The United Nations has caused a stir in the past week as it has sought more global control over the Internet at the World Conference on International Telecommunications in Dubai. Tuesday night, the international organization reportedly attempted to avert controversy by introducing a late-night resolution.
China, Russia and some Arab states have led a push to hand more control of the Web to the U.N., as U.S. lawmakers and Internet companies warn of censorship, surveillance and taxes. The control would be gained by updating a key 1988 communications treaty.
The presiding chairman of the WCIT surveyed the assembled countries to see whether there was interest in having greater involvement, which a majority of the countries present supported.
According to the Internet freedom organization, Access:
The Chairman of the Conference stated that he “wanted to have the feel of the room on who will accept the draft resolution. If you can use the big board, please. To have the resolution included.” He then paused as plates were raised in favor of the resolution. Next, he stated “I want the feel of the room, who is against this resolution.” During the pause, an ostensibly different set of plates were raised. He then declared that “[t]he majority is with having the resolution in.”
The Chair then began to move to the next topic, the Preamble and the proposed addition of text on human rights obligations, but first recognized Spain. Spain proceeded to ask: “[a]s a point of order, I would like you to clarify whether the temperature you were taking was simply a taking of the temperature. Has it now been interpreted as a vote and had we known that it was a vote, we might very well have acted differently.” “No,” the chair replied, “it was not a vote, and I was clear about it.”
The shady middle-of-the-night resolution leaves it unclear how the closed-door conference will affect the future of global Internet freedom, but the possible implications are great. The impact could mean foreign meddling in free speech rights enjoyed by Americans.
One portion of the resolution reads: “…as stated in the WSIS outcomes, all governments should have an equal role and responsibility for international Internet governance and for ensuring the stability, security and continuity of the existing Internet and its future development and of the future internet, and that the need for development of public policy by governments I consultation with all stakeholders is also recognized…”
Here is a draft of the entire resolution.