Now that the U.S. has formally accused the Chinese military of launching computer attacks, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates has proposed a way to mediate such international disputes. The idea is technically feasible and seemingly the responsible way to handle conflicts in an increasingly interconnected world. And it likely won't happen anytime soon.
In an interview with Bloomberg Television, Gates chortled when describing what would seem like an obvious solution to escalating cyber attacks that are knocking out bank sites and leading to the theft of billions of dollars of intellectual property: an international consortium where large countries can air their grievances and set limits on behavior in cyberspace.
If you're thinking that sounds like the United Nations, think again.
Officials from the U.S., the U.K. and other nations walked out on talks last year at a United Nations conference aimed at updating a 24-year-old treaty to address Internet governance issues. The treaty updates, which were backed by Russia, China and several Middle Eastern nations, were slammed by many large technology companies as facilitating censorship and political repression and giving governments too much control over the Internet.
Among the opponents were trade groups that represent Google, Facebook and, yes, Microsoft. The treaty was updated, but the walkout countries are not bound by it.
Gates's vision for a U.N. for cyberspace will have to wait.