The ITU convened Monday in Dubai to begin discussing proposals for global Internet regulations submitted by 123 member states, including the U.S. Proposals submitted by the various countries represented at the ITU span the range of ideas from complete deregulation to stakeholder control to complete government control, up to and including censorship.
However, speaking to reporters Monday morning, ITU Secretary General Hamdoun Toure insisted that no major changes will be implemented. “Nothing can stop the freedom of expression in the world today, and nothing in this conference will be about it,” he said, according to The Economic Times. “I have not mentioned anything about controlling the Internet.”
He added that pointing to an individual country, like China, proposing censorship controls for governments is not representative of the body as a whole. “I find it a very cheap way of attacking [the conference],” Toure reportedly said.
In addition, the ITU’s public preamble on treaty negotiations explicitly says that no action taken by the organization will prevent member states from regulating telecommunications within their own borders. Instead, it says that member states “may apply these rules,” whatever they turn out to be.
Concern about the treaty-writing conference, which may not even produce a treaty, has whipped into a frenzy in recent years as major telecoms, content providers and governments fret over a bevy of misinformation about who actually controls the global networks and where that control will shift to next.
Talk of a so-called Internet “kill switch” in particular has been overblown since it was first reported in 2010. The claim apparently arose out of a misreading of a cyber security proposal circulating in the U.S. Senate, which ultimately failed to pass.
“In the coming days, we will revise the agreement that underpins how we communicate with each other across the globe,” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a video to ITU delegates, according to an advisory. “Our overall objective must be to ensure universal access to information and communication technology to the two-thirds of the world’s population not online. A digital divide has no place in the information age and 21st century digital economy. The management of information and communication technology should be transparent, democratic and inclusive.”
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