Why politicians still dream of controlling the internet – BBC News

President Xi Jinping at the World Internet conferenceImage copyright
EPA

Who’s in charge of the internet? In the last 24 hours two political figures, one Chinese, the other American, have given their views on this issue.

Both Xi Jinping and Donald Trump clearly thinks it is time for national governments to grasp control of the internet to bend it to their own political purposes.

China’s leader was speaking in Wuzhen at an event called the World Internet Conference, which sounds grand and did bring in delegates from leading technology companies including Apple and Microsoft, plus the Internet naming body ICANN. But the only world leaders in attendance were from Russia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, countries presumably sympathetic to China’s view of how the internet should be governed.

“Cyberspace is similar to the real world in that both freedom and order are necessary,” President Xi declared in his opening keynote speech. But it seems that “order” is the priority in China, where the increasingly sophisticated Great Firewall acts as a strict border control for the internet, making sure it conforms with the Communist Party’s view of the world.

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