U.N. Group Attempts to Assert Control over the Internet

A controversial resolution introduced in the middle of the night attempts to add language regarding oversight of the Internet to a telecommunications treaty.
Posted December 13, 2012

Cynthia Harvey

Controversy has erupted at a U.N. conference in Dubai where countries are discussing an update to the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), a global telecommunications treaty. The U.S. and many European nations are strongly against adding language regulating the Internet to the treaty. But a group in favor of U.N. Internet regulation held a vote in the middle of the night to introduce such a resolution.

The Weekly Standard's Daniel Halper reported, "In the middle of the night at a U.N. conference in Dubai, the presiding chairman of the International Telecommunication Union conference surveyed the assembled countries to see whether there was interest in having greater involvement in the U.N. governing the Internet. A majority of countries gave their approval. With a sufficient majority supporting the U.N. becoming more active in controlling the Internet, the chairman put forth a resolution. The chairman, though, insisted the survey 'was not a vote.'"

The wording of the "vote" left many conference participants confused. Computerworld quoted The Internet Society, which said "What was first termed as getting a 'temperature of the room' by the Chairman of the conference turned into an apparent 'vote' to include an Internet Resolution in the ITRs." It added, that action "resulted in much confusion among the delegates."

Brian Murphy with the Associated Press explained, "A Western bloc led by a powerhouse U.S. delegation seeks to block any U.N. rules on cyberspace, fearing they could squeeze Web commerce and open the door for more restrictions and monitoring by authoritarian regimes. A rival group — including China, Russia, Gulf Arab states and others — favors U.N. backing for a stronger sway by governments over all levels of Internet affairs."

Mashable's Alex Fitzpatrick observed, "The draft proposal is not technically official until the whole of the treaty is adopted, which may or may not happen by the end of the week. As the second-to-last day of the conference begins Thursday, those involved with the conference expect the Wednesday controversy to take center stage as participants seek clarification and understanding."

Tags: Internet, government, regulation, United Nations

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