV land certain classifications can only be shown at certain times. The Internet equivalent would be permissions established in the browser that stopped it from navigating to sites with certain ratings.

Now at this point there will be howling that the Internet is global and that we can't "regulate it". I don't want to. But I'd like to think that we could have an informed contribution to make. Why is it that only the US publishes pontifications such as this? Where is the Australian strategy?

More importantly why are we not taking the opportunity to practice middle-power diplomacy in this space?

Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est

No comments: