Thursday, July 28, 2005
From both reports, a key point is how dominant the search engines (especially Google) are becoming in attracting local real estate advertising money. The Borrell report quotes a Realtor in Austin, Texas: "That (Google) ad is working great. ... We are busy as hell, and that is the only advertising we are doing right now. We quit our print advertising after we posted that Google ad."
A Times Editorial
Published July 27, 2005
It isn't often that a politician who has come within a Supreme Court decision of the White House can thoroughly reinvent himself. But with his new youth-oriented, populist TV news and information channel, dubbed Current TV, former Vice President Al Gore has made an ambitious start.
Scheduled to debut Monday, Current's format seems impossibly simple. Reasoning that its age-18-to-34 target audience already is living in a high-velocity, on-demand media universe, Gore's channel will offer bite-sized video packages no more than seven to 10 minutes long, allow viewers to submit pieces of their own and vote on their favorite amateur video online.
One of the channel's slogans makes the ambitious pledge to turn TV into a two-way conversation. And Gore, facing the public without a tie or any willingness to talk politics, has emerged as the unlikeliest of faces for a channel trying to make the video musings of unknown twentysomethings not only hip, but revolutionary.
Gore has morphed from a political punch line to the man aiming to end TV As We Know It. Not a bad perch for a guy seeking the kind of sweeping change as a media executive he never achieved as a politician.
[Last modified July 27, 2005, 01:03:14]"
"The media give the public what the public wants, but maybe it's time to give the public what it needs instead," writes Salma Ghanem, an associate professor and chair of the communications department at the University of Texas-Pan American. "Is it naïve or idealistic to expect the media to operate outside a capitalist and competitive system in which profit is the bottom line? Perhaps we should start exploring new ways to fund the media so they won't be susceptible to market forces."
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Jeff Jarvis' blog post.
Blogger Jeff Jarvis -- a former TV Guide critic who now consults to major media companies on there Internet strategies -- calls the shrinking of TV Guide and the end of its regional print listings "the official end of the mass market."
DoWire bills itself as a primary source for what's important and happening with the convergence of democracy and the Internet around the world. DoWire is a free, low volume, moderated e-mail announcement list.
Launched in January 1998, DoWire connects over 2,750 experts, practitioners, journalists, and citizens across 80 countries. it's for people interested in democracy online - including politics online, new media, e-governance, e-government, online advocacy and activism, citizen e-participation and related topics. Steven Clift writes most of the posts.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
TEXT: Remarks of Craig Newmark on future of journalism 03-22-05
TRANSCRIPT OF EXCERPTS OF REMARKS BY
founder, CRAIG.S LIST
At the New Media Public Lecture Series
Presented by the Western Knight Center for Specialized Journalism
and the Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley
March 22, 2005, Berkeley, Calif.
VIDEO STREAM AT: http://journalism.berkeley.edu/events/details.php?ID=214
Sometimes we look at the big news and we try to figure out who should we trust
what should we trust about issues like Anwar drilling or maybe this Weapons of
Mass Destruction thing. How do we know what to trust, who to trust or something
like that? And it has occurred to me personally that this is a big issue for
our times because it affects our lives in a huge way. So my mind has drifted
into this, into these areas where journalism and news are changing. And this is
a big deal . . . .
. . . . Also as a matter of conscience, we do know that Craig's List is
affecting the classified revenue that newspapers get and we're trying to
understand this. And you might correct me in a number of ways. For example,
I've read some reports which says the kind of classifieds we get are normally
the ones that would never go to a newspaper. I don't know . . . I hear both
sides of that.
I do tell people that my instincts tell me that the problem has more to do with
loss of trust. People talk about it, people of multiple political stripes, they
say that they know the whole Iraq thing. People know that something went on,
apparently a scam, and yet people didn't cover that . . . .
. . . . A good example of citizen journalism is Ohmy News out of Korea. They
were the folks who broke the best the story of apparently Connie Rice perjuring
herself in front of the 911 Commission. I haven't seen peep out of that in the
American press, but these people drilled down pretty hard and did a good job.
There was even I think Congressman Waxman has recommended a congressional
inquiry which hasn't gone anywhere. It wasn't reported . . . .
. . . So I have a feeling this trust issues are a big thing. What's gonna.
matter is things are evolving, we are seeing a for real, you choose your term,
a transition to new means of delivering the news, to writing it, to new means
of filtering and fact checking.
I don't really know what I'm talking about. I'm a full-time customer service
rep. But I've enlisted the aide of people who, let's say, are noted in this
area, and am talking to them and trying to get some help. Personally I want to
do something to help the people who are getting seriously involved in that.
That's me speaking personally. I can do some promotion, I might do a little
funding in tiny amounts. And then I'll have to decide if I want to drag Craig's
List into it . . . .
. . . It's incumbent on me to maybe help people [in journalism] who are doing
the real heavy hitting . . . .
. . . The technology's changing. People are demanding more in terms of news,
oh, some of the news that is normally not covered. People are also requesting
that news be much better fact checked. Stuff like that. I don't know where it's
going to happen, but I feel things are going to get a lot better for news
producers, editors, that role will expand, and there will be editors who are
news filters, aggregators, more. And we're going to see new kinds of
newspapers and magazines delivered over the net. The publishers, though, the
one's that are not starting to change, like today, may be screwed. I don't
QUESTION: Have you thought much about what aspect of .citizens journalism.
interest you the most?
Remember, I acknowledge my ignorance and I'm also lazy. So what I'm doing is
I'm getting other people to look at that kind of thing, because maybe we
shouldn't get into it. Maybe we should find one or more of the places where
people are doing that kind of thing and then say, hey, this is good. Maybe
personally I'll say hey, here is a story I'm personally concerned with and
FactCheck.org has taken a look at it and they think it is for real and let's
proceed with that . . . fact check is really good because it is very clear they
are non-partisan . . . .
QUESTION: The currency you seem to trade in is trust and not money.
. . . . I don't know if I'm any of those things. Basically, I'm one very
persistent nerd. I have I guess an obligation to the community I've built up.
I'm going to keep the faith. I'm not an activist or anything like that. I just
feel things should be better. And I don't want to be pious about any of that
stuff. That's what I'm working on. It's fairly gratifying . . . I don't care
too much about a lot of politics, but one of my roles is to fight scams, and I
don't care whether they are economic or political scams.
QUESTION: On the one hand, deliberately or not, had you have helped to push
journalism to this very crucial inflection point, because you're broken up our
business model. So what do you hear when we make the comment about community
journalism? What do you envision that being?
I'm not sure about what community journalism will be. I do think professional
and amateur journalism, it's all going to blur together. Fact checking might
become a job that lots of people do. I think editors and journalists are going
to be paid directly by people in the community. If you find someone whose news
you can rely on and trust and action on, you may wind up being paid for that.
There's going to be some kind of new role that is going to merge editor and
critic and fact checker filter. Because even the job of a theater critic is to
filter out all that and tell you want you want to see. Same thing with the TV
critic or a movie critic. I think this is all going to merge together. I think
people are going to be paying sometimes for content. And I think we may end up,
eventually, paying people for their magazines of sorts, of content that we
might want to see and for that matter content that comes out at random that we
don't know we want to see but it might be entertaining.
QUESTION: Isn.t it hard to discern trust online?
In terms of trust and all that, I haven't thought about that in depth except
the idea of being continually engaged with people. I'd just say keep engaged
with people and treat them like you want to be treated and in terms of you're
writing style, don't sound like you're a corporate business person. Just sound
like you're a person . . . .
. . . . We're all pretty smart consumers. And the kids these day with their
instant messaging and rock music, the kids are becoming even smarter and
smarter about consuming media and they are probably not so much cynical as just
QUESTION: So, what I'm hearing is that somebody is going to have to start
paying people to run fact-check programs. The media is broadening. Somebody is
going to have to start pay for these people's salaries. Where is this going to
come from? Are the consumers going to start paying more money?
I'm not sure. My guess is that, yea, there will be a lot of people who will
possibly be glad to pay more money for more reliable news as they perceive it.
This will be mixed in a lot with entertainment and so on. I know I'd be willing
to and whenever I talk about it, people are willing to do that. It is starting
to work in Korea. We'll just have to see how it goes otherwise. I may be very
wrong. The thing is we do know some kind of change is occurring. The effect we
are probably having in terms of classified revenue we're probably accelerating
the change and again for me it is very important that people whose job this
relies on, at least people hear about this a lot and try to figure out where
this is trying to take you. So people can start to prepare now for the kind of
change that is happening and this will be a big deal. I think I put up a link,
in terms of stories today, I think the Annenberg [Center] is starting to put
up information about how citizen journalists are starting to train themselves.
