Next Month’s International Threat to control the Internet – Act Now!

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The TUC is backing a global campaign (Stop the Net Grab) to try and halt a frightening plan to control the internet.  This restrictive move, which is being sought by repressive governments with the backing of commercial companies, will be debated at a private meeting of the UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU), next month in Dubai. The threat is real because no country has a veto at the ITU.  The plan is apparently opposed by the US and UK, but if agreed, bloggers and emailers could be charged when their material is read from abroad. (They will be traceable through their IP number.)

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, said “These decisions will have a huge impact on freedoms and the everyday use of the internet [that] people take for granted and most people would be shocked to know that something so major could be happening amongst such secrecy.” (1) Tribune Magazine November16-29 2012 p.1

John Kampfner (now an adviser to the Global Network Initiative, which brings together technology companies and civil society to address human rights issues) puts draft Government legislation into an international perspective:

Over the past few years, largely out of sight, governments have been clawing back freedoms on the internet, turning an invention that was designed to emancipate the individual into a tool for surveillance and control. In the next few months, this process is set to be enshrined internationally, amid plans to put cyberspace under the authority of a largely secretive and obscure UN agency… Authoritarian states have long seen cyberspace as the ultimate threat to their source of power.

…The British government’s current draft communications bill would produce a system of blanket collection and retention of all online data…

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a UN organisation that counts 193 countries as its members, aims to add the internet to its existing regulatory roles…. Its goal is to establish government-led “international norms and rules standardising the behaviour of countries concerning information and cyberspace”…. Control is always the first instinct of the state. The ITU summit in December marks just the start of the battle between those who wish to keep the internet (relatively) free and those who will do everything in their power to reverse the process. (2)

Tribune expands:

‘The countries behind the move include China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt and Syria – all states which restrict individual freedom to use the worldwide web.  They are seeking the backing of 84 developing countries, including dictatorships in Africa and Asia…. And they have formed an alliance with European telecomms companies keen to introduce charges on individual users of the internet… The most subversive proposal is the plan to force internet provider companies to monitor data and restrict their services to uses deemed ‘rational’ by the government of that country.’

Stop the Net grab

The internet as we know it is at risk. Unless we act now, our right to freely communicate and share information could change forever.

At a conference in Dubai this December, the International Telecommunications Union (or ITU), a United Nations agency, is planning to adopt new rules, including some nasty surprises which could clamp down on the fundamental freedoms of citizens online.

Big telecommunications corporations have joined with countries including China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, countries that already impose heavy restrictions on internet freedoms, to put forward proposals to new treaty at the UN World Conference on International Telecommunications.

So far the proposal has flown under the radar, thanks to the secretive nature of the ITU, but its implications are so serious that we must act quickly to show the ITU and its member countries that citizens will not stand by while our right to communicate freely is undermined.

The proposal would give governments and companies all over the world the ability to:

Restrict access to the internet to approved uses

Monitor everything you do online

Change the way we pay for the internet, potentially marginalising civil society and developing countries

An internet totally controlled by government and big business contradicts the very essence of what the internet represents – open and free access for all. The new rules would affect us all, but would hurt people in poorer countries and those living in dictatorships even more.

Add your name to the global petition we’re running in conjunction with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and ask our government representiatives who will attend this conference to reject these changes that will seriously and permanently restrict internet freedoms.

Act now, before it’s too late.  We need a new process where the voice of the people is properly heard. We’ll work with the ITUC to pass your concerns on to government representatives going to the conference.

Sign petition at http://action.goingtowork.org.uk/page/s/stop-the-net-grab 

or http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-the-net-grab

Further reading 
Equal Times: Stop the global Net grab
GIGAOM: Is the UN the next threat to Internet freedom? 

HuffPo: Don’t let the UN change the Internet you know
Transparency Int’l: The dawn of the virtual Big Brother?

Related Think Left posts:

The Unfree flow of Information and Cyberspace.

Manifest Thought – The alarm bells for social media

 

(1)  Tribune Magazine November16-29 2012 p.1

(2)  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/22/fight-control-internet-become-critical?INTCMP=SRCH

Manifest Thought – The alarm bells for social media

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Manifest Thought

First posted on November 18, 2012 by  julijuxtaposed

With Rights come responsibilities. Obviously. Free speech is the free expression of thought, or repetition of another’s thoughts. But the right to speak freely is not cost-free. The right and responsibility of selective censorship belongs firmly with the speaker/writer, who must choose whether or not to risk the possible consequences of controversy. This does not mean you have no right to react, to be offended. Free speech means the right to speak freely, the right to offend and be offended. If you take offence it is up to you how you respond – the consequences of your response are your responsibility. The responsibility of choice – that’s what’s ‘free’ about free speech. To be grown up, responsible individuals, we would be greatly advantaged by freedom and accuracy of information from our politicians and mainstream media. But we aren’t. And Nature abhors a vacuum, right?

