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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 h8sg8s (559966) on Monday December 03, 2012 @05:05PM (#42173451)

    Is this the same ITU that wanted to charge me $1200 for a single binder of doc back in 2007? They view information as power and want to install themselves as the high priests. Control the Internet? I think not.

  • by magic maverick (2615475) on Monday December 03, 2012 @05:18PM (#42173591) Homepage Journal

    I've said it before: decentralize it, it's the only way to be sure. The USA govt. at the moment (via the Dept. Commerce) has effective control over the generic domain names. And they use that control. They shut down websites for all sorts of reasons, including accidentally. They shut down websites that are operating in foreign countries, hosted in foreign countries, and don't even target US citizens. Oh, but they happen to host links to copyrighted material. Or they happen to be doing a perfectly legal thing in their own country, e.g. providing DRM breaking tools, or online gambling, but which isn't legal in the USA.

    And people think that the ITU is some how going to be worse? It would be different, but I can't see how it could be worse (you couldn't get all the countries to agree anyway, and if the USA really cared, they could just veto stuff; I think the ITU operates on a consensus model). (Fun fact: the ITU is older than the UN, and the previous League of Nations; it was setup back in the 1800s.)

    Still, the best solution is to decentralize. Perhaps a web of trust; I trust this person (these people) and they (a clear majority) say that this domain resolves to this IP address. Actually, the domain name system is already a trust exercise, with people choosing which resolver to go with (e.g. I currently use Google's 8.8.8.8 as I can't remember the local one, and I'm not sure I would trust it more than Google anyway), and the resolver ultimately choosing a root.

    So why can't we decentralize it more? Come on people, I know there are lots of smart people, get together and work out an alternative DNS and make it really easy for everyone to use. And make it not be in the hands of anyway. Perhaps a federalized system. But remove control from governments and corporations and give it back to the people, just like God intended when he created the Internet. (Also more people use FreeNet please.)

  • Re:Uhm... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by iluvcapra (782887) on Monday December 03, 2012 @05:52PM (#42173863)

    Shorter Vint Cerf: Some proposals would actually allow sovereign governments to enforce their sovereignty, as bad as that may be.

    Nobody would support the UN forcing the US government to do anything; it's funny when we're shocked that Russia or China would insist on being able to regulate cables and boxen that operate on their own frigging soil.

    Of course governments can censor speech and cut off Internet access, that's their prerogative. Or are we working from the idea that the Internet is actually greater and more important than any government, and that the laws of a state (democratic or not) are not binding upon it? How do you think an American government would react if it was told by the UN, or Mexico, that it was forbidden from arresting undocumented migrants, because such action would infringe upon an individual's absolute freedom of movement, as protected by some UN declaration of human rights?

    Freedom is a good thing, freedom of speech is a good thing, in the US we are blessed to have a national polity that respects it. The Internet can allow it to flourish in other places too. However, any goodwill for your cause is likely going to be depleted twice over if people in Iran and Burma come to believe that, as shitty as their government may be, actual decisions that govern their virtual life take place in Marina del Rey, and it wouldn't matter who was running their country. They'd call it imperialism, and they'd be right.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2012 @05:57PM (#42173933)

    With the US controlling things, you get shut down for CP, and IP violations.

    Now, take the same control and hand it over to the UN. Your domain can get taken not just for IP infringement, but:

    Insulting a head of state.
    Blasphemy (and this is more than one religion). This can easily be used to get anti-religious sites, or sites critizing an extreme arm of a sect or cult off the Internet.

    When the UN takes control of the Internet, it will be the lowest common denominator, which virtually makes it open season on all websites. A Shia site critical of a Sunni group's actions can be flattened just as one who criticizes leadership in Thailand.

    So far, the US isn't great, but there is far worse...

    And we have not gotten to the fees yet. Once the UN realizes that extorting domainholders for fees is lucrative, that means another party, immune to the control of any country, now appears on the scene to dictate to other people what to do.

  • Re:Really? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by grcumb (781340) on Monday December 03, 2012 @06:45PM (#42174365) Homepage Journal

    If the goal is not to curb internet freedom, then why are the foxes the ones at the forefront of the effort to build a henhouse?

    It's a bit of rather disingenuous misdirection.

    Touré claims that the ITU have no intention of touching anything to do with Internet governance, but this is not entirely honest: The treaty-making process starts with independent submissions from various national institutions and telecoms industry bodies. While none of them have any formal status at this point in time as ITU policy, a significant number of them speak specifically for the perceived need for transit fees for large content providers (e.g. Google). Were they to be taken up as components of the revised ITRs, they would indeed place limits on the growth of the Internet, especially in developing nations. The precedent of 'pay-to-play', for example, favours large incumbents far more than upstart content providers, especially those in the developing world, where cash flow is often limited and incomes small.

    Given the rather stark opposition coming from the US and key EU countries, I still doubt whether any of the most contentious proposals will ever achieve the consensus required to become binding. And, as others have pointed out elsewhere, significant parts of the last (1988) set of ITRs have been ignored even by some of the ITUs strongest supporters.

    As usual, MIchael Geist is the go-to guy to understand exactly what forces are at play here. His contention is that the 'UN takeover' spin conveniently hides a more insidious issue [michaelgeist.ca]: Who pays for content?

  • by xtal (49134) on Monday December 03, 2012 @08:05PM (#42174975)

    There's the problem.

    All speech is legitimate. If words threaten you so badly you can't refute them on their grounds; well.. the truth is a bitch.

    As far as I can tell, the USA is as close a bastion of true free speech as exists, and that right hasn't been molested too badly. I do not want my internet in the charge of those who would seek to regulate in the name of "religious tolerance".

    All words should be read and judged on their own merits.

    Screw the ITU.

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