U.N.'s ITU pursues Internet control -- again -- this week

U.N.'s ITU pursues Internet control -- again -- this week

Summary: U.S. State Department and global civil society groups prep as U.N. telecommunication arm ITU tackles Internet control at WPTF-13 this week.


The Fifth World Telecommunication/ICT Policy Forum ("WTPF-13") will be held in Geneva, Switzerland, this week for three days, May 14-16.

As with the bellicose WCIT-12 (the U.N.'s 2012 World Conference on International Telecommunications) last December in Dubai and its accompanying protests and dramatic walkout by the U.S. delegation, this Forum will be run by the United Nations notoriously dubious telecommunications arm, the ITU.


WTPF-13 — with its Twitter hashtag #WTPF13 and counter-tag #OpWTF — is ITU's final preparation for The 2014 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference ("PP-14"), ITU's Fall 2014 plenipotentiary meeting.

In February, outgoing U.S. Federal Communications Commissioner Robert McDowell testified to Congress in a joint U.S. House subcommittee hearing on international Internet governance that U.N.'s ITU Internet plans "must be stopped."

McDowell warned ominously that after the WCIT-12 debacle in Dubai, combined with this week's WTPF, the groundwork is laid for 2014 and, "Internet freedom's foes around the globe are working hard to exploit a treaty negotiation that dwarfs the importance of the WCIT by orders of magnitude."

On January 11, 2013, ITU's Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure released the fourth and final ITU/WTPF-13 report outlining groundwork for Internet governance and internet regulatory topics at the May 14-16 meetings.

The ITU/WTPF-13 document explicitly includes the creation of "Global Principles for the governance and use of the Internet." It spells out intent to resolve issues pertaining to "use of Internet resources for purposes that are inconsistent with international peace, stability and security" in the form of subjecting cybersecurity/cybercrime and data privacy to international control.

If the ITU's endless wrangling over Internet controls plays out as it has within the past year, the U.S. may be in for another showdown.

Crucially, it also redefines the multi-stakeholder definition of Internet governance as currently insufficient because it does not grant governments — now defined by ITU as underrepresented multi-stakeholders — "sufficient" Internet governance power.

PP-14 will be held in Busan, South Korea on October 20-November 7, 2014.

In the FCC Commissioner's testimony, McDowell bluntly told the joint House subcommittee that the results of plans being made by the ITU to secure Internet governance at this very moment for the 2014 plenipot, "will be devastating even if the United States does not ratify these toxic new treaties [this week at WTPF-13]."

McDowell told Congress bluntly that since 2003, his office directly observed that countries such as China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia — and their allies — have never given up their regulatory quest. "They continued to push the ITU, and the U.N. itself, to regulate both the operations, economics and content of the Net," he said.

McDowell strongly outlined that Congress and "many defenders of Internet freedom" must understand that serious damage was done when they did not take [ITU's Internet governance] intentions and machinations seriously — and that the ITU is determined and able to see its intent manifest.

The U.S. State Department's official blog said the U.S. will be attending ITU's summit as a WTPF-13 stakeholder and expressed optimism for an agreement on multistakeholder governance.

The U.S. delegation comes to engage in constructive dialogue on Internet-related public policy issues such as Internet Exchange Points (IXPs), Internet Protocol numbering resources, the expansion of broadband, and, perhaps most importantly, the multistakeholder approach to Internet governance.

If the ITU's endless wrangling over Internet controls plays out as it has within the past year, the U.S. may be in for another showdown.

The adoption of the WCIT-12 treaty by governments notorious for being bad, nee murderous, actors in the human rights space sent a message toward governments that are excited at the prospects of getting tighter control of the Internet by way of their telecoms (and the attractive lure of billions in increased revenue).

Even though the end result last December made China and Russia quite pleased, the ITU's WCIT-12 plans began to unravel before the Dubai summit even began — the unraveling itself a result of Internet citizen action, and not initially by U.S. government action.

Representing who, exactly?

The ITU's meeting and its proposals were being withheld from public view until a steady stream of leaked documents from Web site WCITleaks put the ITU in a defensive panic — and had the U.N. and ITU readying for global protests.

Created by researchers at George Mason University, WCITLeaks is now soliciting and sharing copies of leaked draft documents for WTPF-13.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted - astonishingly - unanimously to oppose the ITU to approve a resolution charging the U.S. government to fight the United Nations and the ITU in its bid to control and change the Internet at the WCIT-12 — in an eye-opening 397-0 vote.

Prior to ITU's WCIT-12 opening ceremonies, the EU's upper house, the European Parliament, joined the U.S. to fight the ITU's WCIT-12 plans as a unified bloc, and all 27 EU member states (backed by Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and other ITU-Member) voted unanimously to oppose the U.N.'s plans to regulate the Internet.

