U.N. readies for protests on eve of secret Internet regulation treaty

U.N. readies for protests on eve of secret Internet regulation treaty

Summary: With potential of becoming SOPA and CISPA on steroids a multinational U.N.-sponsored treaty will be decided behind closed doors in Dubai next Monday. Leaked documents show why everyone wants it stopped.


In a closed-door meeting this weekend in Dubai, the telecommunications arm of the United Nations -- the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) -- plans to seize a big role in Internet governance.

Screen Shot 2012-11-27 at 13.51.26
Credit: ITU

The ITU is holding the World Conference on International Telecommunications from December 3-14 where countries will seek agreement about proposed revisions to the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITR), a legally binding international treaty signed by 178 countries, in a bid to expand the ITU's scope of power to oversee the Internet. 

It would push regulatory control of the Internet's traffic and citizen access over to governments and away from organizations such as ICANN.

Leaked documents: Internet tolls and no private traffic

The treaty appears intent to solidify Internet infrastructure, encourage broadband rollout and investment, and ensure the integrity of emergency communication protocols.

It also would charge governments with the task of regulating its telcos' creation of national and communications charges -- another way to say, Internet tolls and taxes.

The meeting and its proposals are being withheld from public view.

A steady stream of leaked documents from Web site WCITleaks have the organisers in a defensive panic -- for reasons that make it clear that something's rotten at the U.N.

Created by researchers at George Mason University, WCITLeaks is soliciting and sharing copies of leaked draft documents.

In WCTIleaks document TD-64 (the anticipated final draft), the language states that countries will be granted the right to suspend their citizens' Internet access and telecom services partially or totally -- and that "member states" have the right to prohibit the anonymizing of traffic, forcing any identifying information masked for privacy reasons be made duly available to law enforcement agencies.

The ITU has strong backing of oppressive governments, including Russia and China.

Telcos make a power play?

In a June 2012 speech by ITU's Secretary-General, Dr. Hamadoun Toure said that telecom companies had the, "right to a return on [the] investment" of dealing with Internet congestion, and that the meeting and treaty would:

(...) address the current disconnect between sources of revenue and sources of costs, and to decide upon the most appropriate way to do so.

Interestingly, Dr. Alexander Kushtuev, WCIT Workgroup Preparation Chairman and ITU Deputy Director-General, works for Russia's largest national telecommunications operator, Rostelecom.

In June 2011, Vladimir Putin met with Toure, where the then-Russian Prime Minister reminded the Secretary-General that Russia co-founded the ITU, and made a few headlines when Mr. Putin stated that Russia intends to actively participate in, "establishing international control over the Internet using the monitoring and supervisory capabilities of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)."

Condemned in increasing numbers

This past weekend, a newly leaked WCTIleaks document revealed that the organizers are preparing a public-relations strategy to avoid public outcry by hiring consultants in an attempt and avoid the same global backlash that ultimately defeated SOPA, PIPA and CISPA.

Looking at the growing opposition online, they'll need all the PR strategists they can afford.

Fight for the Future, and Access Now -- in which both played a key role in decimating SOPA -- have launched the Web site. Supported by a video, the groups caution:

If some proposals at WCIT are approved, decisions about the Internet would be made by a top-down, old-school government-centric agency behind closed doors.

Some proposals allow for access to be cut off more easily, threaten privacy, legitimize monitoring and blocking online traffic. Others seek to impose new fees for accessing content, not to mention slowing down connection speeds.

One week ago, Google created its Take Action petition and campaign, pushing the covert meeting into wider Internet awareness saying that the treaty threatens the "free and open Internet." 

The ICU responded to Google over the weekend in a fairly incomprehensible blog post.

Prior to this, opposition has ranged in fits and starts as far apart as Vint Cerf's piece in The New York Times to hacktivist collective Anonymous -- and the U.S. government has recently confirmed it will oppose placing control of the Internet into the hands of the United Nations. (Edit: The European Parliament has now added its collective voice to the opposition.)