QUESTION: The notion of fact checkers seems so establishment. How do you see
those things bubbling up?
I have a different opinion. Everyone I talk to from possibly the producer or
consumer side, they want fact checking. We want something they can trust, which
means someone has to go over the details. And that sounds good to me.
QUESTION: So that's the old model, sort of?
Maybe so. But, see, I don't care if it is old or new or whatever. I want
something I can trust. Which means fact checking, usually someone else doing
QUESTION: Are you worried about people taking away your market share?
We do consider that. Efforts in the U.S. have failed because it was pretty
clear they weren.t dedicated to customer service and they were just trying to
make a lot of money fast. In Europe, there are a number of sites in the native
languages which are doing fine . . . .
QUESTION: So it is the trust that everybody is working in?
Trust. Well, that's pretty much how we run our lives. Our lives are pretty much
who you know, which is another way of saying, who do you trust?
-- END OF TALK ---
Monday, July 25, 2005
Rex Hammock, a blogger, offers links to the three different types of RSS news readers, as suggested by Robert Scoble.
A Wal-Mart manager in Pensacola, Fla., ordered the daily paper in the city -- owned by Gannett Co. Inc., to either fire a columnist who wrote about the effect of Wal-Mart's low wages, or else remove its racks and papers from the store. The paper's executive editor writes that he chose to remove the racks.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
FIRST AMENDMENT: Should bloggers benefit from federal shield law?
Original Source: Anne Broache, CNET News.com
Senate panel explores giving reporters' shield to bloggers
Certain bloggers may deserve the same privileges as professional reporters, panelists suggested Wednesday at a U.S. Senate hearing about a proposed media "shield" law. . . . The Senate shield law bill and the House version cover those entities that publish newspapers, books, magazines and periodicals "in print or electronic form" and their broadcast and wire-service counterparts. But Wednesday's hearing--just a small fraction of which addressed the issue of blogging--demonstrated that the implications for bloggers remain unclear.
"The fact is that there are new and different types of people reporting and making information available to anyone around the world," Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said at the two-and-a-half hour hearing. "Would you extend this privilege to a blogger?" he asked a six-member panel composed of journalists and First Amendment lawyers. "I don't think journalism should profess to be a profession," said longtime New York Times political columnist William Saffire. "I think the lonely pamphleteer has the same rights as The New York Times."
MEDIA REFORM: New York congressman files bill to curb media consolidation
July 19, 2005
Media Reform Bill Introduced
According to Radio Currents Online, Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) has introduced the Media Ownership Reform Act of 2005 (MORA).
According to Hinchey's press release the bill, "seeks to undo the massive consolidation of the media that has been ongoing for nearly 20 years." So,
it hits most major media reform points:
-- reinstate a national cap on ownership of radio stations
-- lower the number of radio stations one company can own in a single market
-- reinstate the 25 percent national television ownership cap
-- require regular public interest reports from broadcasters
-- establish new public interest obligations
The bill's number is H.R. 3032. Text here:
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
BACKGROUND: WikiNews style of news gathering (PDF)
On Saturday, June 25, Erik Möller presented the Wikinews business model at the OhmyNews International Citizen Reporters' Forum 2005, at the COEX conference hall in Seoul, South Korea. The following is the PDF presentation file.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
RESEARCH: Media Center report on participatory media
Posted by Gloria Pan on July 11, 2005 at 10:59 AM Permalink
morph: The Media Center blog
Monday, July 11, 2005
Summary of The Media Center's We Media report on the rise of participatory media A few weeks ago, K. Paul Mallasch posted on J-Log an executive summary of The Media Center's report, We Media: How audience are shaping the future of news and information, written by Hypergene's Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis. The report anticipated the rise of participatory media, coming out right before the blog wave crashed over us all. Almost two years after publication, downloads are still going at a healthy pace: In May, 1,000+ downloads of the English PDF and 700+ downloads of the Spanish version. If you haven't read the report yet and are too lazy to slog through the whole thing, try the executive summary - we don't mind! J
Sunday, July 10, 2005
Reporter K. Oanh Ha of the San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), reports the reaction of professional journalists, academics and pioneer bloggers to the way "citizen journalists" used camera phones to post photographs and blogs to post information about the London subway bombings.
