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Censorship The Internet Your Rights Online

The U.N.'s Push for Power Over the Internet 326

Posted by samzenpus
from the world-wide-web dept.
Omnifarious writes "China (along with other member nations) is trying to push a proposal through a little known UN agency called the International Telecommunications Union (aka ITU). This proposal contains a wide variety of problematic provisions that represent a huge power grab on the part of the UN, and a severe threat to a continued global and open Internet. From the article: 'Several proposals would give the U.N. power to regulate online content for the first time, under the guise of protecting against computer malware or spam. Russia and some Arab countries want to be able to inspect private communications such as email. Russia and Iran propose new rules to measure Internet traffic along national borders and bill the originator of the traffic, as with international phone calls. That would result in new fees to local governments and less access to traffic from U.S. "originating" companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple. A similar idea has the support of European telecommunications companies, even though the Internet's global packet switching makes national tolls an anachronistic idea.'"
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The U.N.'s Push for Power Over the Internet

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  • by tverbeek (457094) on Monday June 18, 2012 @11:56AM (#40359853) Homepage

    I was hoping that "Power Over the Internet" was analogous to "Power Over Ethernet". That would've been cool, especially if the protocol was compatible with wireless.

    • by Dogtanian (588974)

      I was hoping that "Power Over the Internet" was analogous to "Power Over Ethernet". That would've been cool, especially if the protocol was compatible with wireless.

      The good news is that they *do* have that facility working over long-range wireless- here are some photos of it in action! [google.co.uk]

  • by HornWumpus (783565) on Monday June 18, 2012 @11:57AM (#40359875)

    This is a historical reference. Napolian asked 'How many armies does the pope have?

    What are they going to do if we ignore their invoices? Hold their breath?

    • by iluvcapra (782887) on Monday June 18, 2012 @12:12PM (#40360059)

      The exact quote was "The pope? How many divisions does he have?" and most sources attribute the quote to Josef Stalin, though he almost certainly was quoting the other guy.

      What are they going to do if we ignore their invoices? Hold their breath?

      The short answer is, if Russia, China and the EU agree on a system, all they have to do is prevent our packets from passing through AS's on their sovereign territory. The UN is just the place where they come to the agreement, it's not the UN's idea and it's not up to the UN to enforce it.

      The US can always withdraw from the ITU, but if these policies genuinely reflect the interests and will of other nation-states, and they remain united, I don't see how the US gets out from under them.

      • by kheldan (1460303)
        If all else fails: The U.S. built the goddamn Internet in the first place, and we can RE-build it if necessary. Let them have their damned walled gardens for all we care. What if we say "Don't care, fuck you" and go on about our business? I think the populace of the countries that say they want this will have something radically different to say if they find themselves cut off from the rest of the world.
      • by BCoates (512464) on Monday June 18, 2012 @01:43PM (#40361283)

        The short answer is, if Russia, China and the EU agree on a system, all they have to do is prevent our packets from passing through AS's on their sovereign territory. The UN is just the place where they come to the agreement, it's not the UN's idea and it's not up to the UN to enforce it.

        The US can always withdraw from the ITU, but if these policies genuinely reflect the interests and will of other nation-states, and they remain united, I don't see how the US gets out from under them.

        In addition to wanting to regulate the internet, the ITU already regulates comminication satellite orbits. If the US wanted to play hardball on this matter, it would indicate that withdrawing from the ITU means that the US will declare a "right to international communication" and allow any company to launch US-flagged satellites into any empty orbit to serve any region with international communication without regard to local laws.

        Satellites are a very practical way to circumvent local censorship and are already heavily used for that purpose.

    • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Monday June 18, 2012 @12:15PM (#40360107)

      That quote is also attributed to Stalin.

      The Pope! How many divisions has he got?

      Said sarcastically to Pierre Laval in 1935, in response to being asked whether he could do anything with Russian Catholics to help Laval win favour with the Pope, to counter the increasing threat of Nazism; as quoted in The Second World War (1948) by Winston Churchill vol. 1, ch. 8, p. 105.(wikiquote)

    • a better quote (Score:5, Interesting)

      by QuantumPion (805098) on Monday June 18, 2012 @01:12PM (#40360803)

      As the Americans learned so painfully in Earth's final century, free flow of information is the only safeguard against tyranny. The once-chained people whose leaders at last lose their grip on information flow will soon burst with freedom and vitality, but the free nation gradually constricting its grip on public discourse has begun its rapid slide into despotism. Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.

      --Commissioner Pravin Lal, "U.N. Declaration of Rights"

      (from Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, 1999).

    • What are they going to do if we ignore their invoices? Hold their breath?