Twitter and other social media are proving a golem to the Powers that Be. Social media are gateways: publishing platforms, sources of factual and fictional information and currents through which the whole spectrum of discourse is electronically made manifest as a public performance. For some, its immediacy and potential reach means it’s perceived more as an online conversation: spontaneous, informal, reactive; for others, its textual permanence and reach understandably expects an equitable standard with traditional publishing. The trouble is, is that it’s neither and both.

Twitter reflects the physical, mental, emotional, multi-dimensional world. It is, therefore, bound to reflect the very best and the absolute worst of both information and humanity. Truth, illusion, kindness and cruelty are available in equal measure. We also live in uncertain times. Not a single aspect of Life is untouched by the precipice(s) on which we stand. Our Dear Leaders are proving themselves to be tyrannical incompetents; our institutions are in need of ethical audits; our mainstream media are all too often the mouthpiece of another’s agenda. We live through an age of shocked-but-not-surprised and it is increasingly possible, however sophisticated we think we are, to believe in anything and nothing – even momentarily. Sometimes it is only hindsight which distinguishes between an ignorant herd mentality born of rumour and the rapid acquirement of new and important information.

The global climate is highly strung, reactionary and poorly weighted. So are we, sometimes. For sure, some people go out of their way to be aggressive, intimidating and personal. This is a reflection of the real world, so we can expect this, unfortunately. But occasionally even the most temperate and secure among us might react impulsively and with questionable justification. We have all given and received undesirable attention, inadvertently or not. We also know that, however hard we try, someone, somewhere might be offended. Indeed, there are even a few who go out of their way to find offence, irrespective of the speaker’s intentions. In the physical world we are perfectly capable of reducing ourselves and others, so why on earth would it be different in the ether? We are learning the ways to handle it, much as we did when we were growing up in the ‘real’ world. I’m not condoning gratuitous expressions of personal hatred. Nor am I disputing a person’s right to pursue their offender. This right to respond is catered for through defamation in civil law: any immediate improvement should arguably be focused on ease of access and affordability for private individuals. It should not be within the direct reach of the Police and criminal courts and especially not through politicised Police and Crime Commissioners and careless or overly enthusiastic G4S employees. Laws already exist for those rare occasions when State-sanctioned enforcement is required. I am cautioning that knee-jerk law or policy and chaotic, generalised accusations from on high are likely to be far more detrimental than the current dilemma. We have enough evidence of divisive spin to recognise a threat to social fabric when we see it.

Social media are still rather recent phenomena and I suspect we need time for more unfolding; to trust and allow our peers to curb behaviour by approval, caution or condemnation; to match our electronic reputations to conscience and Will. We are learning to dance on yet another shifting carpet, so trying to define the warp and weft of this erratic picture is bound to produce a fragmented narrative. I’m not enthralled that any of us, be we a public or private figure, might suffer a potentially very public attack, especially if it’s unfounded. Nor is there comfort in such abuse being on permanent record, but the alternative right now is terrifying, as it will certainly result in the further encroachment of authoritarian ideology, whim and fear. That way lies a very policed state.  We recognise the signs – Gods know there have been enough alarm bells.

We either have free speech or we don’t. Trying to shut us all up, whatever our opinions, good or bad, right or wrong, is not the mark of an evolved society. It is disconcerting to witness government and mainstream media panicking about everyone else’s morality and liability, threatening caveats which would turn the whole concept into an oxymoron. Freedoms of speech and expression are extensions of Free Will and Freedom of Thought, born of an influence (call it God, biology, I don’t care) greater than religion, government or society – despite an often relentless effort.

We lose these freedoms by sloth and oppression and at our peril.

We all have lessons to learn in discretion and discrimination. This one is for the collective.  It will be enriched greatly and grasped more quickly if it is practised with much better example, by those with power, who claim to serve our interests. That would be a viable and welcome ‘trickle down’. We are all having to grow up again. Hopefully this will be led by a principled nature and the nurture of good conscience.

In the meantime, take heart that we are all not telepathic.

Apropos on anonymity: While it’s undoubtedly true that some hide their identity because they are up to no good, there are many, ordinary and decent internet users, who mask themselves for artistic reasons or because they are protective of their privacy and/or are suspicious of the surveillance state.

Related Think Left post:    The Unfree flow of Information and Cyberspace.

Sign Stop The Net Grab petition at http://action.goingtowork.org.uk/page/s/stop-the-net-grab or http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-the-net-grab