Friday, July 08, 2005
FIRST AMENDMENT: Bill Israel on "my friend" Karl Rove
Save the First Amendment--from Karl Rove
A man who taught with Rove, and considers him a friend, fears that in the
Plame case, Rove is using journalists, and the First Amendment, "to
operate without constraint, or to camouflage breaking the law." That's why
reporters should not protect Rove (or anyone else) "through an
undiscerning, blanket use of the First Amendment that weakens its
protections by its gross misuse."
By Bill Israel
(July 05, 2005) -- In 99.9 percent of cases I know, journalists must not
break the bonds of appropriate confidentiality, to protect their ability
to report, and to defend the First Amendment. I.ve testified in court to
that end, and would do so again.
But the Valerie Plame-CIA case that threatens jail time for reporters from
Time and The New York Times this week is the exception that shatters the
rule. In this case, journalists as a community have been played for
patsies by the president.s chief strategist, Karl Rove, and are enabling
him to abuse the First Amendment, by their invoking it.
To understand why this case is exceptional, one must grasp the extent of
Rove.s political mastery, which became clearer to me by working with him.
When we taught "Politics and the Press" together at The University of
Texas at Austin seven years ago, Rove showed an amazing disdain for Texas
political reporters. At the same time, he actively cultivated national
reporters who could help him promote a Bush presidency.
In teaching with him, I learned Rove assumes command over any political
enterprise he engages. He insists on absolute discipline from staff:
nothing escapes him; no one who works with him moves without his
direction. In Texas, though he was called "the prime minister" to Gov.
George W. Bush, it might have been "Lord," as in the divine, for when it
came to politics and policy, it was Rove who gave, and Rove who took away.
Little has changed since the Bush presidency; all roads still lead to
Consequently, when former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson challenged
President Bush.s embrace of the British notion that Saddam Hussein sought
to import uranium from Niger to produce nuclear weapons, retaliation by
Rove was never in doubt. While it is reporters Matthew Cooper of Time and
Judith Miller of The New York Times who now face jail time, the
retaliation came through Rove-uber-outlet Robert Novak, who blew the cover
of Wilson.s wife, CIA operative Valerie Plame.
The problem, as always, in dealing with Rove, is establishing a clear
chain of culpability. Rove once described himself as a die-hard Nixonite;
he is, like the former president, both student and master of plausible
deniability. (This past weekend, in confirming that Rove was indeed a
source for Matthew Cooper, Rove's lawyer said his client "never knowingly
disclosed classified information.") That is precisely why prosecutor
Fitzgerald in this case must document the pattern of Rove.s behavior,
whether journalists published, or not.
For in this case, Rove, improving on Macchiavelli, has bet that reporters
won.t rat their relationship with the administration.s most important
political source. How better for him to operate without constraint, or to
camouflage breaking the law, than under the cover of journalists and
journalism, protected by the First Amendment?
Karl Rove is in my experience with him the brightest and most affable of
companions; perhaps I have been coopted, for I genuinely treasure his
friendship. But neither charm nor political power should be permitted to
subvert the First Amendment, which is intended to insure that reporters
and citizens burrow fully and publicly into government, not insulate its
players from felony, or reality.
Reporters with a gut fear of breaching confidential sources must fight
like tigers to protect them. But neither reporters Cooper nor Miller, nor
their publications, nor anyone in journalism should protect the behavior
of Rove (or anyone else) through an undiscerning, blanket use of the First
Amendment that weakens its protections by its gross misuse.
Bill Israel (email@example.com) teaches journalism at the
University of Massachusetts (Amherst). He has worked for several leading
Thursday, July 07, 2005
An excellent think piece by ex-San Francisco newspaper editor Tim Porter (now a newsroom consultant) on the opportunity for newspapers to shift their role to that of "ringmaster" for the circus of independent and citizen journalism ushered in by the web.
