The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday unanimously passed a resolution (PDF) declaring that Congress is firmly opposed to the Untied Nations taking control of the Internet — something the global governing body has not proposed to do.
In an echo of a recent Senate vote on a treaty on the rights of disabled people that would have reaffirmed U.S. law in nations all over the world, members piled on the resolution introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to enunciate their opposition to an imaginary threat promoted by ill-informed editorialists and inaccurate media reports.
Problem is, the United Nations is in no way looking to control the Internet, or even institute binding regulations. Much like the treaty on rights of the disabled, conspiracy theories and misinformation have become rife in the media as to what exactly the U.N. has up its sleeve.
The U.N.’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) convened a treaty-writing conference on Monday in Dubai to consider and debate proposals submitted by 193 member states and ideally produce a draft of a non-binding treaty that expresses support for the freedom of expression on the Internet.
In spite of this fact, many media reports have focused on proposals by oppressive states that would like a U.N. blessing of their efforts to control the Internet and, hence, control free speech within their borders. However, that’s not going to happen if the U.S. and E.U. have anything to say about it, which they will.
“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,” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a video shown to ITU delegates. “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.”
Critics of the ITU, many of them from private industry, point to the treaty-writing process as flawed because it neglects the multi-stakeholder governance model the Internet grew up under. That’s what got U.S. and E.U. lawmakers in such a tizzy, and they’ve now banded together to push back against proposals by China, Russia and other oppressive regimes that seek greater control of data entering their borders over the global network.
However, that too is inaccurate. Despite the perception that the ITU negotiations are taking place behind closed doors and without corporate involvement, hundreds of corporations have registered to attend the talks and lobby delegates.
In addition, ITU counselor Richard Hill noted that no proposals have been made to grant the body more power, meaning there’s no feasible chance that the ITU will somehow take control of the Internet.
“Networks are regulated by national governments, not by ITU – which is a multi-stakeholder, bottom-up organization,” Hill wrote. He added that “nothing in the ITRs [International Telecommunication Regulations] has the power to result in a reduction of freedom to communicate.”
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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