In comments, Toure continues to drop hints about global unhappiness with ICANN, but backs away from categorically stating the ITU will take control away from ICANN, instead saying vaguely the two organizations, "can work together."

What's truly disturbing to me is that Toure's speech made it clear that the ITU doesn't believe that setting financial barriers for access to Web sites or traffic, or that countries who censor their citizens' Internet access would in any way restrict the free flow of information.

To me, this means that once again, another clueless yet extremely powerful organization is trying to take control of the Internet, while having no understanding about how core principles of the Internet actually make the Internet function effectively.

Or maybe they just don't care.

See also: The Internet Society has clear information about how this will impact the way people around the world use the Internet.

Topics: Government, Networking, Telcos

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  • U.N. has outlived its usefulness

    The only thing the U.N. exists for today is to rape the people of the world of their independence, steal their wealth, and enrich the corrupt members of the U.N.
    It should be disbanded. At the very least, the U.S should withdraw from it and all its treaties.
    Any attempt by the U.N. to enforce their collective will on anyone, or any country, should be met with maximum lethal force.
    • Maintaining dialoge

      Yes this is an excellent example of the U.N. being used by countries with different values than ours to push international laws that are appalling. However, staying in the U.N. to voice our disagreement and block these insane treaties to protect other smaller states is better than leaving outright.
      • RE: Maintaining dialoge

        Problem with that. The guy behind the CHINA name plate (for example) is not a legitimate representative of China. And pretending he does, doesn't make it so and instead is a disservice to the cause of democracy. So staying is a bad idea and ultimately works against us. Show me democratic reform, then ask me to support the UN.

      • sounds familiar

        Trying to push their values and morals on other countries. Isn't that what the US has been doing for the last decades?
        • But that's different!

          We're the good guys! (...aren't we...?)
    • The USA is a fading power

      Really have to wonder if there is anyone normal in the US. It seems that they all rant and rave at the rest of the world probably because their time in the sun is coming to an end.
      Here are a few reality facts
      Korea forced them to a draw
      Vietnam beat them
      Iran won the US Iraq war
      China has won the economic war
      US citizens won't pay tax so they keep borrowing from the world to pay for their consumption and that won't last
      Stupid economic theories have sent the US broke.
      • Facts?

        1) The U.S.'s stated position at the start of the Korean War was a return to the 38th parallel. Guess how it ended. (When one side gets exactly what it started out to get, and the other side does not, it is not a draw.)
        2) Yes, Vietnam beat the U.S.. Almost half a century ago. What does this have to do with your point.
        3) Iran, dealing with sectarian issues internally, won nothing in the Iraq War. To the extent that their agenda was furthered, it was NOT due to flagging U.S. influence or power, but rather an isolated misuse of same.
        4) China did not "win" anything. The U.S., with only around 25% of the population of China, STILL has a larger economy. As China is having increasing economic problems, and may be entering a recession, and is already in a slow down, your point is not only inaccurate, it is baseless.
        5) The U.S. citizens pay substantial taxes, actually, and the U.S. has some of the highest corporate taxes in the world. So again, inaccurate, and baseless.

        Now, how about you make a list of these "stupid economic theories"?
        • True on point one

          North Korea made an all-out attempt to conquer the south and got almost nothing for it, except a a destroyed country, a lot of dead people, and the world's most fortified border. Were it not for the Chinese intervention, the Communist regime in the north would probably have fallen.
          John L. Ries
      • Vietnam didn't bet the US

        We were our own worse enemy in Vietnam. Anytime you restrict your armed force on a daily basis from doing their job then you become your own worse enemy. That's what happened in Vietnam, I know I was there and it breaks my heart that so many people lost there lives in Vietnam for nothing. I lost to many friend there.
        • You didn't fight in vain

          Yes, we Americans were 100% wrong to protest the war and hurt the war effort as we did. I too was part of the Vietnam generation, though wasn't drafted (wrong gender).