Monday, July 04, 2005
Below is an account by the founder of the Whidbey Island, Wash.-based Giraffe Heros Project* of his attempts to get his name off the TSA's airport no-fly "Watch List." It is unique because John Graham is a former U.S. government diplomat who once held security clearances, a self-described 63-year-old white with an Anglo-Saxon name, who has spent his post-government career finding and spotlighting people who are sticking their necks out making a difference for the better in all walks of life.
It is chilling enough that he and thousands of other Americans are on such "Watch Lists." Far more troubling is his apparent inability to find out why, or to receive any assurance that he can ever get off the list. His livelihood is threatened.
Here is a man who was just an invited speaker at the U.S. Air Force Academy, on Feb. 26, at a "National Conference on Character and Leadership" . . . someone the first President Bush honored as one of his "points of light."
And now a person apparently shocked and disillusioned by his government.
Who is accountable? Who is collecting the other stories like this one? If this were an isolated or new experience, it might not be news. But it keeps happening, despite efforts by the TSA to "fix" the list-collection methodology.
-- Bill Densmore, director/editor, The Media Giraffe Project at UMass-Amherst.
John Graham is founder and president of the Giraffe Heros Project. The column below, "Deliberately Provocative Thoughts" is one in a series of regular email newsletters to Giraffe Heros Project supporters.
Date: Mon, 4 Jul 2005 15:46:29 -0700
From: John Graham firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2005 John Graham
Posted by permission
TITLE: "July 4 Greetings from Abdul bin Graham"
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
- Benjamin Franklin, 1706 - 1790
Greetings from Abdul bin Graham.
At least that's who my Government thinks I am. Heading for Oakland from Seattle to see my grandkids last week, the Alaska Airline check-in machine refused to give me a boarding pass.
Directed to the ticket counter, I gave the agent my driver's license and watched her punch at her computer.
Frowning, she told me that my name was on the national terrorist No Fly Watch List and that I had to be specially cleared to board a plane. Any plane. Then she disappeared with my license for ten minutes, returning with a boarding pass and a written notice from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that confirmed that my name was on a list of persons "who posed, or were suspected of posing, a threat to civil aviation or national security." No, no one could tell me more than that. The computer was certain.
Back home from Oakland, I called the TSA 800 number, where I rode a merry-go-round of pleasant recorded voices until I gave up. Turning to the TSA website, I downloaded a Passenger Identity Verification
Form that, said the TSA, would assist them in "assessing" my situation if I sent it in with a package of certified documents attesting to who I was.
I collected all this stuff and sent it in. Another twenty minutes on the phone to the TSA uncovered no live human being at all, let alone one who would tell me what I'd presumably done to get on The List. Searching my own mind for possible reasons, I've been more and more puzzled. I used to work on national security issues myself for the State Department and I know how dangerous our country's opponents can e. To the dismay of many of my more liberal friends, I've given the Feds the benefit of the doubt on homeland security. I tend to dismiss conspiracy theories as nonsense and I take my shoes off for the airport screeners with a smile.
I'm embarrassed that it took my own ox being gored for me to see the threat posed by the Administration's current restricting of civil liberties. I'm being accused of a serious--even treasonous--criminal intent by a faceless bureaucracy, with no chance (that I can find) to refute any errors or false charges. For me, my ability to earn a living is threatened--I speak on civic action and leadership all over the world, including recently at the US Air Force Academy. Plane travel is key to my livelihood. According to a recent MSNBC piece, thousands of Americans are having similar experiences. And this is not Chile under Pinochet. It's America. My country and yours.
With no real information to go on, I'm left to guess why this is happening to me. The easiest and most comforting guess is that it's all a mistake (a possibility the TSA form, to its credit, allows). But how? I'm a 63-year-old guy with an Anglo-Saxon name. I once held a Top Secret Umbra clearance (don't ask what it is but it meant the FBI vetted me up the whazoo for months). And since I left the government in 1980, my life has been an open book. It shouldn't be hard for the government to figure out that I'm not a menace to my country.
But if they do think that--I can't see how. Since 1983 I've helped lead the Giraffe Heroes Project, a nonprofit that moves people to stick their necks out for the common good. In the tradition of Gandhi, King and Mandela, that can include challenging public policies people think are unjust. But in 1990, the Project's founder and I were honored as "Points of Light" by the first President Bush for our work in fostering the health of this democracy. I've just written a book, Stick Your Neck Out, that's about activating citizens
to get to work on whatever problems they care about, instead of sitting around complaining.
