Countries like Russia, China and United Arab Emirates are trying to rewrite a major telecom treaty called the ITR (International Telecommunication Regulations) to bring the Internet under its control — the web would then be shaped by government interests and not by us, the users. Tim Berners Lee, one of the “fathers of the Internet,” has warned that this could increase censorship online and invade our privacy.
Google has been at the forefront of a campaign protesting the closed-door nature of the summit and highlighting the threats it sees of increased censorship and regulation.
If the summit ends on December 14 with the ITU endorsing some of the most worrisome proposals, the date could mark the beginning of the end of the era of Internet freedom.
Among the versions of the treaty on the table are proposals that would:
- Turn the Internet into a hyper-efficient surveillance machine. – Just like the standardization of everything from phone jacks to Internet protocols, standardization of DPI would help encourage dramatically more surveillance.
- Create an Internet toll system – This would require content providers to pay to reach an international audience.
- Open the door to poorly thought-out regulation – The Russia/UAE proposal gives member states “equal rights to manage the Internet, including in regard to the allotment, assignment and reclamation of Internet numbering, naming, addressing and identification resources.” If adopted, this would give states more control, and possibly make the Internet more difficult to use.
A group called WCITleaks.org created a website to enlighten the public on preparations for this meeting and is posting the documents which are submitted to them anonymously so they can be publicly available.
Folks here in the US should feel good in knowing that our government is attempting not to make this happen. In a rare bipartisan agreement, legislators warned the Obama administration against voting to increase ITU authority at this December conference.
This summer, Google, Amazon, eBay and Facebook announced their charter membership in a new lobbying group called the Internet Association, to join together to influence policy and assert their preferences on developing regulations.
I am sure you can see how these proposals could drastically impact the internet as we know it. If this concerns you as much as it concerns me, please make sure to speak up and speak loudly to the right people. Share this information and sign petitions, pass it along and pay it forward.