      The ITU has zero force of law. They simply publish technical guidelines which others are free to disregard at will the same way vendors routinely disregard the advice of RFCs.

      There is still slight danger of binding legal frameworks around ITU products yet zero chance any of this crap will ever be ratified in the US or any other marginally sane country.

      Besides Russia and friends already have every right in the world to do whatever the heck they want with pipes going into their countries they don't need no s

  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Monday June 18, 2012 @11:57AM (#40359877)

    A lot of big talk with absolutely no way in hell to enforce any of it.

    • The US government is not the one that decided on the rules that govern amateur radio in the US; those rules were set out by the ITU, and we just went along with it. What makes you think that the Internet would be any different?
      • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Monday June 18, 2012 @12:07PM (#40360001)

        ICANN has made it pretty clear that they're in charge, and it's going to fucking stay that way. Iran and Russia are, of course, free to start their own internets if they don't like it.

      • by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Monday June 18, 2012 @12:12PM (#40360055)

        "Senator, this will give Russia, China, Iran, and anyone at the UN access to your browsing history.

        "They will know everything about you, your family, and your staff."

        • I doubt that the regulations will apply to privileged people in the government. The regulations will be applied to "commoners," people who are deemed to not "need" security or whose security is deemed less important than national or law enforcement interests. Government do all sorts of things with shortwave radio that are illegal for amateur radio stations -- encrypted, unidentified transmissions, broadcasts, etc. It would probably be the same on the Internet -- people in privileged positions would get t
      • by 1u3hr (530656)
        Because if it's not in the US' interests, it won't "just go along with it", Same as it ignores the International Court of Justice, for instance.

        The UN has no power if a nation decides to ignore it.

        • How is not allowing hams to communicate with people whose countries "object" to such communication in the interests of the US? I think what you meant to say is, "If it directly opposes US interests...," which is quite another story. There is not guarantee that ITU regulations would directly oppose US interests.
      • by DarkOx (621550)

        I think we should remind the UN that its our Internet, we designed the infrastructure and WE not THEY will control it. If they have a problem with it they can build their own Internet and disconnect it from ours.

        Their choices are be shut of US commerce or deal with us managing the Internet as we see fit. There is NO reason to negotiate here, we hold all the cards. Hopefully someone form our Government will have the courage to say "STFU".

        • I am pretty sure that the rest of the world would find it easy to deal with such a situation. It is not unreasonable to establish a US-to-Everyone-Else gateway, which allows privileged traffic (i.e. business or government related) to pass through but demands fees for or simply blocks personal communications. If the ITU really wanted to stand up to the US and try to pry control of the Internet away from us, they could.

          Really, the problem here is that the Internet is no longer controlled by its users; go
          • I don't recall the internet ever being controlled by its users.

            • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 18, 2012 @01:27PM (#40361013)

              I don't recall the internet ever being controlled by its users.

              Then you must be new here.

              Think back to how things were in the 70's and 80's (if you are actually not new here - otherwise, ask someone who has been around a while). It was effectively a healthy and vibrant anarchy. There were no politicians involved, no lawyers. Anyone could run any service they wanted on machines they controlled. It was much more a playing field of equal peers, not what we see today with "huge services like Facebook controlling a bigger and bigger chunk of all communication". It was based in OPEN protocols, not increasingly locked-down golden cages like we see today. It was far, far less centralized. The only control involved was that of admins over their own machines, coupled with the voluntary cooperation between hosts.

              If you don't remember the arpanet days, ask someone who has been around longer than you what they have seen happen over the whole time span.

              • by jbolden (176878)

                I remember those days. And what's changed other than far better access and a much larger base. For about $20 / mo over my cable bill I've got the equivalent of dual T1s at worst and often as much as 20 T1s worth of bandwidth which I can use pretty much however I like offering services. If I want a static IP and space on a shared server I can get that for about $100 for 3 years to offer pretty much what I like.

                I'm sorry but I fail to see how I'm not far freer today than I was a quarter century ago with re

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Xest (935314)

        The UN has always done a better job of this sort of thing than the US alone, you only have to look at the history of WIPO and the WTO to see how bad the US is at playing fair.

        WIPO was historically democratic, but America disliked this because in being democratic it let the poorer nations of the world vote for weaker intellectual property laws so that they too could benefit from medical and technological advancements much earlier than the US mandated IP laws allow. Because America didn't like this it decided

        • ITU regulations (Score:5, Insightful)

          by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday June 18, 2012 @12:48PM (#40360509)
          Yes, US censorship of the Internet is bad -- shocking, really, considering the rights that US citizens are supposed to have -- but nowhere near as bad as the censorship that happens in other countries, or the censorship that has happened historically. Additionally, US control of the Internet has been pretty good for the fundamental philosophy of the Internet itself, which is that any Internet connected computer can act as a service provider. Tor would not be possible if there were computers on the Internet that could only be clients, or if servers all had to have some sort of special registration.

