UN internet regulation treaty gets shot down

December 14, 2012 // 2:10 p.m.

Tags: #broadband #censorship #internet #itr #itu #tim-berners-lee #un #united-nations #vint-cerf #web #world-wide-web

The UK, the US, Australia and Canada have all refused to sign a treaty that would give all United Nations member countries equal governance over the internet.

The treaty, drafted by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) based on an earlier proposal submitted and then withdrawn by Russia, would give the ITU an active role in the development of broadband provision and internet operation. Several aspects, including a rule which stated that the US government would have the final say on which body should regulate the internet's DNS and numbering system - required, it was claimed, to allow technical experts the ability to make rapid decisions required to ensure the stability of the 'net.

More concerning, however, were aspects of the treaty which could be argued to be providing legitimacy to the increasing censorship of the internet, providing governments carte blanche to demand blacklisting and removal of sites and services.

Those in favour of the treaty argued otherwise, stating that it would give member nations a more equal footing in the governance of the internet and provide a means to improve transparency in areas such as mobile roaming charges and data caps, as well as providing a means to help reduce the issue of spam and associated commercial abuses.

The refusal by four member nations to sign the treaty is a serious blow to the ITU's plans, and with the BBC reporting that numerous other nations including Denmark, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and the Netherlands are delaying any agreements until further discussions can take place it's not looking like the treaty will be ratified any time in the near future.

The news will be welcomed by internet pioneer Vint Cerf and his World Wide Web equivalent Sir Tim Berners-Lee, however: the former warned ahead of the ITU's meeting that 'some governments want to use this meeting of the International Telecommunication Union to increase censorship and regulate the Internet,' while the latter added that 'countries that want to be able to block the internet and give people within their country a ‘secure’ view of what’s out there would use a treaty at the ITU as a mechanism to do that, and force other countries to fall into line with the blockages that they wanted to put in place.'
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