Google Warns UN of Internet Censorship in Dubai Talks
By Alex Johnston On December 3, 2012 @ 11:59 pm In International | No Comments
Google issued a warning that United Nations countries need to maintain an open and uncensored Internet during closed-door talks on the world’s global telecommunications treaty, while U.N. officials tried to assuage public fears, saying there would be no new curbs on Internet freedom.
There have been concerns that the 193-member International Telecommunication Union (ITU) talks in Dubai from Dec. 3 to Dec. 14 will result in increased Internet regulations, with countries like China and Russia claiming they need to increase monitoring and create more Web blockades.
“Love the free and open Internet? Tell the world’s governments to keep it that way,” reads Google’s splash page Monday.
The conference has raised concerns as to how much power the U.N. has over the Internet in terms of regulation.
Vint Cerf, Google’s vice president and self-described “Internet evangelist,” said in a blog posting Sunday that “starting in 1973, when my colleagues and I proposed the technology behind the Internet, we advocated for an open standard to connect computer networks together.”
Some proposals could allow governments to justify the censorship of legitimate speech, or even cut off Internet access in their countries.
—Vint Cerf, vice president, Google
“But starting in a few hours, a closed-door meeting of the world’s governments is taking place in Dubai, and regulation of the Internet is on the agenda,” he said. Cerf took issue with the fact that only governments are allowed to vote on the decades-old treaty.
“Some proposals could allow governments to justify the censorship of legitimate speech, or even cut off Internet access in their countries,” he said.
More than 1,200 organizations have voiced opposition to any new regulations that could threaten the openness of the Internet, according to the Protect Global Internet Freedom initiative.
Despite speculation that some governments are aiming to place controversial measures in the new treaty, and that the measures will affect nearly every Internet user on the planet, the U.N. has stressed that there will be no such thing.
The ITU itself has said that the treaty “sets out general principles for assuring the free flow of information around the world,” and said that the 1988 treaty needs to be updated to reflect the environment of today.
In a video, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the conference that the plan during the Dubai talks is to “ensure universal access to the benefits of information and communication technology—including for the two-thirds of the world’s population currently not online.”
“The management of information and communication technology should be transparent, democratic, and inclusive of all stakeholders,” Ban added.
Hamadoun Toure, the head of the ITU, called accusations that the Dubai conference would result in draconian Internet controls “completely untrue,” reported The Associated Press on Sunday.
“Many countries will come to reaffirm their desire to see freedom of expression embedded in this conference,” he told reporters.
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