WCIT-12 leak shows Russia, China, others seek to define 'government-controlled Internet'

WCIT-12 leak shows Russia, China, others seek to define 'government-controlled Internet'

Summary: Leaked proposals from the U.N. WCIT-12 summit show Russia, China, and similar regimes are making a bid to define the Internet as a system of government-controlled networks. UPDATED.

The first morning session at the WCIT-12 conference. Credit: ITU/Flickr

New proposals submitted to the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) aim to redefine the Internet as a system of government-controlled, state-supervised networks, according to a leaked document.

The WCIT-12 summit in Dubai is currently where the U.N.'s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is being held, where member state countries are going head-to-head about proposed revisions to the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITR), a legally binding international treaty signed by 178 countries.

The leaked document [PDF] was proposed by a member state bloc comprised of Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Sudan, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Updated Monday, December 10th, at 3:13 a.m. PST: 

According to ITU's Twitter feed, TechWeek Europe and The National, the proposal has now been withdrawn. Additionally, the Egyptian delegation has communicated to WCITleaks via Twitter that, despite its name on the document, Egypt claims it "never supported the document."

Both Russia and China have been criticized in the past for various actions over their legislative approaches to their citizens' Internet access. Russia recently enacted a 'blacklist' law that sparked parliamentary scrutiny over the country's plans to censor the Russian Web, while China has for years impeded citizens' access to a free and open Web thanks to the state-run so-called 'Great Firewall'.

The leaked proposal specifically defines the Internet as an: "international conglomeration of interconnected telecommunication networks," and that "Internet governance shall be effected through the development and application by governments," with member states having "the sovereign right to establish and implement public policy, including international policy, on matters of Internet governance."

The secretly drafted proposal were posted on WCITLeaks, a Web site where conference proposals are being anonymously leaked, partially due to the fact that WCIT-12 conference proposals have not yet been made available to the general public.

The document also reflects one country's relentless push to redefine the Internet -- most recently seen in Russia's original proposals for WCIT-12 [PDF].

In June 2011, Vladimir Putin met with ITU's Secretary-General, Dr. Hamadoun Toure, where the then-Russian Prime Minister reminded the Toure that Russia co-founded the ITU. Putin then made headlines after stating 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)."

With the secretive nature of WCIT-12's proposal system, there is a growing sense that certain countries are prepared to move quickly in hopes that drastic proposals will slip through unnoticed.

In late November, the Arab States made a last-minute play to have the ITU become a national registry in the standards-setting summit the ITU facilitated just before WCIT-12 began only a week ago.

According to Dot Next, attendees at the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA) were "surprised" with an aggressive last-minute proposal by the Arab States that the ITU become a provider of IP addresses, citing "historical imbalances" relating to the allocation of traditional IPv4 addresses.

The proposal was halted when the U.S. threatened that it would refuse to accept the decision if it were passed. In a softening move, the ITU then decided it would, "conduct a feasibility study on the necessary action that would enable ITU-T to become a registry of IPv6 addresses" for the ITU Council to consider in 2013.

It's outrageous to think that any country would propose "state surveillance," or "the sovereign right to force Internet companies to hand over private information." But, this seems to be just what this document is proposing:

Screen Shot 2012-12-08 at 16.21.38
The leaked proposals (Credit: WCITLeaks.org [PDF])

It cannot be understated the damage such a proposal could do to the free and open Internet, online privacy and anonymity, with access to the Internet at risk from an array of oppressive governments.


Topics: Government, Censorship, Telcos, China

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  • No surprises

    It was already known that the main proponents of efforts to establish "international control" of the Internet were authoritarian states led by Russia and China and that such states have been active in efforts to establish an international censorship regime for over four decades.

    The more things change...
    John L. Ries
    • To be fair, current system of Internet control in USA is governmental, too

      So it is more matter of the type of regime than matter of type of the control per se.
      • The USA Gov controlling the Net?

        I don't agree, the USA GOV is monitoring the Net.
        Just as Google tries to do.
  • internet

    I think we should have a international firewall. So it's harder for other countries to send viruses into the united states. China does it probably to keep secrets, secrets and protect the public from corrupting what there doing. Personal control, idn But it's smart because the internet is a mass marketing system you block internet out, from other countries, hmm. Now who is the only country that can sell to are country that's right us. All the money would stay in the us atleast from the internet.
  • keep it up, Violet

    Way to go.
  • This is going to happen ... eventually

    Like it or not, such proposals will eventually prevail.

    Not in the next year or two, but certainly in your lifetime.

    All countries, whether authoritarian or not, want to control the portion of the Internet in their own country. (That includes the US, by the way.)