I'm also engaged in international peacemaking, working with an organization with a distinguished 60-year record of success in places ranging from post-war Europe to Africa. Peacemakers must talk to all sides, so over the years I've met with Cambodians, Sudanese, Palestinians, Israelis and many others. You can't convince people to move toward peaceful solutions unless you understand who they are.
As I said, I'm not into conspiracy theories. But I can't ignore this Administration's efforts to purge and punish dissenters and opponents. Look, for example, at current efforts to cleanse PBS and NPR of "anti-Administration" news. But I'm not Bill Moyers and the Giraffe Heroes Project is not PBS. We're a small operation working quietly to promote real citizenship.
But whether it's a mistake or whether somebody with the power to hassle me really thinks I am a threat, the stark absence of due process is unsettling. The worst of it is that being put on a list of America's enemies seems to be permanent. The TSA form states: "the TSA clearance process will not remove a name from the Watch Lists. Instead this process distinguishes passengers from persons who are in fact on the Watch Lists by placing their names and identifying information in a cleared portion of the Lists" (which may or may not, the form continues, reduce the airport hassles). Huh? My name is on a list of real and suspected enemies of the state and I can't find out what I'm accused of or why, let alone defend myself. And I'm guilty, says my government, not just until proven innocent or a victim of mistaken identity--but forever.
Yes, 9/11 changed a lot. Tougher internal security measures (like thorough screenings at airports and boundary crossings) are a dismal necessity. But, in protecting ourselves, we can't allow our leaders
to continue to create a climate of fear and mistrust, to destroy our civil liberties and, in so doing, to change who we are as a nation. What a victory that would be for our enemies! And what a betrayal of real patriots, and to so many in the wider world who still remember this country as a source of inspiration and hope.
No, I don't think it's like Germany in 1936. But look at Germany in 1930. Primed by National Socialist propaganda to stay fearful and angry, Germans in droves chose not to see the right's extreme views
and actions as a threat to their liberties. ("Surely people will come to their senses.")
Another comparison might be to the frog. You know that frog. Dropped into a pot of boiling water, he jumps out to safety. But put into a pot of cold water over a steady flame, he doesn't realize the danger until it's too late to jump.
So how hot does the water have to get? When the Feds can rifle through your library reading list? When they can intimidate journalists? When a government agency can keep you off airplanes without giving you a reason? When there's not even a pretense of due process? This is not the prisoners at Guantanamo we're talking about. It's you and me. Well, after last week, it sure as hell is me and it could be you next.
Oh yes. Washington State just refused to renew my driver's license on-line, a privilege given others. I had to wait in line at the DMV before a computer decided I could drive home. This conspiracy theory debunker smells a connection to the Watch List.
I know what I will do. If my name is not removed completely from the Watch List in 45 days I will use every resource I've got to challenge the government of a country that I love and have served. In all the
press about identity theft, I find myself railing at having my identity as a patriot stolen--by my own government. This must not stand.
------ END OF JOHN GRAHAM'S COLUMN --------
San Francisco First-Amendment lawyer sues over No Fly lists:
ACLU finds confusion, inconsistency in application of "no-fly" lists:
GOOGLE SEARCH ON TSA No Fly Lists:
Books by John Graham
Outdoor Leadership (Seattle: The Mountaineers Books, 1997. To order:
It's Up to Us: The Giraffe Heroes Program for Teens (Langley WA: The
Giraffe Heroes Project, 1999. To order:
Stick Your Neck Out; A Street-smart Guide to Creating Change in Your
Community and Beyond (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2005. To order:
FREE SPEECH: U.S. asserts worldwide control of Internet "directories"
U.S. Decision To Retain Oversight Of Internet's Backbone Criticized
By Matt Moore July 1, 2005
AP Business Writer
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- A decision by the U.S. to retain oversight of
the computers that control Internet traffic drew harsh criticism about the
lack of independence it could mean for the free-flowing, anything-goes
"This seems like an extension of American security in the aftermath of
9-11," said John Strand, a Copenhagen-based technology consultant. "People
will ask: 'Do the Americans want to control the Internet?"'
