Internet Censorship at the UN

 United Nations debates worldwide internet censorship



22nd September
2011
  

Enemies of the Internet...

Four nations initiate a UN motion to impose a repressive 'code of conduct' on the internet

UN logoChina, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have proposed an Internet code of conduct at the United Nations General Assembly. Their document calls on signatories to curb:

the dissemination of information that incites terrorism, secessionism, or extremism, or that undermines other countries' political, economic, and social stability, as well as their spiritual and cultural environment.

Syracuse professor and Internet governance expert Martin Mueller warns of the dangers such codes of conduct could pose.

That section would give any state the right to censor or block international communications for almost any reason.

 

 Update: A Free Debate...For the Moment...

World internet censorship to be discussed at the World Conference on International Telecommunications in December 2012


Link Here 26th June 2012  full story: Internet Censorship at the UN...United Nations debates worldwide internet censorship

wcit 2012 logo Dozens of countries have had closed-door meetings in preparation for an upcoming worldwide debate over internet censorship. The United Nations is looking at possible amendments to a telecommunications treaty that could amount to worldwide Internet censorship.

The World Conference on International Telecommunications is to be held in Dubai this December and more than 190 countries are expected to attend. One of the matters to be discussed at the conference is changes to a 24-year-old telecommunications treaty called the International Telecommunications Regulations, according to the Associated Press.

In a U.N. document with proposed amendments to the treaty that came out last month, Russia said the public should have unrestricted access to international telecommunication services, except in cases where international telecommunication services are used for the purpose of interfering in the internal affairs or undermining the sovereignty, national security, territorial integrity and public safety of other states, or to divulge information of a sensitive nature.

The ramifications of such changes to the International Telecommunications Regulations could be detrimental for citizens of countries that use the Internet to voice government opposition. For example, if Russia's suggested proposal goes through, events such as the Arab Spring could be silenced.

The U.S. delegation has promised to block any language that would allow for any censorship.

Hamadoun Toure, secretary general of the U.N. agency that oversees the treaty, told the Associated Press that all proposals must be agreed upon to by all member states or else they would not be included in the final document.

 

 Update: No Need. There Are Enough Internet Censors Already...

US to oppose UN bid to censor the internet


Link Here 2nd August 2012  full story: Internet Censorship at the UN...United Nations debates worldwide internet censorship

US flagThe United States will oppose a bid to revise a global treaty to bring the Internet under UN control, the head of a US delegation has said.

The U.S. will submit its formal proposal for the December conference held by the International Telecommunications Union, a UN agency which set global telecom rules, said Terry Kramer, the special envoy named for the talks.

Kramer reiterated Washington's position opposing proposals by Russia, China and others to expand the authority of the ITU to regulate the Internet.

U.S. officials, lawmakers and technology leaders have expressed concern that the December conference to be held in Dubai could seek changes threatening the openness of the Internet and its so-called multi-stakeholder model. Some in the U.S. say the effort could give governments greater authority to filter or censor information.

 

 Update: Condoning Violence...

Saudi suggests that violence protests are the fault of internet content rather than the violent participants


Link Here 24th October 2012  full story: Internet Censorship at the UN...United Nations debates worldwide internet censorship

Saudi flagWhile most of the Internet governance world's focus is on the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) coming this December, which will renegotiate the International Telecommunications Regulation treaty, the ITU has already begun preparations for another global conference next year, the World Telecommunications Policy Forum (WTPF). WTPF will consider a broader range of issues, certainly including Internet governance and public policy, including Internet content.

Up until now the internet has been formalised as:

A decentralized and open system, which must be allowed to enable the world's citizens to connect freely and express themselves consistent with fundamental principles of freedom of expression, while taking into consideration national security or of public order, or of public health or morals.

However Saudi Arabia is not impressed be the definition about the limits of freedom of expression, and has published a contribution suggesting increased censorship:

Freedom of expression is a recognized fundamental principle but is subject to considerations of national security, public order, public health and public morals (Art. 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights -1966, and Art. 34 of the ITU Constitution). It is also recognized that national mores differ -- what may be considered acceptable free speech in one country may be considered an offensive and unacceptable in another. Bearing in mind that countries cannot apply their own laws to acts in another country, there is a crying need for international collaboration to address freedom of expression which clearly disregards public order. An obvious example is the current anti-Islamic film on YouTube which was created with the clear intent of conveying hatred. Any reasonable person would know that this film would foment violence and, indeed, many innocent persons have died and been injured with this film as a root cause. Yet neither the authors nor the content provider are being held accountable for their responsibility to maintain public order. This behavior, along with other malicious and criminal activities such as child pornography, identity theft, spam, denial of service attacks, and malware aimed at destroying or crippling businesses, inter alia, must be addressed by states in a collaborative and cooperative environment and strongly underscores the need for enhanced cooperation.

