Take action before the UN, Russia, and China hijack the Internet

Take action before the UN, Russia, and China hijack the Internet

Summary: The UN likes to make deals. It exists to create agreements between nations. It does not, necessarily, exist to create good agreements. But it exists, it grooves on making international policy. Sometimes, like now, that policy threatens to destroy the Internet as we know it.


Never let it be said that I'd pass up an opportunity to be justifiably nationalistic.

Now, I know the right wing has regularly bashed on the United Nations, but this time We The Internet are doing the bashing, and for good reason. The UN is a very important body, but let's be clear. It's made of up many different nations, not all of which share the same agenda.

Just remember, stay legal. We don't want to give anyone an excuse for further meddling, so be vocal, but behave.

In fact, many of the member countries in the UN -- even those "special" countries that make up the UN Security Council -- wish to control their citizenry, not guarantee their freedom. Let's also be clear that the primary goal of the UN, their raison d'etre, is consensus.

The UN likes to make deals. It exists to create agreements between nations. It does not, necessarily, exist to create good agreements. But it grooves on making international policy.

Sometimes, that policy is good. Sometimes, like now, that policy threatens to destroy the Internet as we know it.

Violet Blue explained the details in quite excellent depth, so I'd recommend you read her article as background. But here's the bottom line: this weekend, a bunch of shadowy operatives are meeting in secret in Dubai, and their goal is to seize control of the Internet from the (relatively) benign non-governmental organizations that have overseen Internet policies.

Instead, authoritarian nations like China and Russia want to control the Internet, they want to be able to cut citizens off, they want to be able to tax, tariff, and charge for traffic, and they want to control what travels over the pipes and even what you can read or view.

In short, they're trying to kill all the Internet freedoms we hold dear.

This is a time for action. Read Violet's article and visit Google's Take Action site. And then, take action. Pick up the phone, Tweet, post, Facebook, yell, protest, email your Congresscritter, donate, and otherwise make a fuss. Remember, We The Internet can make one heck of a fuss when we're angry.

I'd like to take this moment to remind the UN and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) that you won't like us when we're angry.

See also: Don't let the UN steal the Internet

Just remember, stay legal. We don't want to give anyone an excuse for further intervention, so be vocal, but behave.

Topics: Government, Networking, Privacy, Security, Telcos


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • EU and USA not supporting it.

    The EU and the US have already announced that they won't be backing up this mess. Seems like they don't want to go through similar waves of protests like those caused by SOPA, PIPA and ACTA.
    • Let there be two worlds...

      And we will see how it works in the long run. There will be this free part of the world where people can choose for themselves and be educated and the other parts of the world where people are restricted.

      After a couple of decades of that lets see how well the restricted part of the world is making out. My bet is, and for some very common sense reasons, the restricted world will be a lot more of a backward world and be struggling to keep up and be relevant in the future. It will never last.

      There will always be those who try to restrict human development in what ever area of development scares them; look around; while that approach has indeed turned many countries into partially backward thinking semi primitive notioned cultures, it has never stopped them completely and as such it never will. Sure, go ahead, lead a country and FORCE them to be hobbled intellectually. You tell me how many of those leaders have fared over the long term. Its a risky business. Sooner or later just enough of them get educated enough to overrun you then hang you or shoot you in the street.

      Not a great end for leaders who try to suppress their populace forever. Its just not a long term good, or workable plan.

      Everytime someone comes up with such nonsensical ideas, a warning should be attached saying "prolonged use may shorten users life".
      • That's why we forbid guns in China

        The last thing "higher ups" want is another revolution XD
  • No doubt...

    I have no doubt that authoritarian regimes around the globe would like to seize control over the net. To a large extent they already have (Chinese censorship of the net being the most notorious example).

    I recall, growing up as a child in Mexico, witnessing a presidential election. I forget the year (I was still an adolescent at the time) but the PRI government had made loud promises that they were going to run the cleanest election the country had ever seen. The night of the election I turned on the TV and was stunned by what I saw... namely: nothing, no coverage at all of the election. I tuned in to a news show and the word "election" was never even uttered. There was a complete and utter blackout of election coverage. It was as if I had tuned in to another country's television stations somehow, half a world away.

    The next day I saw something that also stunned me: the newsstands were stocked with newspapers whose full page headlines read: ELECTION FRAUD! and whose articles accused the government of running a massive ballot stuffing operation as soon as it became apparent to electoral officials that the PRI was, in fact, losing the popular vote.

    For a while, this dissonance confused me. How was it that the TV stations were completely silent on this while the newspapers were loud and insistent in their protestations?

    It took me a while to make these two things jibe, but eventually I realized what was going on: newspapers were a minor annoyance to the government. The were read (at the time) by a relatively affluent, relatively literate, relatively educated minority. The bulk of the populace, OTOH, got most of their information from the same medium that brought them their soccer games: their televisions. Control what shows up on TV and you largely control the message.

