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)
‘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.’
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
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:
(1) Tribune Magazine November16-29 2012 p.1