          When I think of the ITU, I think of the regulations on another global communication system that can be used with equipment available to consumers: shortwave radio and amateur satellites. Consider the regulations ITU imposes on hams:
          1. All transmissions must include a periodic identification; anonymous transmissions are something only privileged operations run by governments can perform. Identifications must be unique and assigned by governments according to ITU rules.
          2. Encryption is limited to certain specific purposes such as controlling satellites; obscuring the meaning of a transmission is forbidden (thus even a non-encryption technique like chaffing and winnowing would be illegal).
          3. If a country objects to communications, other countries' citizens must respect those objections. An amateur station is expected to not communicate with someone in a country whose government objects to such communication.
          4. Commercial transmissions or business activities must not be conducted; a special, separate class of licenses and regulations apply to commercial operations.

          Now, can you give the reasons why similar regulations couldn't be imposed on the Internet? What reason does the ITU have in supporting the Internet as it is today? The ITU would almost certainly partition computers on the Internet into different classes (say, "clients" and "servers," where "servers" require special registration and must have some special identification), and would almost certainly create rules that force countries to respect the censorship systems of other countries. Hushmail-style backdoors are practically a given if the ITU has its way (which is not the say that the US would never impose such a thing within its borders; the difference is that the ITU would attempt to impose it globally).

          Please, keep regulatory bodies out of the Internet. We should be working to return control of the Internet to its users, not to increase regulations on the Internet. I do not want the Chinese government deciding how the Internet is governed, or having any say in the rules of the Internet.

          • Re:ITU regulations (Score:4, Insightful)

            by slimjim8094 (941042) <slashdot3 AT justconnected DOT net> on Monday June 18, 2012 @01:18PM (#40360873)

            The regulations on hams are a good thing, since it protects amateur radio from commercial operators that would otherwise fill up the bands with useless garbage. The regulations don't much affect hams themselves.

            73, KC2YWE

            • Re:ITU regulations (Score:5, Informative)

              by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday June 18, 2012 @01:36PM (#40361153)
              I don't know what sort of things you do with amateur radio, but I am a ham and the regulations annoy the heck out of me. I could have an Internet connection on the 2m or 70cm band, except that I could not do anything with it -- advertisements on websites would make browsing the web illegal, I could not use TLS, etc. Amateur radio used to be something that allowed people to do cool, innovative things; these days, cell phones are more innovative than amateur radio.

              In what way are rules forbidding communication with people in countries whose governments object to said communication beneficial to us? How are rules that prevent us from setting up amateur trunked systems beneficial to us? The rules are completely out of date, they hold us back, and they basically guarantee that big businesses that can pay for commercial licenses will dominate wireless communications.

              It would be trivial to partition amateur bands into "classic" bands where the old rules apply, and "modern" bands that allow greater freedom. The rules do not have to prohibit all commercial transmissions, they can simply prohibit commercial "services" i.e. radio systems that are run for profit, so that we could set up packet radio systems that are useful and interesting.
        • by Jiro (131519) on Monday June 18, 2012 @01:14PM (#40360831)

          WIPO was historically democratic, but America disliked this because in being democratic it let the poorer nations of the world vote

          Stop right there. Many, perhaps most, of the "poorer nations of the world" aren't democratic. Letting each nation vote is not being democratic if the nations aren't ruled by their own people.

    • by ewieling (90662)

      A lot of big talk with absolutely no way in hell to enforce any of it.

      This is why I think the UN regulating the "Internet" may not be a bad thing. China and Russia will veto anything the USA wants and the USA will veto anything China and Russia want, nothing will actually happen and everyone wins. Even when everyone agrees there is no way to enforce anything, again everybody wins.

      • by emorning (2465220)
        I think that the corporate-owned leaders in the USA want *exactly* the same things that China wants...
      • China and Russia will veto anything the USA wants

        Of course, pretty much everything on the Internet, except for some 20-year-old papers on particle physics from CERN, is there because somebody in the USA wanted it.

  • by gtall (79522) on Monday June 18, 2012 @11:59AM (#40359901)

    Iran: Say, there Mr. Google, you owe us beellions and beelions of dollars.

    Google: Who are you?

    Iran: The Islamic Republic of Iran, that's who, now pay up.

    Google: How about we pay you in Iranian rials.