    I have a sense that the internet today is largely replacing the television as most people's source of information, especially the younger generation. Its why, I suspect, the (justly) derided "Citizens United" Supreme Court decision damaged the GOP far more than it did the Democrats. The older demographic that favors Republicans still gets much of its news from the TV, and that's why Romney's millions allowed him to bury his opponents in the GOP primaries and claim his party's nomination, even though he went into the contest far from being the favorite. But once the general came along, all the TV advertising in the world wasn't going to sway the younger voters who favored Obama, since they get much of their news from independent internet sources and can't be force fed misleading 30 second ads the way a TV viewer can.

    So yeah, the internet is the new TV, and dictators around the globe know that they need to control its message if they want to stay in power.
    • These same folks that get their "Info" from the internet

      Also believe that 911 was an inside job and that Che Guevara is someone to to be looked upon as a hero. Propagandists will use whatever medium is available to futher their self serving casue most of the MSM has a far left bias and most of the independent "News" sources have the same bent. Generations of today have no context as to what made America great becasue it wasn't reenforced by their parents nor was it taught to them in school they are a may of clulessness in for a hard lesson in real world hardship. What you have seen in Mexico is the same thing that will happen in the United States shortly that being the rise of the super rich Ruling Class and everyone else...the dirt poor.
      • 911

        Well, I come from a country that lived through communism in its political incarnation. We used to have one and only official explanation for everything. It was a perfect world of unified mindless drones which collapsed.
        Now I have a question for you: How do you know whose job was it?

        The internet is a source of informations and who is to say which information is good for you? Some power hungry official who never met you and doesn't care you even exist, apart from your vote and your taxes of course, or you yourself?
  • Google propaganda

    Google should stop meddling in politics. This is a self-serving agenda for the corporation.
    Tim Acheson
  • Use your resources for GOOD not evil

    IF the simply MUST poke its nose into the web then get a meaning full and enforceable global initiative on the eradication of Child Pornography set up, otherwise shove off and do what you are good at ....... whatever that is.
    • Talk about narrow minded focus

      Yup .... Make sure your toenails are clean and trimmed while the gangrene in your legs runs rampant.
      • Re: Talk about narrow minded focus

        Sudo philosophical clap trap my friend does not change the requirement.
  • They will make everyone angry

    They will make everyone angry if they restrict internet. That is for sure. Once people tasted the internet, there is no going back. There is a reason why internet is now the most popular medium. They better not mess with that or clearly people will revolt. They should take heed.
    Lani Desta
  • UN

    Clearly this proposal is an outrage to a free society. Perhaps we should take the fight to the UN, get rid of it. Replace it with a UDN (United Democratic Nations). It's time to stop pretending that democracy isn't one of our core principles.

    • Just get rid of it...

      and put nothing in its place.

      We should never surrender our national sovereignty or freedom as a price of membership in this ill-conceived organization.
      sissy sue
      • RE: Just get rid of it...

        That's an easy emotional response, but the reality is that there are plenty of important legitimate topics that democratic nations can and need to discuss where the solutions do not involve surrendering sovereignty...immigration, environment, dealing with dictatorships, to name a few. Some solutions benefit ALL nations.
  • Get over it. This is the America you wanted

    when you voted for Obama. An America that is simply a minor player on the world stage. You made your bed. Now lie in it.
    • RE: Get over it.

      I didn't vote for him. And I live in the US. So what exactly are you proposing I do? Just rollover?
    • America is not great.

      So how exactly would the other candidates have made a difference?
      Obama isn't perfect but at least he stands for social progress. Like healthcare and equality for LGBT people.
      You need to fix your own country before thinking about playing big internationally. And the USA are HELLA broken!
      • Nah, obama sucks too

        Obama needs to stand for stuff the country can afford. I stand for the red cross, free healthcare, and everything you can imagine to help my fellow man. Unfortunately, like Obama, I have no money to pay for it.

        The difference is Obama got out the credit card. Buy them votes with other people's (namely our children) money! Spend spend spend. Don't worry I hate republicans too. Driving the country into insolvency is a bipartisan effort!
    • Right Wing Nutters

      Romney was a Foreign Policy genius, wasn't he? Oh wait a minute, he nearly got lynched in every country he visited on his world tour!! Some of us who aren't Americans, don't want to be Americans. Republican foreign policy seems to be "We can bomb the crap out of most of the planet, so you better do what we say"! Most thinking people think there are other methods. So excuse me if I don't upset about the Republicans losing. The UN has problems, look at the security council, any one permanent member nation can completely sideline it. Look at China and Russia with Syria (they would lose profit if the war stopped), look at the US with anything that involves oil. But I trust the UN more than the Yanks!!
  • The internet is a perfect place it seems...

    The freedom the internet has given its users should be enlightening to any educated person. Also the way it operates needs to be understood.

    Control is exactly what is needed now (today) and should have been in place a decade back. The structure of the internet and how it evolves to the benefit of all counties can be handled by a global group. Sure there will be problems to start with because of the greed and corruption that is at the forefront of power but it will sort itself out.

    As for the content, Holy crap: please pull your head out of the preschool sand pit.
    The comment sections of any web page are so full of vitriol it is hard to get a handle on what decent people are advocating.

    The freedom you hanker for will be for the future when people's DNA has time to evolve to place their brain into gear first.