Keep the UN and its agencies away from the internet

Monday, 26 November, 2012

On Monday, 3 December, representatives of the world’s governments will meet in Dubai to update a key agreement with a UN agency called the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Press reports suggest that the Russian Federation, Iran, China, Zimbabwe and other notorious champions of totalitarianism want control of key internet systems passed the ITU.

“Member states shall have equal rights to manage the internet, including in regard to the allotment, assignment and reclamation of internet numbering, naming, addressing and identification resources and to support for the operation and development of basic internet infrastructure,” declared the Russian Federation in a document (PDF) submitted on 17 November and obtained by Wcitleaks, which is run by researchers at George Mason University in Virginia. By the way, internet control currently lies largely with US-based groups such as Icann, which regulates the web address system, and this is a source of friction with the Kremlin, which would prefer if the US had less control over the internet’s operation.

A preview of Moscow control comes in the form of a law that purports to protect children from harmful internet content by allowing the government to take sites offline. It took effect in the Russian Federation on 1 November, and Dubai, host of the ITU meeting, has passed a Draconian new law that mandates jail time for anyone who criticizes the government online. There is every reason to fear that the Orwellian-sounding “World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly” that takes place there next week poses a major threat to freedom and innovation. If you want the net to stay open, sign the petition today. There’s an awful lot at stake.

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