Governments May Use U.N. To Take Control of the Internet

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Documents leaked last week detail how the free flow of information through the Internet is under a real threat and how a United Nations conference later this year could see the Internet taken over through an obscure U.N. agency and United States diplomats appear to be letting it happen.

The documents leaked concern a U.N. agency known as the International Telecommunications Union. The agency was founded in 1865 to regulate the telegraph and since became a part of the U.N. In December this agency plans to hold a World Conference on International Telecommunications, during which the 193 U.N. member countries could use the International Telecommunications Regulations to take control of the internet.

This is a big revelation since the process is secret and without access to these documents it has been impossible to know what certain governments have been planning or how the U.S. was responding.

The document leak making this information more public came after two academics, George Mason University researchers Jerry Brito and Eli Dourado set up a site called WCITLeaks.org where they urged anyone with access to the documents to post them. The document posted is a 212 page planning document being used by governments to prepare for the conference. Dourado summarised the documents by saying, “These proposals show that many ITU member states want to use international agreements to regulate the Internet by crowding out bottom-up institutions, imposing charges for international communication, and controlling the content that consumers can access online.”

Some of the proposals put forward include:

  • China is proposing an initiative to give countries authority over “the information and communication infrastructure within their state” and require that online companies use the internet in a “rational way”.
  • Russia and some Arab countries want to be able to inspect private communications.
  • Russia and Iran are proposing new rule to measure Internet traffic along national borders and bill the originator of the traffic.
  • Giving the U.N. authority over allocating Internet addresses, replacing Icann.

While many may not be surprised by these proposals, there are those who are surprised by the lack of response by the U.S. delegation. The documents indicate that while the U.S. did file some objections, they were done “politely”, an approach which has been called weak and ineffective.

For the average person, the idea that a little known U.N. agency may threaten the Internet as it stands today sounds like some kind of conspiracy theory, but it soon may be a very harsh reality.

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