On Monday, the United Nations’ ITU (International Telecommunications Union) will convene its twelfth World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) in Dubai. Its last full meeting was in 1988. The meeting runs from 3 through 14 December. Government telecom administration representatives from 193 nations will attend. The ITU has traditionally concerned itself with telephone and radio spectrum allocation; now some governments wish to use the ITU to censor Internet communication. The U.S., like all 193 member nations, has only one vote on each proposal.
For decades these meetings went unnoticed by the general public, so nobody cared that meetings were closed and meeting documents weren’t available to the public. Now, some WCIT-12 documents appear on wcitleaks.org. Its News page contains links to fascinating articles that discuss the contentious issues posed by the growth of the Internet within repressive nations.
One item on the agenda is the demand that anonymity on the Internet be eliminated. Another would endorse Syria’s closing of access to the Internet. Dicatorships and kleptocracies fear the free exchange of information.
It appears that WCIT-12’s theme may be an attempt by nations with sketchy human rights records to wrest control of the Internet from its US-based roots. ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers — it oversees domain names and IP addresses) is in their sights: Latest WCIT Leak Makes Explicit Russian Desire to Overturn ICANN:
According to the proposal, “Member States shall have the sovereign right to manage the Internet within their national territory, as well as to manage national Internet domain names.” And a second revision, also aimed straight at the heart of today’s multi-stakeholder process, reads: “Member States shall have equal rights in the international allocation of Internet addressing and identification resources.”
From “UN Agency Reassures: We Just Want to Break the Internet, Not Take it Over,” Forbes.com, Oct. 1, 2012:
Dozens of proposals secretly circulating ahead of the WCIT meeting would go well beyond usurping ICANN’s authority, and would if adopted introduce sweeping architectural changes that would allow the ITU and its members to redesign the Internet to something much more controllable.
Surprisingly objective brief Al Jazeera video summary of issues
The ITU’s blog may publish daily meeting updates.
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