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Dear U.S.A. – Observations on the Cyber Solarium Commission Report

I am writing to you as someone who is not your citizen, (although I had the fortune to wed the most beautiful of your daughters), to share my thoughts about the recent US Government Cyber Solarium Commission report.

U.S.A. We owe you one! Without you and your citizens there would be no free Internet as we know it. Thank You!

Your constitution is our inspiration. We, the global digital citizenship want to be “the people”, in order to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…” Through digital technologies, your “we” has become part of the bigger global Internet “we” as a community of equals. The Internet was conceived as a “we” that belongs to the whole world. It is in the DNS/DNA of the Internet that there are no firsts or seconds.

In 1953 President Eisenhower convened the Project Solarium. The challenge he had to deal with was on one hand aggressive Soviet expansionism and on the other the failure of the senior politicians of the time to come to a consensus on how to deal with it. The aim of the commission was to produce that consensus and so enable the government to act. The threat disappeared, only to emerge again in our digital age with China stealing your money and Russia manipulating your elections and the minds of your citizens. It was a good idea when Sen. Ben Sasse in 2018 called for a new “Cyber Solarium Commission” charged to asses the best way forward for a U.S. cyber strategy, with the goal to “develop a consensus on a strategic approach to protecting the crucial advantages of the United States in Cyberspace against attempts of adversaries to erode such advantages.” The Commission had to answer two fundamental questions: “What strategic approach will defend the United States against cyberattacks of significant consequences? And what policies and legislation are required to implement that strategy?”

The central premise of the report is that deterrence “is possible in Cyberspace”, “relies on a resilient economy”, “requires government reform”, and “will require private sector entities to step up”, whilst “election security must become a priority”. Urging “speed and agility” it puts an emphasis on practical implementation and legislation by Congress. I can’t discuss here the details of the commissions 95 recommendations in detail, but as someone who relates and cares about you, allow me to make some very general comments.

Like in your Constitution the “we” in the internet has two main aspects. There is the “we” in the sense that you are not alone and that there are many others that have the same aspirations as you and want to work with you. The other “we” is the we that with rights come obligations. We can only go so far as long as the vital rights and interests are not affected. Both “we” together form the imperative that protection and deterrent on the Internet can only function based on the co-operation of all stakeholders. In stark contrast, in the report the “we” has become a very small group of people. It relies only on the government and private sector and civil society is not mentioned.

President Theodor Roosevelt once said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” The reports big deterrent stick consists of shaping behavior of users and to deny benefits and impose costs to all wrongdoers. Sanctions and regulation are necessary but crude instruments whilst transparency might be the biggest deterrent of them all on the Internet. When wrongdoing can be clearly demonstrated to the global digital citizenship it loses its power and effectiveness. Showing for all to see, who does harm and how, shames them into submission!

Sanctions are good, but the most effective sanctioning is taking place when the global digital citizenship do the sanctioning by not buying a malfeasant’s goods. Ted Roosevelt was also very fond of, and a grand master in using, his “bully pulpit”. The US Government has the biggest bully pulpit of them all. Use it to enforce transparency and to build awareness!

There is a war out there in Cyberspace, but even in war rules apply. Wars do not suspend human values; they are fought for them and they are the only motive that can justify them. You can’t make a right with a wrong. Don’t adopt the surveillance capitalists’ false premise that you can have security only when you suspend the fundamental human right of privacy and collect data on everything and everyone. They use fear to make themselves “the people” to fill their coffers. It might make you as a government look powerful; you might feel that it enables you to protect your citizens better, but you will be no better off then the junky that is dependent from his dealer to get its next “data” fix to calm his irresistible graving for false security and stability. You are at a war with yourself if you suspend civic rights.

The report talks a lot about the dangers coming from “foreign, malign cyber-enabled information operations” and points to government reform as a central pillar of defense. Government reform does not have to mean making central government bigger and more powerful. I know you agree with me on this as your founding fathers and mothers where very careful to prevent it. Digital technologies gift us the tools and opportunity to decentralize government by giving the citizenship the capacity to become the first line of defense. The report recognizes this when it states the need for: “The U.S. government should promote digital literacy, civics education, and public awareness (3.5)”. The threat coming from outside is even more dangerous when it succeeds to undermine our internal values. To be effective, this is not enough, literacy, education and awareness must be followed up by engagement, empowerment and transparency.

Like the victims of Covid-19, the Internet requires intensive care and there is an urgent need to put the Internet on a ventilator of informed and empowered policy discussion by all.

Yours sincerely,
Klaus Stoll

By Klaus Stoll, Digital Citizen

Klaus has over 30 years’ practical experience in Internet governance and implementing ICTs for development and capacity building globally. He is a regular organizer and speaker at events, advisor to private, governmental and civil society organizations, lecturer, blogger and author of publications centering empowered digital citizenship, digital dignity and integrity.

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A Comprehensive Analysis of the Report Anthony Rutkowski  –  Mar 31, 2020 9:54 PM
Klaus - We hear you in the U.S.A. William Blackwood  –  Apr 5, 2020 2:03 PM

Klaus - We are listening to you in the U.S.A.  The U.S. Internet Community deeply appreciates your cogent publications concerning fatal injury to our Internet based economy.  You may be hopefully assured U.S. taxpaying interests recognize yours and Kathy Kleiman’s constructive pleas:  Liberties that the United States of America is uniquely founded upon were also originally conceived into our Internet, including .org and .com.  Now however, a foreign-influenced corrupt ICANN has chosen to completely discredit itself by abdicating unchecked pricing power to its cozy registries:

“The single most important decision in evaluating a business is pricing power,” Buffett said. “If you’ve got the power to raise prices without losing business to a competitor, you’ve got a very good business.” 1


America is under attack by coronavirus and by Internet monopolies abusing their market power.  Virulent market power abusers harming our economy must be immediately held accountable:  The U.S. should employ 2020 Defense Production Act (DPA) enforcement to bust the corrupt ICANN cartel to recapture and restore U.S. price regulator authority that ICANN themselves deny2,3, 4.


It's up to us! Klaus Stoll  –  Apr 5, 2020 3:59 PM

Dear William

Thanks for your kind words.

I wonder a little bit about the “corrupt ICANN cartel”. ICANN is ICANN.org and ICANN the community. Ultimatly the last word is with the community, so that corruption is either of our own making, or we are not active enough to controle corrupt pratices of others. As I mentioned in a previous article about the .org quagmire, if the topic is serious enough for the community, it needs to act decisifly. If it doesn’t it’s no use to blame others. It’s up to us!

ICANN as virus Anthony Rutkowski  –  Apr 5, 2020 4:22 PM

Having been involved with the creation of ICANN at the very outset, many of those who partook realized that they had basically created an organism whose primary characteristics were to intake enormous resources and propagate itself.  Those resources now amount to hundreds of millions; and on their latest financials, they are worth nearly half a billion dollars.  They have a cartel license to print money for itself and produce high margin revenue for those who are part of the cartel, and lobby for its maintenance.  5G/F5G and non-IP massive global implementations will be its ultimate reckoning - the immunization agent. :-)

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