'Enhanced cooperation' seems to be a UN term for 'cooperation' enforced by governments.

 

 Offsite Article: UN Censored...


Link Here 16th November 2012  full story: Internet Censorship at the UN...United Nations debates worldwide internet censorship
Act now to stop unaccountable, censor-friendly UN agency from hijacking control of the Internet!

See article from boingboing.net

 

 Update: UN Internet Toll Keepers?...

Google warns that a UN internet group threatens the free and open internet


Link Here 22nd November 2012  full story: Internet Censorship at the UN...United Nations debates worldwide internet censorship

Google logoGoogle has warned that a forthcoming UN-organised conference threatens the free and open internet .

Government representatives are set to agree a new information and communications treaty in December. It has been claimed some countries will try to wrest oversight of the net's technical specifications and domain name system from US bodies to an international organisation.

Google has asked web users to add their name to an online petition to support its view.

The [UN agency] International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is bringing together regulators from around the world to renegotiate a decades-old communications treaty, it wrote on its Take Action site.

Some proposals could permit governments to censor legitimate speech - or even allow them to cut off internet access.

Other proposals would require services like YouTube, Facebook, and Skype to pay new tolls in order to reach people across borders. This could limit access to information - particularly in emerging markets.

Google added that it was concerned that only governments have a voice at the ITU and not companies or others who had a stake in the net, concluding that the World Conference on International Telecommunications (Wcit) was the wrong place to make decisions about the internet's future.

The ITU is not openly publishing each government's proposals ahead of the conference, however a site called Wcitleaks, run by researchers at George Mason University, has revealed some of the details. Most recently these included a proposal from Russia suggesting that the US should have less control over the internet's operation.

Parts of the US tech industry have also been concerned by remarks by the ITU's secretary general, Dr Hamadoun Toure, that the meeting should address the current disconnect between sources of revenue and sources of costs, and to decide upon the most appropriate way to do so . Gary Shapiro CEA's Gary Shapiro says firms fear having to pay a toll to send traffic through countries' data networks

The ITU is hosting the conference to draw up the treaty between 3 to 14 December in Dubai.

 

 Updated: UN Internet Toll Keepers?...

Google warns that a UN internet group threatens the free and open internet


Link Here 24th November 2012  full story: Internet Censorship at the UN...United Nations debates worldwide internet censorship

Google logoGoogle has warned that a forthcoming UN-organised conference threatens the free and open internet .

Government representatives are set to agree a new information and communications treaty in December. It has been claimed some countries will try to wrest oversight of the net's technical specifications and domain name system from US bodies to an international organisation.

Google has asked web users to add their name to an online petition to support its view.

The [UN agency] International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is bringing together regulators from around the world to renegotiate a decades-old communications treaty, it wrote on its Take Action site.

Some proposals could permit governments to censor legitimate speech - or even allow them to cut off internet access.

Other proposals would require services like YouTube, Facebook, and Skype to pay new tolls in order to reach people across borders. This could limit access to information - particularly in emerging markets.

Google added that it was concerned that only governments have a voice at the ITU and not companies or others who had a stake in the net, concluding that the World Conference on International Telecommunications (Wcit) was the wrong place to make decisions about the internet's future.

The ITU is not openly publishing each government's proposals ahead of the conference, however a site called Wcitleaks, run by researchers at George Mason University, has revealed some of the details. Most recently these included a proposal from Russia suggesting that the US should have less control over the internet's operation.

Parts of the US tech industry have also been concerned by remarks by the ITU's secretary general, Dr Hamadoun Toure, that the meeting should address the current disconnect between sources of revenue and sources of costs, and to decide upon the most appropriate way to do so . Gary Shapiro CEA's Gary Shapiro says firms fear having to pay a toll to send traffic through countries' data networks

The ITU is hosting the conference to draw up the treaty between 3 to 14 December in Dubai.

