Confusion after UN internet treaty split

2012-12-15 13:06

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - The freewheeling, unregulated internet seemed to survive a push for new rules at a UN treaty meeting, but the collapse of talks leaves unanswered questions about the web's future.

A total of 89 countries endorsed the global treaty on telecom regulations at the UN's International Telecommunication Union gathering in Dubai on Friday, but the United States and dozens of others refused to sign, saying it opened the door to regulating the internet.

ITU chief Hamadoun Toure insisted that the treaty had nothing to do with the internet, despite what he called "a non-binding resolution which aims at fostering the development and growth of the internet".

Internet control

"This conference was not about the internet control or Internet governance, and indeed there are no provisions on the internet," the ITU secretary-general told participants at the signing ceremony.

But James Lewis, who follows Internet governance at the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said backers of the treaty distorted the facts.

"They were lying," he said. "It was totally about the internet."

Lewis told AFP the ITU lost credibility because "they swore up and down there wouldn't be a vote, that a decision would be by consensus, and then they took a vote".

The outcome underscored a deep divide between the US and its allies, which seek to keep the internet open and unregulated, and authoritarian regimes that want to impose controls over online use and content.

Russia, China and Saudi Arabia have been among countries seeking such changes.

Still, Lewis said the World Conference on International Telecommunication, organised by the ITU in Dubai, failed to wrest control of the internet addressing system from the global non-profit group called ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

It remains unclear, said Lewis, whether the treaty can even become effective without a majority of the 193 ITU members endorsing it.

"The ITU has to suspend consensus rules to say this treaty is to take effect, and then it becomes an issue for the lawyers," he said, adding that the matter could end up before the UN Security Council.

Little immediate impact

US officials, who led opposition to new internet rules, said the document adopted in Dubai will have little immediate impact.

Countries can exercise control of online activity within their borders, but Washington and others objected to a treaty that would legitimise new internet controls under UN auspices.

The head of the US delegation, Terry Kramer, walked out of the hall as the signing started after protesting that the treaty was "seeking to insert governmental control over internet governance".

That position drew praise from lawmakers and activists back home.

House Cybersecurity Caucus co-chairs Jim Langevin and Michael McCaul said the treaty, if implemented, "would result in a significant setback for anyone who believes free expression is a universal right".

Google, another critic of the conference, said that many governments taking part in Dubai proved they wanted increased censorship.

"What is clear from the ITU meeting in Dubai is that many governments want to increase regulation and censorship of the internet," a Google spokesperson said in a statement.

"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."

'Humiliating failure'

Kieren McCarthy, general manager of the Global Internet Business Coalition, called the outcome in Dubai "a humiliating failure" for the UN agency.

"The collapse will come as a severe embarrassment to the ITU," McCarthy said in a blog post. "Efforts to bring its core telecom regulations into the internet era had exposed the organisation to modern realities that it was incapable of dealing with."

Milton Mueller, an internet governance specialist at Syracuse University, said it's not clear if the new language is a threat to a free internet.

"While I didn't like the resolution nor did most Internet rights advocates, I doubt if its passage would in itself be able to do much harm," he said.

But Mueller said the diplomatic efforts were complicated by concerns in some countries - mainly with "bad" human rights records - who object to US sanctions that can cut off access to certain internet services such as those from Google.

"Weird and ironic, in that it is the pro-human rights nations that are using denial of access to internet services as a form of policy leverage, and the anti-human rights nations that are claiming a universal right of internet access," Mueller said.

Read more on:    un  |  internet
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
6 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

13 summer safety tips

Summer time and the burning is easy. Get some great tips to ensure sunburn doesn't spoil your holiday!

 
 

I love summer.24

This sleeping bulldog is you during the holidays
This man's reaction to his Christmas present is priceless!
LOL! Cats destroying Christmas trees
Great tips for surviving the holidays

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

Analyst Developer

Western Cape
Progressive IT Resourcing (Pty) Ltd

Branch manager

Western Cape
Neo Batho (Pty) Ltd
R15 000 - R20 000 Per Month

Travel Agent

Western Cape
Pentravel
R6 100 - R50 000 Per Month

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

30% off the bestselling books

Save big on the most captivating reads of 2014. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may feel more sensitive than usual and there may be something or someone blocking the flow of things. There is a strong desire...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.