In a victory for free speech, United Nations control of the Internet has been rejected by the United States and several other democracies.
The US, Canada, Australia, and Britain, refused to sign a treaty on Friday that would have vested the United Nations — through the International Telecommunication Union — with censorship powers over internet content.
Earlier this month, the US Congress unanimously passed a resolution opposing a UN internet takeover.
At the just-concluded conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, about global regulation of the internet, the US declined to ratify a pact that could have to led to censorship of web content and the taxation of web traffic. According to the BBC, “in total 89 countries have signed the treaty and 55 have either reserved the right to do so later or ruled out ratifying it altogether.”
US opposition to the ITU treaty is significant and not just symbolic. AdWeek points that “without international consensus and U.S. support, the treaty, which does not go into effect until January 2015 could face problems.”
The TechRadar website reports that the leader of the US delegation to the Dubai ITU conference, Ambassador Terry Kramer, said in part:
“The Internet has given the world unimaginable economic and social benefits during these past 24 years — all without UN regulation.
“Internet policy should not be determined by member states but by citizens, communities, and broader society, and such consultation from the private sector and civil society is paramount. This has not happened here.”
“[It’s] with a heavy heart and a sense of missed opportunities that the U.S. must communicate that it is not able to sign the agreement in the current form.”
Other countries had doubts about the treaty as well according to the BBC:
“Negotiators from Denmark, Italy, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Greece, Portugal, Finland, Chile, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Costa Rica and Kenya have said they would need to consult with their national governments about how to proceed and would also not be able to sign the treaty as planned on Friday.”
Google, according to the Bloomberg news agency, issued the following statement about the attempted UN takeover of the internet:
“What is clear from the ITU meeting in Dubai is that many governments want to increase regulation and censorship of the Internet. We stand with the countries who refuse to sign this treaty and also with the millions of voices who have joined us to support a free and open web.”
Are you relieved that after initially hedging, the US delegation stood firm against any attempt to censor the internet?