According to Reuters, EU Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes, who is in charge of Europe's Internet policy, said the ITU proposals "risk damaging the Internet's evolution as a critical piece of global commercial infrastructure and a network for the free flow of information and data."

Going into WTPF-13 this week, The U.S. State Department's Official Blog it does not fail to mention the discord at WCIT-12:

(...) This is the ITU's first major gathering since last December's World Conference on International Telecommunication (WCIT). For those of you who follow these issues, you know we were unable to reach consensus on revised regulations that could have advanced the global development of telecommunication services.

(...) Eighty-nine Member States elected to sign the final acts, while fifty-five did not. Nobody "won"; and while governments argued, citizens across the world clamored for the growth and innovation that the Internet has to offer. (...)

New citizen protests are currently forming, from coalitions of global civil society groups as well as hacktivist entities.

Best Bits, a coalition of civil society groups from around the world with participants that include the EFF, has made it clear that it disagrees both with the idea that the ITU should be creating Internet policy and governance guidelines with decisions made by national governments alone — and with the ITU’s WTPF-13 report’s framing of the debate on multistakeholderism.

Best Bits issued a civil society statement to the ITU/WTPF on inclusiveness, transparency, openness and access to knowledge, net neutrality, privacy, and security, and in particular freedom of expression.

The WTPF has not yet achieved open and participatory internet policy making. [Civil Society Statement to the ITU Secretary General in preparation for the WTPF ­- May 2013]

The statement's points reaffirming ITU's siloed goals read like a bucket of cold water to anyone who cares about the digital rights of ordinary citizens, but at least it comes with a call to action in the form of a message (petition) to the ITU.

Still, the conclusions and policies decided at WTPF-13 and PP-14 will be set by governments, and if WCIT-12 was any example, decisions will be made by governments pushed to a conclusion led by the ITU.

The U.S., despite walking out of ITU's last big summit (WCIT-12), intends to stay in the conversation.

Despite the events of last December, we believe that the similarities among governments with respect to the Internet outweigh our differences. [Building Consensus in Support of a Global, Inclusive, Free, and Open Internet; U.S. State Department Official Blog]

Similarities among governments, indeed.

Image via ITU (2010).

Topics: Government, Government US, Security, Telcos

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  • Great story Violet

    The UN should not be allowed to control or tax the internet.
    • Thank you

      Thank you very much. Your comment reminds me of what I thought when I read Best Bits' statement/petition to ITU and it all dawned on me that this fight for policing control represents none of us, whether it's coming from the UN or the US (CISPA, SOPA, etc). And that they have not one clue about how the participatory, representative, unstoppably transparent and anti-censorship parts (the heart, really) of the internet works.

      My phone conversation with U.S. Ambassador Kramer after WCIT-12 had a similar undercurrent. But he also told me that he felt the U.S. needed to stay in the conversation and not pull away. I think that the State Department Blog said is is aligned with what he meant, at least about the staying involved part.
      Violet Blue
      • These are very important issues

        People here are obsessed with the ongoing mobile operating system death match but there are vitally important issues to be discussed as well.
      • Thanks for this excellent and factual coverage

        It's not often that something that has the potential to impact the internet gets the kind of coverage it deserves ~ so thank you.

        A few thoughts ~

        Notably at #WTPF13, the ITU is promoting six "Draft Opinions" it hopes to get adopted (while working behind the scenes to get governments to sign on to the ITRs, and / or other protocols it has developed, such as deep packet inspection). They are looking for a "Junior Cybersecurity Officer" https://erecruit.itu.int/public/hrd-cl-vac-view.asp?intra=1&jobinfo_uid_c=27351&vaclng=en to support the role that they mistakenly believe they have in "Cybersecurity" on an internationalist scale, further emphasizing their relentless march into the regulatory arena. Amongst the role of this person will be to participate in the "development of policy and regulatory frameworks, financing policies and strategies, development of telecommunication networks, the use of reliable and cost-effective ICT applications, cybersecurity, broadcasting and spectrum management," in addition,
        "Under the supervision of the Cybersecurity Coordinator, the incumbent will perform the following duties:
        Provide technical support to the cybersecurity activities undertaken by BDT and make recommendations, in particular within the framework of ITU-IMPACT and other relevant initiatives, by analyzing current and emerging technology and policy trends, in order to identify the best way to assist Member States."
        "Assist in drafting studies, guidelines and toolkits on policy and technical aspects related to cybersecurity in line with the priority areas identified by the annual ITU-D Operational Plan (OP), and the overall ITU strategy on Cybersecurity (WSIS Action Line C5 and the ITU Global Cybersecurity Agenda) to be used by BDT to deliver its mandate."
        "Perform required analysis of cybersecurity related projects involving feasibility studies and systems analysis to support the design, development and implementation of the services and capabilities to be provided to Member States."
        In other words, along with Marco Obiso of the ITU, everything in which the ITU has no business meddling in at all.