Update: EU warns that a UN internet group threatens the free and open internet

23rd November  2012. See  article from  bbc.co.uk

EU flagThe UN should not be allowed to take over control of the internet, Euro MPs have warned.

Internet control currently lies largely with US-based groups such as Icann, which regulates the web address system. But reports in the Russian press have suggested the Kremlin and others wanted control of key internet systems passed to a UN agency.

The European Parliament has said the UN's International Telecommunications Union (ITU) was not the appropriate body to have authority. Members of the European Parliament backed a resolution which urged member states to reject changes to the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITR) which would negatively impact the internet, its architecture, operations, content and security, business relations, internet governance and the free flow of information online .

A site called Wcitleaks, run by researchers at George Mason University, has published several documents relating to the new treaty. Among them was a proposal from Russia suggesting that the US should have less control over the internet's operation. Russia said in a document:

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.

Update: Ed Vaizey warns that a UN internet group threatens the free and open internet

24th November  2012.  See  article from  wired.co.uk

Ed VaizeyThe International Telecommunications Union (ITU) should not have a say over the future of the web, according to Ed Vaizey, the UK Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries.

Vaizey was speaking to Wired.co.uk. The issue is that the ITU was set up to regulate telephony services. Since 1988, lines have blurred between telephony and internet services and as such the ITU wants to amend its rules to extend to internet governance. This is what Vaizey (as well as many other people and organisations including Google) disagree with:

We [the UK government] have made our position clear. We support the multi-stakeholder model for internet governance. Internet policy is made from the ground up, not top-down. The internet has grown effectively without interference from government. We don't think a treaty-based organisation should have a say over the internet.

Vaizey's feelings are echoed by a number of other companies and individuals. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales told Wired.co.uk:

The ITU approach is completely broken. Secretive deliberations in which civil society groups (such as Wikipedia) are excluded from the process is hopelessly broken.

 

 Update: We Fight Censorship...

US House of Representatives votes against UN control of the internet


Link Here 7th December 2012  full story: Internet Censorship at the UN...United Nations debates worldwide internet censorship

US SenateThe United States Congress may be a mess and the most unruly and uncompromising bunch in the land but they all apparently think that the UN should not be setting policy on the Internet. To that end, members of the House of Representatives - Democrats and Republicans - voted unanimously (397-0) against the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the United Nations' efforts to push increased government control over the Internet.

The vote is a declaration against the goings-on at the World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai. The goal of the conference is to update telecommunications regulations that haven't been updated since 1988. Those International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs) do not address the Internet and other growing technologies.

The fear among advocacy groups is that counties that want to control their population's access to a free internet such as North Korea, China, Russia, Iran, and Syria will use the conference as a way to push their own agendas. Those agendas include eliminating anonymity from the Internet, limits on free speech and the surveillance of internet traffic they deem to be bad. This also includes everything from prohibitions on copyright violations and pornography to prohibitions on defamation and political speech.

 

 Update: UN Disunited...

Internet censorship proposal threatens to derail UN telecoms conference


Link Here 10th December 2012  full story: Internet Censorship at the UN...United Nations debates worldwide internet censorship

itu logoAn unexpected new proposal for international internet censorship left a global conference on the issue on the edge of collapse.

The deep divisions over treatment of the internet came after a group of Arab states put forward a plan late on Friday that would require countries around the world to explicitly regulate internet companies. The proposal inevitably won the backing from repressive countries including Russia and China. The plan would extend current regulation of telecommunication companies to internet service companies.

The pitch for direct regulation came as an unwelcome surprise to delegations from the US and other countries that have supported the current light system of regulation for the internet. The conference has been hijacked by a group of countries that want to extend regulation of the internet, said one person familiar with the US position: This is completely unacceptable to the US point of view.

Tariq al-Awadhi, head of the Arab states delegation, said that it made sense for internet companies to be included in the regulations since this would help force them to work together with network operators.

The call for new regulation could lead to a break-down in the talks, according to people involved in the discussions. The US delegation will refuse to support anything that extends regulation in a way that damages internet freedom and has full backing from Washington to walk out on the talks if necessary, said the person familiar with the US position.

 

 Update: Hands Off...

Calls for UN control of internet governance rejected by US, Canada and UK


Link Here 14th December 2012  full story: Internet Censorship at the UN...United Nations debates worldwide internet censorship

UN logoThe US, Canada and UK have refused to sign an international communications treaty at a conference in Dubai.