    All these countries want to control what you see hear, or view on the Internet, and want to keep track of you to see if you are doing anything "subversive" (as they define it).
    Ian Easson
    • Not so eventually

      They already track you. Have and will. Now it is control of what you read and see in other words control of you opinion and mind set. Directly permanently and comprehensively. Human inventory cataloged indexed managed.
  • Americans' view of the world

    It is quite clear that the author, Violet Blue is American, with a very American angle on reality. As Norwegian / European, I can understand why it is desirable with increased national control over Internet use within a country's borders. I can not see any major problem with the leaked proposals. Violet Blue's interpretation, is something else entirely.

    Today it is a problem that the enforcement of national laws is difficult in relation to internet companies and services. What is legal and what is illegal differ across the world, and this can also vary considerably within established and functioning democracies. For example, the U.S. will probably want to control access to child pornography in the U.S., and when these services are provided by foreign companies, and from servers in countries where child pornography is legal. The answer is that the U.S. already does this, but this is not censorship? Other contries now want the same ability to enforce national legislation on internet use. That is what this is all about.

    In Norway and in large parts of Europe all advertising directed at children is illegal. This prohibition is easy to enforce when it comes to newspapers, magazines, TV channels, etc.. It is very difficult to enforce when disney.com and other sites directs its services towards the Norwegian market, and where their servers are located in the U.S.. The same applies to the advertising of alcohol and gambling.

    Tax evasion is also difficult to attack. A common measure is to prohibit products from the marked when foreign companies do not follow national legislation. This is easy for physical products. It is almost impossible for products and services delivered over the Internet without international agreements. The U.N. can be a good instrument for achieving an international agreement on these matters.
    • Thank you for your sane input, reidar76

      And this American political propaganda, that represents other countries as something bad and at the same time completely ignores the fact that US is the top cyberbully and cyberdictatorship with its "copyright protection" and "against child porn" excuses, is kind of annoying.
      • Feel free then...

        ... to get the leaders of the country where you live to allow Russia, China, and those cesspool middle eastern countries to regulate the internet for you.

        Then get back to us a couple of years later, if you're allowed to.
        Hallowed are the Ori
    • You over simplify, way way too much.

      If all you were suggesting was all that anyone wanted to do, the U.S. and every free country would be on board.

      If you think thats where their ideas begin and end your drunk, absolutly drunk.

      Just look at the countries litterally doing all they can to change the internet so they have more control! China Russia and others who pride themselves in having obediant citizens. Thats what they are up to in the long run.

      Nobody wants unchecked crime and similarly unsavory things they have little to no control over, but sometimes you have to weigh out the good and the bad and if you think all these countries want is to be able to enforce the good...well, you really need to wake up because your in dreamland.
    • Almost there

      You are on the right track about the problem with systems that exist across national borders. However the UN is wholly unfit to deal with this as it is currently (mal)functioning. Some of the problems that you note with advertisers servers in the US being available to children in your beloved Norway also exists with systems in other countries open to the US. The sheer fact is that if you think the US is the bad guy in the conversation...well I hope you get what you want and then see where you end up in 10-20 years. I just hope someone smarter than you had a back up system in place for the sake of freedom.
  • Earlier comments.

    Where, pray, is child pornography legal? And rather than knocking the US - always the bad guys for so many - take a closer look at the police states that are acting to police the internet. Do a little research rather than just sounding off....please. johnproblem.com
    john problem
  • The USA is the best place that will preserve, enhance, and increase access.

    Metaphorically, if we liken the world to the proverbial "school yard" and the world's countries to kids on the school yard, then who are the well behaved kids? Who are the school bullies? Who are the prefects? Who is the Dux of the school? After all the united states military built the internet.
    Jamieson Hall
  • Anyone who beleives...

    These countries governments are just looking out for the good of their people...well, they must be on the government payroll as well because its so blatantly obvious even the blind could see through this one.

    What a crock of crap! They only want to fairly enforce their laws? Thats the idea they are floating is it??? Really?

    Wow. Anyone who buys into that, its already to late for them, they have been brainwashed.
    • Key

      Exactly. You have to be able on one hand to acknolwedge that everyone wants to be able to fight crimes involving the internet....but some countries want more than that.
  • Paging George Orwell!

    This is a BLATANT attempt by Russia, the Peoples Republic of China, and various Islamic states to enforce Big Brother-style Orwellian censorship upon the Internet.
    Forget it, gentlemen! The WorldWideWeb was created by the U.S. Department of Defense and the Swiss government (DARPA started it and the Swiss grabbed the idea and ran with it, at warp speed - who says all they know is chocolate and money?) and it has since become the de facto international mode of communication.
    Of course, The Ministry of Truth, in Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia, don't WANT communication, do they, George? NONE of Orwell's dictatorships want people to REALLY KNOW what's going on in the world - and so, all of them try to muzzle free speech, close the lines of communication, and shut down all the windows (or Windows). Not to mention throwing Julia and Winston into Room 101.