In some countries there’s good politics in stretching the truth, even better being anti-American. Russia is one of them.
The latest exhibit comes from Russian president Vladamir Putin, who on Thursday suggested the Internet is under the thumb of the U.S.
He told people at a televised media forum in St. Petersburg that the Internet “is organized by Americans. You know all this started during the down of the Internet as a special project of the CIA. And it keeps on developing.”
All information from Google, he added, “goes through servers that are in the States, everything is monitored there.”
Well, there are some half-truths there. According to U.S. sources, the Internet began with military research into creating a private fault-tolerant communications network for the Pentagon. The public Internet uses concepts derived from it.
The U.S. government has legal control over the Internet’s global domain name system, which it has subcontracted to the U.S. based ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), which manages the Internet’s assigned numbers authority. According to Wikipedia, The Department of Commerce has the final say over some operations.
And as everyone knows, the U.S. National Security Agency has been snooping into almost anything with an operating system.
Which all adds up to what? A number of countries, including Russia, are edgy about U.S. intentions around the world in general, and on the Internet in particular.
But every nation does some spying, some better than others. Cheap shots about the CIA don’t help the Internet become a source of knowledge and innovation in every corner of the world.
Instead, Putin talks about Russia’s most popular search engine being partly owned by foreigners, and the legislature has passed a new law giving the government the power to block certain Web sites without a court order.
Over at the Daily Beast, though Eli Lake has a thought: Putin’s right — the agency behind the Iran-contra scandal is the kind of U.S. body that would be behind the Internet.
More seriously, this comes as nations jockey for control over Internet governance, with bodies like ICANN willing to surrender some power to show the Internet isn’t under U.S. domination.
The question, as always, is who’s pulling the strings — if anyone.