The three countries had objected to calls for the UN to take over aspects of the governance of the internet, especially as several countries had been pushing for this with a view to increasing censorship controls.

Russia, China and Saudi Arabia were among those pushing for internet censorship. Many attendees believed it was an anachronism that the US government got to decide which body should regulate the net's address system as a legacy of its funding for Arpanet - a precursor to the internet which helped form its technical core.

It marks a setback for the UN's International Telecommunication Union (ITU) which had said it was sure it could deliver consensus. The ITU had organised the 12-day conference in order to revise a communications treaty last overhauled 24 years ago. Dubai conference centre 193 countries have been debating changes to a communications treaty in Dubai

Negotiators from Denmark, the Czech Republic, Sweden, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Costa Rica and Kenya have said they would need to consult with their national governments about how to proceed and would also not be able to sign the treaty as planned on Friday.

A proposal from Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Sudan calling for equal rights for all governments to manage internet numbering, naming, addressing and identification resources was eventually shelved. But there was fresh controversy on Wednesday night after an alternative non-binding resolution was debated which suggested the UN agency's leadership should continue to take the necessary steps for ITU to play an active and constructive role in the development of broadband and the multi-stakeholder model of the internet.

Read the full article

 

 Offsite Article: The future of internet governance? I wouldn't start from here...


Link Here 18th December 2012  full story: Internet Censorship at the UN...United Nations debates worldwide internet censorship
If there was ever any doubt that the UN's International Telecommunications Union (ITU) was the wrong body to run the internet, you only needed to look at its handling of its own World Conference. By Rohan Jayasekera

See article from blog.indexoncensorship.org

 

 Update: Encroachment...

Ed Vaizey blogs about why the UK refused to sign the UN telecoms treaty


Link Here 20th December 2012  full story: Internet Censorship at the UN...United Nations debates worldwide internet censorship

Ed VaizeyWhat's it all about?

The idea behind WCIT was to revise and update a treaty governing international telecommunications services. These are known as the International Telecommunications Regulations -- the ITRs. As one of the UK delegation put it in her own blog, this was a treaty that wasn't about the internet, but really it was.

It all harks back to another century, in fact, and as far as telecommunications is concerned, that's another age -- pre-liberalisation, pre-privatisation, before the great boom in mobile telecoms and, of course, before the internet transformed the way we communicate and conduct business. It was concluded in 1988, had never been revised since that time and, to no one's great surprise, there was much about it that was ripe for revision. The UK and most developed countries could, in fact, for the most part have lived quite happily without the ITRs. But the position of other governments, particularly those from developing countries, was that they needed these regulations to be able to conduct telecoms business on a secure legal basis and -- more to the point -- they needed them updated for the 21st century. We accepted that position in good faith and that's why we sent such a large delegation - a multi-stakeholder team of 25 people drawn from government, business, the academic community and civil society.

Running into trouble

And, to be fair, a lot of progress was made in the two weeks of the conference. Provisions were included on roaming. The provisions of the treaty that deal with charging were modernised -- allowing for the old settlements system but explicitly acknowledging the role of competition and commercial agreements. But what the UK team kept running into were proposals to include the internet, content issues, spam and so on -- and that's what ultimately made it impossible to sign the treaty.

Governments know best?

The point is that the internet has grown up outside a model of government control and regulation. That's not to say that there is no regulation of activity on the internet -- a pretty good rule of thumb is if it's illegal in the real world, chances are that it is illegal in the online world. But the rules governing the way the internet is run -- for example which domain names should be permitted, who should run them and so on -- have been developed by a community of engineers, business, civil society and governments working together in what is known as the multi-stakeholder model of internet governance. This, though, is in sharp contrast to the approach being advocated in the ITRs where only governments had a voice in the negotiations, and where very few nations involved other stakeholders in the way we did in the UK.

We value a free and open internet

So when it came to the crunch, the revised ITRs, with provisions on security, on spam and with an unacceptable resolution on internet governance was not a treaty that I could let my delegation sign. The UK -- together with the US, EU member states and a number of others (55 in total) -- could not sign it because we value an open internet too much to see it hampered by excessive regulation.

The WCIT, however, is not the end of the battle -- these issues will be debated again in numerous international meetings in the coming months and years. And in those debates we will continue to fight for the approach that we know works -- and that is to keep the internet free and open.

 


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