    Iran: Errr....no, no, we want dollars as our currency isn't worth very much right now.

    Google: Okay, we'll get back to you on that.

    Iran: Hey, you Mothers just removed Iran from Google Maps.

    Google: Ooops, now who are you folks again?

  • DIAF (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ilikenwf (1139495) on Monday June 18, 2012 @11:59AM (#40359907)
    The UN can kiss both sides of my rear - what have they actually done in the past 10-20 years that has actually been beneficial? I can understand the need to coordinate nations in order to maintain as much peace as possible, but having something like this with non-elected representatives makes no sense, especially since they try to govern things in all UN nations unilaterally.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Xest (935314)

      "The UN can kiss both sides of my rear - what have they actually done in the past 10-20 years that has actually been beneficial?"

      You mean apart from ensure post can move between countries, international telephone calls can be routed, that international flights don't collide with each other, delivering aid and vaccination programmes to millions of people, coordinating international response to countless crises, ensuring important world heritage sites are designated as such, ruling on international disputes b

      • by tomtomtom (580791)

        So you mean none of those things happened before the UN was founded in 1945 and none of them could happen without the UN? I don't think so. Those things happen because people or governments individually decide that they want to cooperate to make them happen. Often they actually don't happen because individual nations decide they can't or don't want to (or don't want to pay the price in blood and/or treasure to do so).

        Here's a good example: telephone connectivity between Spain and Gibraltar was severely limi

  • by Kinthelt (96845) on Monday June 18, 2012 @12:03PM (#40359955) Homepage

    China trying to *prevent* malware.

  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday June 18, 2012 @12:03PM (#40359963)
    My guess is that if the ITU is given power over the Internet, at least some of the following things will ultimately happen:
    1. Partitioning of Internet-connected computers into "clients" and "servers," with special registration required for "servers." Note that right now, any computer connected to the Internet can act as either a client or a server, regardless of how it is typically used; I suspect that the ITU would ultimately change that.
    2. Requirements that computers have unique identification, or at least that computers acting as servers be uniquely identified. Anonymous servers (e.g. Tor hidden services) would be rendered illegal. Procedures for shared hosts that allow multiple services to be run on a single system would likely be developed, with each service having a unique identification that is related to the identification of the host.
    3. A requirement that computers acting as servers refuse to communicate with computers in countries whose governments object to such communication. This is already a requirement of amateur radio i.e. a ham cannot communicate with someone in a country whose government objects to such communication, as per ITU rules.
    4. Key disclosure requirements for communications sent over the Internet i.e. international law enforcement agencies would be able to demand that anyone reveal secret keys. Hushmail-style backdoors would likely be mandatory in services that provide end-to-end encryption for users.
    • by Loughla (2531696)
      Holy piss that's terrifying, because it makes complete sense. It's a way to squash anything and everything. Someone mod parent up.
    • by 0123456 (636235) on Monday June 18, 2012 @12:33PM (#40360323)

      Don't forget replacing TCP/IP with ATM and X.25.

  • Mixed feelings (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 18, 2012 @12:03PM (#40359965)

    The malcontent within me actually looks forward to having the Internet governed by a coalition of China and a bunch of mufties. There are a lot of fools stumbling around the West that desperately need that experience.

  • No censorship either. Who the hell does the UN think it is? It doesn't represent the People of this planet. We don't even have a voice in the UN Assembly to make our objections be heard. And where's the UN Bill of Rights that forbids censorship of speech, the press, and expression?

    The UN politicians are as honest as other men, not more so, and all the more dangerous since their power is not subject to the Elective control of the people, or the Shackles of a Constitution with enumerated rights. Time has

      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        But the Declaration is exactly that - a declaration. It doesn't have the power of law and does not limit the UN's ability to..... for example..... pass a law forbidding websites that oppose Genetically-modified foods. OUR Bill of Rights says, "Congress shall pss no law abriding freedom of speech....." The UN does not have the equivalent, and therefore may pass any law they please.

    • by Sir_Sri (199544)

      You realize that the UN is, on the scale of things a relatively democratic body right? The UN by itself doesn't ever do anything, it's a handful of staff in a room. The "UN" is a collection of countries in the world with a 1 country, 1 vote system. There is then a practical realization that 5 countries in the world could fuck over plans of anyone else, and they get special treatment on matters related to security.

      If the UN was fully democratic, say an election system by population, China and India would

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      We don't even have a voice in the UN Assembly to make our objections be heard.

      The UN Assembly can maybe decide what condiments are allowed on the Secretary-General's sandwich without the approval of the Security Council. The Security Council can't lift a finger unless the US (which, based on your subject I'm assuming you're based in) government allows it to happen. So yes, your country's objections will be heard.

