Some countries, including Russia, China and Iran, well known for their democratic efforts and respect for civil rights ( 🙂 ), seek more control over the Internet, through the UN International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
As this year’s World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) is preparing for its December the 3th opening several documents have leaked on http://wcitleaks.org/ . Although these documents were not actually classified they were never made public. After they leaked the public opinion could see why: countries like China, Russia, Iran, Tadjikistan and Pakistan are asking for a complete change of the Internet as we know it.
What is ITU and what does it do?
The ITU was founded in 1865 to help regulate telegraph communications. Over the years it has evolved into an organization managing international telecommunications regulations (ITRs). As its last signed protocol dates back to 1988, previously to the invention of the Internet, some of the government representatives in the UN thought of how might the Internet be controlled. As a result some preposterous proposals surfaced on wcitleaks.org. Here are some of them:
UN proposals on Internet management
- China proposed that governments should be in charge of internet traffic nation-wide. Online companies operating inside a given territory should use the Internet in “a rational way” or as WSJ puts it – handle over control and internet traffic information.
- UN could handle online content however it finds appropriate
- Russia and some of the Arab countries proposed access to Internet communications (like checking users emails, Facebook accounts etc.)
- Iran and Russia proposed a charging method similar to international calls (users could be charged more for international traffic). Some European countries backed a similar proposal.
Why the Internet should stay just the way it is ?
I find such proposals not only misguided but also economically dangerous and short sighted. For the last 20 years the world benefited greatly from the Internet being a somehow free media. Yes, the Internet is now manged by some US based organizations but this structure brought us a level of information we have never seen. Almost one third of the world is now connected and free to share ideas. Education, economy and general well being – they all improved with the free Internet.
I discussed the dangers of over-regulating the Internet in a previous article. At the time I had no knowledge of such disturbing news. Even more disturbing is the fact that public media is not yet taking as much interest as it should in this matter. Forget ACTA, SOPA and all the other things the Internet stood against. This conference is a turning point in human history, just like the invention of the Internet was.
Should the proposals discussed above be accepted and enforced we will see a huge set back in economic development, education and civil rights. After all – the Internet is changing the status quo in a civilization that has been so far lead by fear, ignorance and hate. In a world that faces poverty, over population, countries armed with nuclear weapons, can we really accept to bury this diamond in the dirt?