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Friday, June 01, 2012

Will the United Nations Seize the Internet?

It appears that the latest threat to the internet comes from China, Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. U.N. takeover of the Internet must be stopped, U.S. warns:

A U.N. summit later this year in Dubai could lead to a new international regime of censorship, taxes, and surveillance, warn Democrats, Republicans, the Internet Society, and father of the Internet Vint Cerf.

Democratic and Republican government officials warned this morning that a United Nations summit in December will lead to a virtual takeover of the Internet if proposals from China, Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are adopted.

It was a rare point of bipartisan agreement during an election year: a proposal that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin described last year as handing the U.N. "international control of the Internet" must be stopped.

"These are terrible ideas," Rep. Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, said during a U.S. House of Representatives hearing. They could allow "governments to monitor and restrict content or impose economic costs upon international data flows," added Ambassador Philip Verveer, a deputy assistant secretary of state.

Robert McDowell, a member of the Federal Communications Commission, elaborated by saying proposals foreign governments have pitched to him personally would "use international mandates to charge certain Web destinations on a 'per-click' basis to fund the build-out of broadband infrastructure across the globe."

"Google, iTunes, Facebook, and Netflix are mentioned most often as prime sources of funding," McDowell said. Added Rep. Anna Eshoo, a California Democrat whose district includes Facebook's headquarters, many countries "don't share our view of the Internet and how it operates."

The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. And, this is something all liberty-minded politicians agree on:

In 2008, CNET was the first to report that the ITU was quietly drafting technical standards, proposed by the Chinese government, to define methods of tracing the original source of Internet communications and potentially curbing the ability of users to remain anonymous. A leaked document showed the trace-back mechanism was designed to be used by a government that "tries to identify the source of the negative articles" published by an anonymous author.

December's meeting has alarmed even the Internet's technologists. The Internet Society, which is the umbrella organization for the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), sent a representative to today's hearing.

ISOC's Sally Wentworth, senior manager of public policy for the group, warned that the proposals to be considered are not "compatible" with the current open manner in which the Internet is managed.

Vint Cerf, Google's chief Internet evangelist, co-creator of the TCP/IP protocol, and former chairman of ICANN, said the ITU meeting could lead to "top-down control dictated by governments" that could impact free expression, security, and other important issues.

"The open Internet has never been at a higher risk than it is now," Cerf said.