Cyber Security Industry Alliance Newsletter • Volume 2, Number 7 • March 2006

CSIA Town Hall at RSA 2006:
The Role of Government in Internet Security

ICANN President and CEO Dr. Paul Twomey Warns Against Confusing
Internet Content and Structure


Dr. Paul Towmey, ICANN, is
concerned that Internet Security
policy makers fail to distinguish
between content and structure

Dr. Paul Twomey, President and CEO of the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), took the podium at the CSIA-sponsored town hall meeting at the RSA 2006 Conference. The topic: the role of government in Internet Security.

Twomey stated his opinion on the meaning of security and stability on the Internet, and the critical need to distinguish between the common infrastructure that makes it a truly interoperable global system, and the content that the system carries.

Noting that the Internet now has literally billions of users and constitutes more than 200,000 (broadly defined) networks, Twomey described it as a "bottom up" phenomenon that developed spontaneously, without large, government-funded capital investment.

To a certain extent, Twomey stated, the growth of the Internet took the traditional economy by surprise. Historically, the introduction of large-scale new technologies — telecommunications and the electrical power grid for example — required significant government financial backing and regulation that maximized return on investment.

Twomey cited Karl Marx, who wrote in the 1830s that "politics is a superstructure built on economics, and that economics tend to be driven by technology." It is this dynamic, he said, by which the Internet is changing not only the world's economy, but its political values and structures as well.

The cybervalues of open participation, meritocracy, and "intelligence at the edge of the network, not the center," are colliding not only with the repressive goals of authoritarian government regimes, but also those of political systems based on a top-down management, such as in many European nations.

CSIA's Paul Kurtz, Dr. Paul Towmey, ICANN, and
Jonathan Frankel, Homeland Security Department,
took questions from the audience

That process of adjustment, Twomey said, should and will continue. That is unless conflicts over the content that the Internet carries — largely the same issues that have divided humanity throughout history — spill over into attempts to tamper with the system of routing and addressing, the very things that make the Internet the world’s only truly global, interoperable system.

Debates over content, be they political, social, economic, or focused on national security, "are all valid, and will continue whether we like it or not," Twomey said. "But it’s critical," he emphasized, "to keep that separate from the interoperability of the basic infrastructure, which today empowers a billion people to deal with each other."