October 24, 2005: The United Nations (UN) is campaigning to take over the one aspect of the Internet that can be controlled centrally, the DNS (Domain Name Server) system. This was one of the key ideas that make the Internet work. DNS is a system of server computers that contain the list of web site names, and the twelve digit long IDs that computers actually use to find sites on the net. Since DNS was invented in the United States, the organization ICANN, that supervises the assignment of web site names, is in the U.S. (as an organization independent of any government and staffed by an international crew.) But the UN believes that its American origins makes ICANN the creature of the U.S. government, and believes an international organization should control the DNS system. In reality, governments that would like to control media tightly within their own borders, are the ones that would like another tool to accomplish that, and UN control of DNS would do that. Major members, or groups of smaller members, of the UN, can exercise considerable control over UN organizations. For example, uf DNS were controlled by the UN, China could insure that any site names China did not approve of, never appeared.
Otherwise, the Internet is nearly impossible to control, because the Internet is nothing more than a huge collection of networks using a common set of communications standards to stay interconnected. Thus; "the Internet." Some countries deal with that by using filtering and blocking software (usually purchased from U.S. companies, that design it for military and commercial firms intent on keeping their secrets), that monitors how people use the Internet, and helps the thought police track down those who say things the government would prefer left unsaid. Alas for these censors, the Internet was designed to defeat censorship, so all that special software only does a partial job. But if the UN were able to control the DNS servers, well, that provides more opportunities for the censors. There are also potential military applications, if key ICANN positions were taken over by members of intelligence organizations.
The nation that has done the most to try and control Internet use, China, is also one of the major proponents for UN control of the DNS servers. China, it appears, is less upset over "U.S. control of the Internet," than it is in building the "Great Firewall of China" a little higher. As a practical matter, the U.S. has no more influence over ICANN and the DNS servers than anyone else. The UN proposal is all about censorship, and paranoia that somehow, because the Internet basically grew up in America (it was invented by the U.S. Department of Defense, while the web portion was developed, initially, in Switzerland, by a British fellow working for a European research consortium), America "controls" it. The Internet was built to be out of control, and to survive a nuclear war. It will survive censors and UN takeover attempts.
October 19, 2005: American intelligence agencies are trying to keep al Qaeda on the Internet. Many patriotic (or just anti-terrorist or anti-Islamic) hackers constantly seek out pro-al-Qaeda websites, and try to shut them down. American intelligence agencies attempt, quietly, to minimize and mitigate these attacks, in order to keep these sites up. So what's going on here? The American government is operating, behind the scenes, to keep al Qaeda websites online so that American spies can monitor who visits these sites, and what they do there. Al Qaeda knows this, and is trying to bring more of its web activity into the internet underground, a shadowy zone normally inhabited by criminals and the hackers who keep us all supplied with spam and PC damaging worms and viruses. That area is harder to keep under surveillance, or even easily find. For that reason, terrorists maintain the public sites as a way to recruit new people, and then gradually ease them into the cyber-underground.
No one (at least in the U.S. intelligence community) will say anything official about the war against al Qaeda on the Internet. But if you keep tabs on Islamic web sites (and especially if you have someone to translate some of the Arabic stuff for you), you will notice the attacks, and the strange instances where hosting services will not only tolerate the Islamic sites, but will go to great lengths to defend them. Something is obviously going on behind the scenes. And that something is nothing more than a desire to keep actual, or potential, Islamic terrorists, out in the open, where they can be watched, for as long as possible.