          But keep this in mind: the final negotiations to end the war were done from a point of strength, and a lot of Vietnamese were able to escape. So our soldiers did not die in vain; and frankly the country now looks back with a great deal of shame at how we treated our soldiers, and is now more hawkish than ever. So again, those fighting and hurting in Vietnam, BOUGHT MUCH for America, and the world. I'm proud of you guys, as are millions of others!
          • Thanks, Brainout

            I AM a Vietnam Vet - wasn't drafted, either (I volunteered).
            The U.S. WON every battle - in Southeast Asia.
            The U.S. LOST every battle - in NYC, in San Francisco, in Paris, - and on the CBS Evening News, when Walter Cronkite said point-blank, "We've lost this war" after the Tet Offensive.
            We lost when Lyndon Johnson decided to listen to William Westmoreland and pour MASSIVE troop levels into a guerrilla war that Jack Kennedy wanted to keep at Special Forces adviser level, where Green Berets, AF Advisory teams, and SEALs would show the South Vietnamese HOW to do it, and let THEM carry the fight, as long as THEY wanted to - and when the South decided to throw in the towel, as they ultimately DID, that would be an end to it.
            We LOST when Angela Davis and the American Communist Party bought into the propaganda that the Soviet Union and the Chinese Communist party TOLD them to spout. Because even though the marxist/Communist IDEAL looks beautiful, it is NOT; human nature would never let it be that way.
            And we lost because "The Greatest Generation" GAVE the Baby Boomers everything, and when it was OUR turn to give something BACK, we didn't want to get up off the sofa and walk away from the TV, the surfboard, and the Mustang, the GTO, or the pot & LSD party and go risk our necks for a bunch of foreigners.
            Or at least, MOST of us didn't; SOME of us were willing to keep the promises our fathers made.
          • Talk about faery tales!

            Wow! Just wow. You are deluded. The U.S. won every battle in SE Asia? Really? Care to back that up with citations? 'Cause I have a long list of battles we lost.
            As for your B.S. about losing in the press, um, clearly you either weren't there, or weren't paying attention, or were so caught up in your delusional fantasies of Communist conspiracies that you were unable to process reality. The mainstream press bought the Johnson/McNamara line, hook, line, and sinker. They were generally positive up until right before the very end. You can try to revise history all you want, and deny the reality, but it will not change facts.
            And your lack of understanding of battlefield tactics notwithstanding, your idea that you could counter a mainline war with its own guerrilla backed by a number of global players with your own mini-insurgency, and that that guaranteed success, is silly, and without merit.
            The idea that Angela Davis had any effect on ANYTHING regarding Vietnam is absurd to the point of being ridiculous, as in able to be ridiculed. It's just plain stupid, and has NO basis is fact. And the U.S. Communist party?!? You really want to give them any stature in this, either now, or at the time? Really?!? And being that the government of the North was "Marxist/Communist" belies a misunderstanding of the term, which, discussing the "ideal" you should be well aware of. The gov't of the North, nor those of China or the U.S.S.R., were not Communist, no matter what they themselves claimed, so talk about Marxist ideals is irrelevant. Not that Marx was right, as he clearly wasn't as you rightly point out. But the totalitarian governments of the 20th century in no way speak to that.
            As for the rest, there was a concrete reason for entering WWII (and it had nothing to do with Hitler. The U.S. had nothing to do with winning WWII, and that is not why we entered.). There was no such factual rationale for Vietnam. So comparing the national attitude to both is foolish. Your implied claim that the people who entered WWII would have done so had the times been transposed, and they had been called to fight in Vietnam, has NO basis in fact.
          • A nice little faery tale you like to tell yourself

