The Internet Cold War

There may be something more mind crushingly dull than representatives from every country in the United Nations arguing about the regulation of the Internet but I can’t think of it right now. In a world where everything becomes a proxy for bigger political issues….it would be comical if it wasn’t worrying.  The World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) is happening right now in Dubai. The great and the good of the Internet are fighting over whom and how the Internet should be regulated. Predictably the totalitarian regimes like China and most of the Arabian countries are pushing to give governments absolute control of all things online where are the western block countries are pushing for what amounts to no regulation at all anywhere. Interesting. In a debate which harps back to the UN of the 70s the Russians are attempting to introduce language about the Internet without even using the term “Internet” which immediately prompts the Americans to bring in language to neutralize the Russian language. The Saudis are threatening to bring back in the very restrictive language that was previously negotiated away if they don’t get their own way.

I have no idea where this will end up. It’s all a little moot in my mind because even if the UN agrees a reasonably fair and open regulatory framework I doubt that will stop the Axis of Evil countries and their friends from doing exactly what they always do; regulate the information their people can find online. In a related story if you are in China you can now (finally) search for the name of the leader of your country Wen Jiabo. The Internet and search in particular is famously hard to regulate but it’s not stopping governments all over the world from trying to squeeze the djin back into the magic lamp.

On an entirely unrelated point (unless your regard Apple as a totalitarian regime) Google Maps is back on the iPhone. I did quite like Apple Maps, the turn by turn feature was really good….but when I was in the middle of DC recently and the Apple app told me that I was 3.5 hours to the airport (a mere 2.5 hrs too long )I figured there would be changes. I have heard stories that Apple is in a mad tear to update and upgrade the local data they are using in their map app. The problem is (as I have pointed out on many occasions) local data is in good part just garbage…out of date or just wrong in many cases. Google drove and photographed pretty much every street in the nation over several years and I have to imagine as part of that process they checked and updated a lot of the data. Apple proved the old computing adage Garbage in Garbage Out…and Google maps came back…Yipee!

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