The UN should not be allowed to take over control of the internet, Euro MPs have warned.
International governments are set to agree a new information and communications treaty next month.
Reports in the Russian press have suggested the Kremlin and others wanted control of key internet systems passed to a UN agency.
Internet control currently lies largely with US-based groups such as Icann, which regulates the web address system.
The European Parliament has said the UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) was “not the appropriate body” to have authority.
The ITU has said a new treaty was needed to ensure “the free flow of information around the world, promoting affordable and equitable access for all and laying the foundation for ongoing innovation and market growth”.
One can safely assume that every word in the ITU’s statement is either flat-out false or intentionally meaningless. Thanks to American protection of its small number of core functions, the Internet already enjoys a “free flow of information.” Thanks to the heavily decentralized way in which the Internet works, it is already “affordable” and “equitable.” And we all know what “laying the foundation for ongoing innovation and market growth means” — it means the same thing as “state investment” means, and it is paid for in the same manner.
As I have written before, America should maintain the small amount of control it enjoys over the Internet — which, in its modern form at least, it invented along with the British — and it should guard that control jealously against those would seize it. Back in May of this year, the last time this came up, I noted that:
The very idea of an open, distributed, and decentralized network that is open to anybody who wishes to participate is anathema to those who would restrict the human spirit. By the same token, it sits very comfortably with American foundational principles. Its rigorous protection of free expression in a world all too comfortable with censorship renders the United States an outlier. This is the natural home for the backbone of the Internet. It must continue to be so.
Mercifully, Google agrees on this one:
The European Parliament’s objection follows loud opposition from search giant Google, which has invited concerned internet users to sign a petition.
“The International Telecommunication Union is bringing together regulators from around the world to renegotiate a decades-old communications treaty,” the company wrote.
“Some proposals could permit governments to censor legitimate speech – or even allow them to cut off internet access.
“Other proposals would require services like YouTube, Facebook, and Skype to pay new tolls in order to reach people across borders. This could limit access to information – particularly in emerging markets.”
Or, as the ITU would put it, it would ensure “the free flow of information around the world,” promote “affordable and equitable access for all,” and lay “the foundation for ongoing innovation and market growth.” Ahem.
ITU secretary-general Dr Hamadoun Toure has signalled that if there were any serious disagreements he would try to avoid putting an issue to a majority vote.
“We never vote because voting means winners and losers and you can’t afford that,” he told the BBC in July.
Presumably then, being thoroughly accustomed to such a system, the various member states of the United Nations will not be too upset when the United States steadfastly maintains its existing authority over the Internet and denies them a majority vote of any meaning.