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Internet Freedom Won't Be Controlled, Says UN Telcom Chief 158

Posted by samzenpus
from the hands-off-the-tubes dept.
wiredmikey writes "The head of the UN telecommunications body, Hamadoun Toure, told an audience at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) in Dubai on Monday that Internet freedom will not be curbed or controlled. 'Nothing can stop the freedom of expression in the world today, and nothing in this conference will be about it,' he said. Such claims are 'completely (unfounded),' Toure, secretary general of the International Telecommunication Union, told AFP. 'We must continue to work together and find a consensus on how to most effectively keep cyberspace open, accessible, affordable and secure,' UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said. Google has been vocal in warning of serious repercussions, saying that 'Some proposals could permit governments to censor legitimate speech — or even cut off Internet access,' noted Google's Vint Cerf in a blog post."
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Internet Freedom Won't Be Controlled, Says UN Telcom Chief

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @06:07PM (#42173467)

    From the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 29:

      (3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

    So your freedom of speech on the internet will not be abridged unless you are critical of or oppose the actions of the UN. Sounds fair to me.

  • Re:Really? (Score:5, Informative)

    by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday December 03, 2012 @06:56PM (#42173921)
    Why bother with words? Let's look at actions.

    The US government is certainly not an organization that values freedom over money. Yet ICANN has not done any of the following things that the ITU has proposed:
    1. Unique identifiers for Internet users or their computers
    2. Separate "service classes" for servers and client computers
    3. A system of fees, surcharges, etc.
    4. Special licensing for providing particular kinds of Internet services

    These are the sort of things that, despite intense pressure from various industries, we have not seen on the Internet as controlled by ICANN. Sure, we've seen some censorship, but at the end of the day I can still use PGP and I can still run my own mail server, and I can do so without needing to obtain anyone's permission. This morning I ssh'd to my mother's computer to help troubleshoot a problem she was having -- and nothing stopped me, despite the fact that her computer is connected to the Internet through a "consumer grade" cable package.

    ITU has a long history of designing communications systems that cement the power of monopoly service providers and which prevent people from hacking or coming up with their own solutions to problems. ITU's approach to the telephone network reflects its mindset; likewise with ITU's approach to radio. Amateurs? Hackers? You're lucky to get a tiny bit of space to play in, but you better not do anything that could threaten the big boys who provide "real" service to consumers.

    To put it another way, if ITU had designed the Internet, there would never have been Google, because there would have been too much paperwork to fill out, too many licensing fees, and too many bandwidth fees to make something experimental like that work. The Internet's most important design feature is not packet switching, it is the idea that all computers connected to the Internet can do the same things, limited only by technical things like CPU or connection speeds. ITU doesn't design that sort of network; ITU designs this sort of network:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X.25 [wikipedia.org]

    Here, by the way, is ITU's next generation Internet plan:

    http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-T/gsi/ngn/Pages/default.aspx [itu.int]

  • by isdnip (49656) on Monday December 03, 2012 @07:54PM (#42174421)

    As to censorship, the ITU never proposed censoring the Internet. That's not their bailiwick -- national governments can and do censor domestic Internet access, and the ITU can't stop them. Nor can it force a government to do anything. The US can simply declare an Exception to an ITU rule and it doesn't apply here. Enough bilateral Exceptions and the ITU is irrelevant.

    I did read the more controversial proposals. What a lot of countries wanted was to treat the Internet as if it were telecommunications (it is seen in the US as the content of telecommunications, not the telecommunications itself) and to apply telephone call-like charging to packets. So if somebody in Benin or Fiji downloaded a movie from YouTube, their country would receive payment from YouTube. In many countries this would go to the government, supposedly to pay for the network facilities but of course many of these countries are remarkably corrupt...

    And unlike a phone call, where the party who dials the call pays, Internet payments would be made by the side sending the packets, even if the other side asked them to. This would of course probably cause YouTube and other high-volume information sources to shut off access to those countries. Not censorship per se, but pay to talk.

    Other proposals on the table are technically unworkable, but then the old PTT (post-telegraph-telephone) guys who dominate ITU-T don't understand how the Internet works (very, very tenuously).

  • Re:Really? (Score:5, Informative)

    by sl149q (1537343) on Monday December 03, 2012 @08:00PM (#42174471)

    Well the ITU and ISO did design an internet... and it was simply politely ignored by the implementors of what we now call the Internet.

    Other than governance the ITU/ISO model is one of top down design by committee. Compared to the IETF practice of bottom up implementation and design using RFC's and demonstrable code.

    The former model led to X.400 (possibly the best known example, but not the only one) for Email. Pretty much non-implementable in full and with little inter-operability between the implementations that did get done. It died a quick (although very expensive) death.

    While the IETF model has problems. They have managed to get the Internet to where it is today. Handing it over to the ITU/ISO would probably not be in the best interest of anyone.

  • Re:Really? (Score:3, Informative)

    by bug1 (96678) on Monday December 03, 2012 @08:34PM (#42174727)

    Yet ICANN has not done any of the following things that the ITU has proposed:
            Unique identifiers for Internet users or their computers
            Separate "service classes" for servers and client computers
            A system of fees, surcharges, etc.
            Special licensing for providing particular kinds of Internet services

    How many elected US government officials have;
      - Overseen and supported extensive national and international surveillance of the internet.
      - Supported warrantless/roaming wiretapping laws which some argue are unconstitutional.
      - Supported a tiered internet
      - Proposed taxing the internet.

    So much propaganda flowing in support of ICANN.

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