      If you don't think your interests are represented by the US government, then that's a different sort of problem. But the US government can pretty much tell the UN to go to he

  • by NotSanguine (1917456) on Monday June 18, 2012 @12:08PM (#40360011)

    What rock have you been living under?

    • by lwriemen (763666)

      What rock have you been living under?

      Probably a non-technical one. IEEE and ANSI would probably also fall under the little-known category to them.

  • Another dupe (Score:5, Informative)

    by 1u3hr (530656) on Monday June 18, 2012 @12:11PM (#40360039)

    UN Takeover of Internet Must Be Stopped, US Warns [slashdot.org]
    Posted by samzenpus on Fri Jun 01, '12 12:30 PM

    samzenpus dupes himself with another run at this xenophobic scare piece.

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      Since it's over a month old, I wouldn't consider it a dupe. There are MANY people who never saw the original article. Also it covers different topics (per-click charges vs. speech censorship).

  • How about we get rid of the UN instead? It is filled with corrupt power hungry ghouls and does nothing good for us.
  • by satuon (1822492) on Monday June 18, 2012 @12:13PM (#40360067)

    I'm a bit confused. Can the ITU in some technical manner remotely change how the Internet works inside the USA and Europe without our cooperation?

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday June 18, 2012 @12:15PM (#40360099)

    That would result in new fees to local governments and less access to traffic from U.S. "originating" companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple.

    Ah, the truth wins out. They don't want to control the internet... they just want to tax the hell out of it.

    • by tnk1 (899206)

      No, actually, they want both. They just realize that actual control allows them to start charging for it.

  • by na1led (1030470) on Monday June 18, 2012 @12:16PM (#40360115)
    When the U.N. and other countries have ruined the Internet, there will be a comeback of BBS's and other services like Delphi.
  • The UN is a worthless org. over 14,000 dead in Syria and the UN does nothing. Check out this movie: U.N. Me http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIzDt5NPYfI [youtube.com] It is a documentary of the dangers of the U.N.
  • by couchslug (175151) on Monday June 18, 2012 @12:18PM (#40360135)

    ...overly powerful national governments often think the UN is a good idea.

    What is the sum of many corruptions?

  • Not quite (Score:5, Insightful)

    by poity (465672) on Monday June 18, 2012 @12:18PM (#40360139)

    This isn't about giving control to the UN. This is not a UN vs US issue. It is a few countries that want further control of their part of the internet, and they see the current US ownership of mechanisms and institutions as an obstacle. They cannot directly and publicly confront the US to try to wrest control for themselves without international backlash. By using the UN as a pivot, their action can potentially gain legitimacy and bring about a dilution of power (thereby giving local actors more control). So by dressing it up as an issue of wanting to transfer more power from the US to the UN, they seek to accomplish two things: 1. launder their intentions with the name of the UN, and 2. embark on the first step in altering the status quo so as to ultimately remove existing checks to their power (mainly the US) to act unilaterally on their local nodes.

  • It's pretty obvious that the point behind this is for member countries to make "free" services have an actual cost to the provider, thus driving traffic from Google, Facebook, etc. to local version of the same services in each country.
  • by TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) on Monday June 18, 2012 @12:54PM (#40360611)

    I think its time for a new Internet, the bureaucrats have ruined this one.

    At least by creating a new Internet it will take 10 - 20 years before the politicians clue up that it exists and start legislation against its usage.

  • by BorgAssimilator (1167391) on Monday June 18, 2012 @01:09PM (#40360775)

    Russia and Iran propose new rules to measure Internet traffic along national borders and bill the originator of the traffic, as with international phone calls.

    http://bash.org/?142934 [bash.org]

    Remember when we used to joke about these things?

  • paranoia (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Monday June 18, 2012 @02:25PM (#40361859) Homepage Journal

    The typical US paranoia that anything not run by them is bad.

    Sure, some countries want to do some things. As if there weren't tons of people, special interest groups and even political parties who want to spy, censor, become Big Brother, outlaw homosexuality and declare pi to be equal to 3.

    Just because there are some crazies who want to do crazy things doesn't mean it'll happen. Writing your articles with such a focus is dishonest fearmongering. It would be trivial to write an identical article opposing US control of crucial Internet parts by pointing out some crazy demands by some dimwit backwater politician, of which there is no shortage.

  • First ... (Score:4, Funny)

    by PPH (736903) on Monday June 18, 2012 @04:11PM (#40363097)

    ... the UN banned dwarf tossing [wikipedia.org]. But I did not speak out because I don't throw dwarfs.

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