Thursday a coalition of mostly Western nations refused to sign a new United Nations telecoms treaty. The 193-nation meeting in Dubai covered an array of telecommunications topics including Internet censorship, Internet fraud, spam, transparency on mobile phone charges, and internationally emergency phone number for mobile devices. However, the point of contention for U.S., U.K., Canadian and New Zealand delegates is language that allows for stronger government intervention and control.
Last month, Google requested Internet users to stand up against Internet censorship by submitting to an online petition. Google and Microsoft this week joined the aforementioned Western nations to reject the U.N. treaty.
The point of contention for rival nations, including China, Russia, Gulf Arab states, and African nations, is most of the current rules and regulations is written and dominated by Western influence. Despite 10 days of watering-down various clauses it appears the non-Western bloc was able to win the political battle to add language regarding restrictions and monitoring.
Thusly Ambassador Terry Kramer, head of the U.S. delegation, stated he could not sign the accord with a “heavy heart and sense of missed opportunities.” Adding, “Internet policy should not be determined by member states, but by citizens, communities and broader society … the private sector and civil society,” said Kramer. “That has not happened here.”
Interestingly enough, the U.N. International Telecommunications Union (ITU ) has no real authority to change how the Internet operates. Any accords or treaties as a result of these meetings are non-binding. The concern though is with any code that affords nations to censor, regulate or shut down the internet would could be justification for countries to do so.