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Security guards march past a shop selling Apple and Huawei phones in Beijing Security guards march past a shop selling Apple and Huawei phones in Beijing, China, March 6, 2019 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

The West’s Wakeup Call on Digital Tech Standards

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

What is it with technical standards these days? Suddenly, this closed and unwelcoming world populated by guys with shirt-pocket protectors working on incomprehensible documents thick with unexplained acronyms—as well as not-so-hilarious racism and misogyny under the flimsy cover of April Fool’s Day jokes—is today’s hot internet governance topic.

To anyone familiar with the world of technical standards, it still feels incongruous to hear people like British Prime Minister Boris Johnson—who would be cruelly laughed out of the room at the Internet Engineering Task Force, one of the leading standards bodies—extolling the virtues of making “our voices heard more loudly in the standards bodies that write the rules,” as he did two years ago. ...

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