            First, you start by making a point about protestors being wrong, and offer nothing to support it. So your argument is already baseless. You then proceed to posit a number of irrelevant tangential points, all of which are wrong.
            First, there is no interpretation of events by which we were "negotiating from strength". What a delusion. If we had been negotiating from ANY sort of strong position, the results would have been some sort of compromise. Far from it, the North got everything they set out at the beginning to achieve. We lost, get over it.
            More importantly, the ENTIRE point of the action was to prevent the illusionary expansion of Soviet influence. The belief was that ALL such "Communist" revolutions took place under the auspices and central direction of the Soviets. But not only was this NOT the case in Viet Nam, there was never any evidence, NONE, that this was ever the case. And in fact, it wasn't. Documents released from the KGB on the fall of the U.S.S.R., and others, made it perfectly clear that far from supporting the North, the Soviets continually counseled against it. Their support was post fact, VERY limited, and begrudged. That influence was a pure paranoid fabrication.
            So our central point in starting the war was a lie. And don't even try to pass off some B.S. about humanitarian goals of liberating the Vietnamese people. Communications at the time made it quite clear that the U.S. didn't give a rat's ass about the Vietnamese.
            Not only did the U.S. lose, but we entered into the war on entirely false pretenses. So sorry, but yes, those soldiers did die in vain. And as such, those protestors, trying so hard to stop the war, many to prent just such deaths, were 100% in the right, as McNamara, the war's chief architect, later admitted.
            As to the myth about poor treatment of soldiers after the war, it is just that, a myth. While there were isolated incidents of poor treatment, that made a lot of press, this certainly was NOT the norm. In fact, many soldiers arrived home to the same sort of frenzy they do today. Certainly, being that this war had even less justification than the current situations, there was a much higher degree of war fatigue, which led to more popular apathy, the idea that the majority of soldiers, upon return from Vietnam, were subjected to abuse, is just plain false.
            As for the U.S. being more hawkish than ever, um, have you been paying attention?!? The VAST majority of U.S. citizens want us out of ALL current conflicts, and made this clear in EVERY one of the last few elections. Besides which, how would the U.S. being more hawkish be categorized as something our soldiers fought for, and thus our increased belligerence proving they did not die in vain? That is so absurd as to be farcicle.
        • Yes, they did

          You are free to try to redefine terms however you woud like, You are not free, however, to expect people to accept them. There is no accepted definition of the term "win" by which the U.S. won. Regardless of your rationale, we did not win. It does not matter if we "restrict[ed our] armed force on a daily basis from doing their job. The reason is immaterial, We lost, get over it.
          But to address your point, it is baseless to suggest that it is per se true that we lost because we restricted ourselves. You can in NO way shape or form support any contention that had we escalated hostilities in the way required, that other countries would not have been brought into the conflict, including a serious commitment from both China and the U.S.S.R.. To claim that we could have won categorically is ridiculous. All actions have consequences, and to claim that you know them in advance is absurd.
          Also, your logically invalid appeal to authority fails on any number of grounds beyond the simple fact of its logical invalidity. You being there says NOTHING about your understanding of military tactics, strategy, or geopolitical positioning, all of which are central to the issue. Facts on the ground, FTMP, were not.
  • wild west

    The internet is sometimes called the wild west. Who knew that was such a good thing!

    The internet is our best defense against tyranny. Including UN tyranny.

  • enslavement of mankind begins

    this is exactly how mankind will become enslaved; by limiting freedom of expression, transmission of thoughts and ideas; identifying non-conformist individuals and groups. The new dawn - fades
    • Oh please. Considering both the U.S. and E.U. will not sign the treaty....


      Get used to it people....They will limit our ways to communicate they will limit our rights to bear arms and then they will limit our FREEDOM. Say it cant or wont happen...
  • Accountability vs. safety

    You know I am kind of torn. On one hand people ought to be able to be held responsible for what they say and distribute ala libel laws. Never mind the whole Child porn and other cyber crimes. On the other hand giving over anything to a UN where someone is going to tell me that, oh, say Saint Kitts has as much say over how to regulate an industry like the internet is as the United States or China is a bit absurd.

    Of course this article takes no lengths to mention anything about the reasons many countries feel reforms are needed. Actually there is no mention of who is agitating for what. I bet there is allot out there in the public too. Why don't you try and do some reporting Mrs. Blue?
    • RE: Accountability vs. safety

      If countries like China are in favor, what more do you need to know? Controlling the internet may sound appealing, but censorship is a slippery slope.