        You'll note the words in the job duties above, "Global Cybersecurity Agenda," and you may wonder why do they appear in this job description when the ITU has claimed so loudly that it will have nothing to do with this and will not be pushing regulatory schemes over the internet?

        In a recent tweet from the @ITU account, they claimed to want an "enhanced cooperation process" via the passage of a "Draft Opinion 6" at #WTPF13. If this passes, every adopting government that accepts it would not be accepting some harmless "cooperation" resolution or consensus statement, but rather, would be agreeing to enable governments to force "internet-related policy" internationally across the internet and without consent of the 2.5 billion (approx 2,500,000,000 internet users) across the world today. Not even a significant representative portion of the world would be consulted. There are simply a group of people at the ITU who think that they are masters of the universe and governments that follow this ITU philosophy because they want to control people.

        Wherever you are in the world, contact your government. Tell them to reject all six Draft Opinions of the WTPF13 and to stand up for a free internet. A somewhat dated, but useful heads of state (online) directory is here: http://www.gksoft.com/govt/en/heads.html
  • eye-opening 397-0 vote

    This means 9% of the Representatives couldn't be bothered to show up for a vote against totalitarianism.
  • who does the UN represent?

    The UN is a very undemocratic institution. It pretends that dicatators are somehow legitimate representatives of people, even though no elections are held. And a subgroup within the UN called the Security Console long ago declared that they are more important than all other nations, again totally undemocratic. If we as a people actually believe in democracy, it's time to move on. It's time to start over. We need an organization where democracy is a requirement of membership. We need a United Democratic Nations.

  • It's all about control

    What control doesn't matter, it's simply about control. They have relentlessly pushed for Internet, Gun, and Banking control for years. However, terrorist and crime control seem to be beyond them.
    • Banking control is necessary

      Because there are too many bankers who will fleece people out of money in the world today.
      • But not gun control hey?

        It's not ok to rip of some ones money but kill a few hundred people and alls good!
        Strange way to look at it!
  • No one country or organization should be in control of the internet

    Period and done with. By centralizing control of anything, you get the chance for corruption in the organization that is controlling.

    Now, with the federal government, we have some control of that by being able to vote out officials. But with the UN, whose people are appointed, we would not have that.
  • You aint seen nothing yet...

    It's a good article - thanks Violet. But this is very much only the "thin end of the wedge" and the "tip of the iceberg". Most people on this planet go about their daily lives totally unaware of those who warm the (well paid) seats in the various UN departments, who aren't elected by us, but who are bent on promoting the path to one-world government: at ANY cost. There will be a (mostly) one-world government within the next 20-50 years, and many of the freedoms we have now will be naught by faded memories.

    We really have no actual idea of the breadth, depth and scope of the control that the UN and their coporatist masters wield on this planet. If we did, the "Occupy" protests would be seen as tiny compared to the wrath of "the people". And the UN & their masters know that. Hence, control by stealth and implementation by degrees. We see how successful they've been in implementation the Global Warming Scandal, flying totally in the face of reality, shored up by shonky "science" and people paid to tell lies. And we feel the pain of THAT every day via the raft of stealth taxes levied on us to "save the planet" (all the while China, Russia, India and the rest of the "we don't give a sh*t" countries pump ever increasing amounts of rubbish into the air / rivers / ground whilst paying no extra stealth taxes - except what the corrupt politicians can extort, of course).

    Truly, we live in the age of deceit. So many people willing to take the Blue Pill each day, so few willing to risk the Red one... :(
    • Taking a long time, isn't it?

      The U.N., was founded during WWII, after all; and its predecessor, the League of Nations, was founded in 1919. You'd think that the conspirators bent on creating a worldwide totalitarian state would have wanted to live to see their project accomplished.
      John L. Ries
  • Stay Vigilante

    The UN is a useless organization filled with dictators that would love nothing more than to see this country destroyed. They want to control us in every way.....from guns, banking, "global warming", to how we raise our own children (no the state does not own our children !).

    We have to keep fighting against this. We should really stop giving these fools our money.....make them move to another country.

    I for one appreciate my freedoms....would hate to live under this bureaucratic totalitariun mess they would force us into......
    • Would that be enough?

      If the UN is what its US opponents claim it to be, then US withdrawal from the UN and removal of UN Headquarters from US territory would hardly be sufficient. Instead, it would be necessary to seek the dissolution of the UN and to prevent anything like it from being formed in the future.
      John L. Ries
  • Anti-Human Sentiment

    Humans value equality, cooperation, honesty and freedom of individual expression.
    This is the very core of who we are. This is the essence of our Humanity.

    Corporate style mono-culture and allegiance to strict hierarchy are not Human
    values. They stifle us and make us feel wrong for being Human. They want us to
    choose employer over family. They 'subtly' suggest allegiance and submission.

    These systems have no respect for our values, no respect for our Humanity.

    Does the UN consist of corporate whores..?