The United States announced the move Thursday, publishing a four-paragraph
statement online, saying that it would retain -- indefinitely -- oversight
of the computers that control traffic on the Internet, instead of
gradually releasing control to an international body, as some countries
That ran counter to previous U.S. policy, although Michael D. Gallagher,
assistant secretary for communications and information at the Commerce
Department, told the AP it was "the foundation of U.S. policy going
In Japan, officials said the use of the Internet for business and commerce
-- and keeping it available to all -- would be debated further in light of
the U.S. decision.
"When the Internet is being increasingly utilized for private use, by
businesses and so forth, there is a societal debate about whether it's
befitting to have one country maintaining checks on that. ... It's likely
to fuel that debate," said Masahiko Fujimoto of the Ministry of Internal
Affairs and Communications' data communications division.
Gallagher said the declaration was a response to growing security threats
and increased reliance on the Internet globally for communications and
That has done little to allay fears that the United States is overstepping
its boundaries and locking its grip on the Internet -- which is used for
everything from selling secondhand shoes to spreading Jihad and
criticizing authoritarian dictatorships.
Patrik Linden, a spokesman for the Swedish Internet infrastructure
foundation, which runs and develops the Swedish top level domain .se, said
the U.S. announcement was "rather confrontational" toward those who would
like to see an international body take control of the Internet root
"This is perhaps what a lot of people have thought that (the U.S.) has
always intended," he said.
Robert Shaw, an Internet strategy and policy adviser with the Geneva-based
International Telecommunication Union, said the U.S. decision is based on
increased concern about cybersecurity, noting that Internet addresses and
domain name servers (DNS) are government infrastructures that merit
protecting just as much as cities, water supplies and highways.
"The stability and robustness of the DNS are increasingly a concern to the
U.S. as it is a concern for many governments," he said Friday. "Many
governments are legitimately concerned that another country has ultimate
control of basically their communications infrastructure," he said.
The U.S. doesn't have direct control of the Internet. Instead, it controls
the administration of 13 computers -- known as "root servers."
The root servers tell Web browsers such as Firefox or Internet Explorer
and e-mail programs how to direct Internet traffic. Though located in
private hands around the world, they contain government-approved lists of
the 260 or so Internet suffixes, such as ".com," ".net" and country
designators like ".fr" for France or ".no" for Norway.
In 1998, the Commerce Department selected a private organization with
international board members, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names
and Numbers, to decide what goes on those lists. But Thursday's
declaration means the department will keep control over that process
rather than ceding it to ICAAN as originally intended.
Vint Cerf, a member of ICANN and co-inventor of the Internet's basic
communications protocols, said the U.S. statement's ambiguity about the
timeframe could likely lead some to think it is taking over control from
"As far as I know, the U.S. government has not changed its intentions
regarding the period after the expiration of the memorandum of
understanding but that's for the Department of Commerce to say," he said
in an e-mail exchange with the AP. "As far as I am aware, it is still the
expectation that ICANN will operate independently from the U.S. Department
of Commerce after that time."
The U.S. government has historically played the role of overseer because
it funded much of the Internet's early development.
Patrik Faltstrom, one of Sweden's foremost experts on IP technology and a
liaison for both the Internet Engineering Task Force and Internet
Architecture Board, said the U.S. announcement was "certainly negative for
a lot of countries."
"It's not going to work in the long run to have the USA deciding
everything by themselves," Faltstrom said. "It's clearly not good if one
country can say no to what (DNS changes) are made in Sweden, for example.
No country should be able to say no to that."
While the United States has yet to deny such requests, "the mere
possibility of being able to do so is pretty serious," Faltstrom said.
Critics contend that in a worst-case scenario, countries refusing to
accept U.S. control could establish their own separate Domain Name System,
thereby fracturing the Internet, with addresses in some regions becoming
unreachable in others.
Others said they were fearful of U.S. intent.
"This is a flagrant infringement of our privacy and publication rights,
especially when it comes from a foreign country," said Mohammad
al-Kisswani, who operates a Web site in Jordan. "Neither the United States
nor any other country has the right to control our lives."
"I will be very worried, because they (the United States) might dislike
something they see on my Web site and close it," he said. "It is horrible
to feel that you are watched."
A U.N. panel is to release a report this month on Internet governance,
addressing such issues as oversight of the root servers, before November's
U.N. World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia.
Some countries have pressed to move oversight to an international body,
such as the U.N. International Telecommunication Union.