Google has added a new section to its website which warns readers that the United Nations (UN) is taking actions which threaten Internet freedom. Beginning Dec. 3, the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is hosting a World Conference on International Telecommunications, and the attendees could renegotiate treaties concerning the Internet in closed door meetings.
According to the BBC, “Government representatives are set to agree a new information and communications treaty in December. It has been claimed some countries will try to wrest oversight of the net’s technical specifications and domain name system from US bodies to an international organisation.”
The Register reported, “Google has attacked a ‘closed-door meeting’ of United Nations’ regulators organised by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) taking place next month. The Chocolate Factory claimed that some of the proposals to overhaul the 1988 comms treaty could be bad news for free speech. The company also expressed concerns that services like YouTube, Facebook, and Skype could be forced ‘to pay new tolls in order to reach people across borders,’ under one such plan currently being mulled by governments who are members of the ITU.”
On its website, Google wrote, “Proposed changes to the treaty could increase censorship and threaten innovation. 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.”
Timothy B. Lee from Ars Technica noted, “The agenda for next month’s meeting is shrouded in secrecy, but ITU officials have denied that they’re planning a power grab. Still, the website WCITLeaks, created by two researchers at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, provides copies of leaked draft documents, some of which suggest that the ITU, with the backing of repressive governments such as Russia, is hoping to reverse its declining authority by seizing some of the powers currently held by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Google and other critics object to that approach because ITU is a strictly inter-governmental body, with no representation for private companies like Google, non-profits, or ordinary citizens.”