Following the Obama administration’s deeply controversial decision to cede U.S. control over key elements of the Internet’s architecture, experts and former officials are warning that the United Nations and its largely autocratic member regimes are already plotting to tax and censor the World Wide Web. According to analysts, the UN would almost certainly start small — perhaps levying tiny “fees” on certain Web-based activities, or regulating content that virtually everybody would find objectionable — before quickly expanding the global Internet regime to raise vast sums of taxpayer cash while censoring free speech. The battle, however, is likely to be fierce.
Among the most troubling scenarios envisioned by multiple experts is the very real possibility that, by imposing taxes on Web use, the UN would finally be able to free itself from the last remaining constraint on its growth and power — the fact that it currently depends on member governments for funding. Indeed, at least one university professor is even sounding the alarm about the new “robber barons” at the UN, salivating over the prospect of imposing planetary taxes via control of the Internet. However, Prof. Karl Borden, who teaches financial economics at the University of Nebraska, warned in a Wall Street Journal column that the threat posed by UN taxers would be even more severe and hard to fight.
The original “robber barons,” he explained, were 13th century extortionists along the Rhine River who forced passing ships to pay tribute in exchange for passage. If the UN gets its way on global Internet taxes, though, the damage would be far worse than the havoc caused by powerful German thieves of centuries past. “Should the U.N. end up in charge, it would have a chokehold on the global economy and a vast stream of revenue that would make it even more unaccountable than it already is,” Borden explained, adding that global Internet taxes would start modestly before ballooning out of control, much like the U.S. income tax.
“Power follows the money, and bureaucratic appetites are voracious,” he continued. “Who will there be to stop the process, after all? Where is the elected legislative body that will answer to the world's population that finally pays these ‘fees’?... With constitutional government it becomes at least possible for citizens to say ‘No—No more!’ No such checks are in place for a global bureaucracy that will have the power to reach into every pocket on earth.” With the Internet set to become the essential infrastructure for participating in the global economy, Borden said, controlling the “rivers” of the future will permit the financing of a perpetually expanding international bureaucracy.
The implications are frightening — especially because getting rid of the global extortion would be extraordinarily tough once it got going. “The robber barons of the 13th century were finally stopped only when the Rhine League, consisting of merchants and aristocrats, banded together to tear down their castles and hang them,” Borden concluded. “The robber barons of the 21st century may be much more difficult to deal with.”
Indeed, as The New American and countless critics have been warning for decades, if and when the UN gets the power to impose its own taxes, it would be able to fund its own “peace” army, police, tax collectors, regulators, bureaucrats, and global tyranny without any remaining constraints. While the outfit, often blasted as the “dictators’ club,” has floated proposals to tax everything from billionaires and financial transactions to “carbon emissions” and air travel, the prospect of a global Internet tax could be even more appealing.
Former U.S. officials have also issued similar warnings in recent weeks about the potential for Internet mischief if the UN were to ever be allowed near the levers of online power. “This is the Obama equivalent of Carter’s decision to give away the Panama Canal — only with possibly much worse consequences,” former Bush administration State Department senior advisor Christian Whiton told the Daily Caller last month after the administration announced the end of its constitutionally dubious ties to the California-based organization that manages crucial components of the Internet’s architecture.
“While the Obama administration says it is merely removing federal oversight of a non-profit, we should assume ICANN would end up as part of the United Nations,” Whiton continued. “If the U.N. gains control [of] what amounts to the directory and traffic signals of the Internet, it can impose whatever taxes it likes. It likely would start with a tax on registering domains and expand from there.... What little control there is over the U.N. would be gone.” Also alarming, Whiton noted that under “invariably incompetent U.N. control,” a hostile foreign power might even be able to disable America’s Internet access — with potentially devastating consequences.
Of course, as The New American has documented extensively, the UN and numerous “member” dictators around the world — from Communists and Socialists to Islamists — have been scheming for years to take over and regulate the Internet. Multiple ploys have been attempted, with globalists and autocrats particularly pushing an effort to have the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) seize control over the Web at a series of globalist conferences. One proposal even called for the creation of an Internet “kill switch.” Another would have created a global surveillance regime to monitor everyone’s online activities. Taxes, too, have been high on the agenda for the would-be planetary Internet regulators.
All of those schemes failed at the time, partly due to resistance from the West, but the threat never dissipated. In March, though, with global outrage boiling over lawless and unconstitutional NSA spying, the Obama administration’s Department of Commerce made a stunning, quiet announcement. Building on plans first developed under former President Bush, the U.S. government revealed that it would be relinquishing all remaining control over the so-called “root” or “keys” of the Internet next year to a non-profit multinational organization known as Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN.
As part of the plan to “transition” toward Internet control by so-called “global stakeholders,” U.S. officials vowed to keep online freedom alive. “I want to make clear that we will not accept a proposal that replaces the [Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration] role with a government-led or an intergovernmental solution,” said NTIA chief Larry Strickling, echoing past statements by administration officials.
As The New American reported last month, the ICANN organization has also promised to keep the Internet free. However, a statement by its current director, Fade Chehade, about “the world” wanting to “participate” in “shaping” the Web has sparked concerns — especially the notion that the “global community” would be replacing U.S. stewardship of the Internet with “appropriate oversight mechanisms.” Chehade signed an international declaration last year that also alarmed critics, saying that stakeholders, “including all governments,” would be allowed to participate in the “globalization” of ICANN on an “equal footing.”
Meanwhile, numerous experts and officials are already warning that the upcoming “transition” in Internet governance risks allowing the UN and its mostly dictatorial “member states” to seize control over the Web, as they have been plotting to do for years. Think the Communist Chinese regime’s “Great Firewall of China” — but imposed on the world, eventually. Citing a wide array of concerns, however, countless critics, including many in Congress, are examining the issue and considering various options to ensure that the dictators’ club and its mostly tyrannical members never get the opportunity to tax or censor the global Internet.
“While I certainly agree our nation must stridently review our procedures regarding surveillance in light of the NSA controversy, to put ourselves in a situation where censorship-laden governments like China or Russia could take a firm hold on the Internet itself is truly a scary thought,” said Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), one of many concerned Republican lawmakers. “I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Senate Commerce Committee and with the Commerce Department on this, because — to be blunt — the ‘global Internet community’ this would empower has no First Amendment.”
The U.S. government, of course, has no constitutional authority to control, oversee, or regulate the architecture of the Internet. If online freedom is to survive, though, the Web and all of its components must be kept completely out of the hands of the out-of-control UN and its dozens of ruthless “member states.” Indeed, aside from punishing actual crimes that may involve the Internet in some way, experts say there is no reason for government to have any role at all in managing the Web.
Alex Newman is a correspondent for The New American, covering economics, education, politics, and more. He can be reached at
United States to Give Up Its Control of the Internet