The global labour movement has made a fresh direct appeal to the United Nations in response to a leaked proposal from Russia for new, UN-sanctioned rules to allow monitoring and censorship of incoming and outgoing internet traffic.
Telecommunications ministers from 193 countries will meet behind closed doors in Dubai next month at the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) to discuss a new regulatory regime for the Internet.
The International Trade Union Confederation has written twice to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressing deep concern that the proposed changes would lead to an upsurge of government internet control and censorship. [Sign the petition against the net grab.]
ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said that the “internet as we know it” was threatened by the changes proposed.
“We are less than a week away from the WCIT. Our efforts to draw attention to this issue and encourage governments to vote against the proposals are gathering strength.
“It is clear that some governments have an interest in changing the rules and regulations of the internet, and a bloc has emerged which includes China, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Russia who are keen to pave the way for future restrictions on both internet content or its users.
“The danger for the upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) is that certain governments will attempt to undermine the multi-stakeholder approach behind closed doors and without full transparency.
“The risks are clear. Those who value an unfettered and relatively free internet must fight to protect access and continue a multi-stakeholder approach to internet governance.
If accepted, the changes include:
• Government restriction or blocking of information disseminated via the internet
• Creation of a global regime of monitoring internet communications, including the demand that those who send and receive information identify themselves
• Requirement that the internet only be used in a ‘rational’ way
• Governments shutting down the internet if there is the belief that it may interfere in the internal affairs of other states or that information of a ‘sensitive nature’ might be shared
• Introduction of a new pricing regime which would slow down internet growth, especially in the poorer countries.
“We renew our calls for transparency at the WCIT-12. There are huge issues around freedom of speech and the need for an economic model which sustains internet growth to reach people everywhere. Such important questions cannot be debated behind closed doors, when the implications for citizens and freedom of speech are so immense,” said Ms Burrow.
The ITUC represents 175 million workers in 308 affiliated national organisations from 153 countries and territories. Follow them on the web: http://www.ituc-csi.org