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September 23, 1998


By CBR Staff Writer

A meeting was due to be held in Manhattan last night to debate the future administration of the internet’s domain name system – a struggle that we have documented extensively over the past two years. Originally it was to be held last week, got moved to this week at very short notice, and Tuesday afternoon its cancellation was announced. Or so it seemed. Later that day the meeting was reinstated, its cancellation having only been announced by one of the disgruntled organizers, Michael Sondow, of the International Congress of Independent Internet Users (ICIIU), a small organization that he established recently claiming to represent the interests of users of the net. Sondow allegedly phoned the venue, the Cooper Union in downtown Manhattan, and made threatening remarks to the staff there. He also threatened to physically disrupt the meeting, according to some of the other organizers, who urged users to email the Cooper Union people to ask them to go ahead with the meeting. However, they didn’t take kindly to being threatened and so withdrew their support, so the venue had to be changed. There then followed a spate of emails. First the meeting was on, then it was off . Cooper Union was telling anybody who asked that it was cancelled. Then another sponsor was found, the ironically named Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR) and speakers were confirmed from Harvard and Syracuse universities, CPSR, PG Media and something called the New York Free Media Alliance. Meanwhile, Sondow made postings decrying the event as advocating government control of the internet, which as far as we can tell nobody is advocating – not even the government, quite the opposite, in fact. He called the event a reprehensible and illegal activity which amounts to thievery, and urged everyone: Do not let yourself be deluded into supporting the ill- intentioned fools who have perverted this event. Sondow didn’t respond to our requests for an explanation, so we never really got his side of the story. However, arrangements seemed to have been straightened by yesterday evening and the meeting was moved to the nearby New School for Social Research. No doubt this little episode has bolstered the government’s confidence in the internet community – perhaps that’s not the right collective noun as it implies togetherness – and its ability to organize itself into a simple public meeting. More from the front line tomorrow.

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