The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Mac Mouths Off

Nicole Robinson

When one thinks of the actual geographic locations important to the Internet, it’s likely that only a few come to mind. For me, I think of Silicon Valley and the rainy stomping grounds of Bill Gates in Washington.

Most alarming is all of the speculation detracts from what we should be talking about.

This week those interested in the Internet are focusing their attention on one of the unlikeliest of places that is playing host to the United Nation’s World Summit on the Information Society – the tiny African nation of Tunisia.

While some people speculate what’s meant to come out of these talks is U.N. control of the Internet, it seems the major concern of those at the summit is tackling a long-standing problem – the digital divide.

Those who speculate the United Nations is plotting some sort of major takeover of the Internet should take a step back and review the situation. First, the simple nature of the Internet defies controls. Additionally, if any group is be feared for potentially “taking over” the Internet, it’s certainly not the United Nations. But most alarming is all of the speculation detracts from what we should be talking about: How do we make the World Wide Web truly worldwide?

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I spent the first two and a half years of my college career as a News Internet major at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. I took classes talking about the Web, its history and what it means to us today.

The Web is huge. And my background and knowledge of it really only scratches the surface of what’s there.

That said, the information I picked up in those classes and my experience using this modern marvel has helped shape some informed opinions on the Web.

In terms of history, many of those influential in the development of key parts of the Internet, including the development of the World Wide Web, HTML language and TCP/IP, shared an idea of the Internet being free of government intervention.

And really, it seems the Internet has evolved to the point where this is reality. Information, from term papers for sale to naked pictures of your favorite celebrity, is just a mouse click away. Sure, some Web sites have been sued or threatened with legal action because of materials they’ve published on the Web. And some of those same folks have taken things off their Web sites because of this legal action.

But thing about the Web is once something’s out there, it’s out there, available to anyone with a modem.

As a journalist, I often marvel at how often my copyrighted work or the copyrighted work of my co-workers is lifted and put on random Web sites. It’s angering.

But the alternative is worse.

In our world, with many governments with many viewpoints, the idea that any single body could potentially control speech is difficult to swallow. While the United States enjoys freedom of speech as a right, it’s not so in all nations. For instance, China has made several attempts to limit its citizens’ access to the ideas and messages on the Internet.

What’s comforting is that even in the case of China, the nation’s attempts have had limited success. Again, the Internet defies regulation.

Further, the United Nations can’t do a damn thing. As an organization it passes resolutions or suggestions. It can’t create laws. The only part of the United Nations that can exercise power is the small 15-member Security Council. With matters of more pressing concern at hand (the war in Iraq, human rights violations, etc.), it’s doubtful messages on the Internet would be seen as threats to global security.

What the summit seems to be doing, and what all states should concern themselves with is the major task of opening up Internet technology to all parts of the world.

As Americans, we’re only further distancing ourselves from the rest of the world when they aren’t allowed in to see the same world that we are. With the click of a mouse, not only can we participate in deviant behavior, but we can also look at the Mona Lisa, research groundbreaking scientific theories and hear music by our favorite artists.

The Internet has become an integral part of education, of communication and of commerce.

But technology doesn’t come cheap. And therein lies the problem.

In order for it to reach its full potential, the Internet must have deep global reaches. And it’s up to those of us who have it to share with those who don’t.

MacLaughlin is a senior print journalism major and editorial editor of The Spectator. Mac Mouths Off is a weekly column that appears every Thursday.

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