Clashes over Internet regulation during UN talks

Concerns raised by tech giants that new rules could be used by China and Russia to justify further online monitoring

The head of the UN's telecommunication overseers sought Monday to quell worries about possible moves toward greater Internet controls during global talks in Dubai, but any attempts for increased Web regulations are likely to face stiff opposition from groups led by a major US delegation.

The 11-day conference — seeking to update codes last reviewed when the Web was virtually unknown — highlights the fundamental shift from tightly managed telecommunications networks to the borderless sweep of the Internet. 

But others at the Dubai conference — including a 123-member US delegation with envoys from tech giants such as Google and Microsoft — worry that any new UN oversight on the Internet security could be used by nations such as China and Russia to justify further tightening of Web blocks and monitoring. 

"Love the free and open Internet? Tell the world's governments to keep it that way," said a message on the main search page of Google.com with a link for comments directed to the Dubai conference. 

The Dubai gathering will confront questions that include how much sway the UN can exert over efforts such as battling cyber-crimes and expanding the Internet into developing nations.

The secretary-general of the UN International Telecommunications Union, Hamadoun Toure, said that accusations how the meeting could limit Web freedoms is "completely untrue" and predicted only "light-touch" regulations. 

"Many countries will come to reaffirm their desire to see freedom of expression embedded in this conference," he told reporters on the meeting's opening day. 

However, the outcome of the Dubai gathering is far from certain. 

The 193 nations at the meeting have put forward more than 900 proposed regulatory changes covering the Internet, mobile roaming fees and satellite and fixed-line communications. Broad consensus is needed for any item to be adopted for any changes — the first major review of the UN's telecommunications agenda since 1988, well before the Internet age. 

The gathering is also powerless to force nations to change their Internet policies, such as China's notorious "Great Firewall" and widespread blackouts of political opposition sites in places including Iran and the Gulf Arab states. Last week, Syria's Internet and telephone services disappeared for two days during some of the worst fighting in months to hit the capital, Damascus. 

The head of the US delegation in Dubai, Ambassador Terry Kramer, told reporters last week in Washington that all efforts should be made to avoid a "Balkanization" of the Internet in which each country would impose its own rules and standards that could disrupt the flow of commerce and information. 

"That opens the door ... to content censorship," he said. 

The International Trade Union Confederation, representing labor groups in more than 150 countries, claimed a bloc that includes China, Russia and several Middle East nations seeks to "pave the way for future restrictions on both internet content or its users." 

"It is clear that some governments have an interest in changing the rules and regulations of the Internet," the confederation said in statement. 

Another likely battle that will take place in Dubai is over European-backed suggestions to change the pay structure of the Web to force content providers — such as Google, Facebook Inc. and others — to kick in an extra fee to reach users across borders. Advocates of the changes say the money raised could pay to expand broadband infrastructures in developing countries. 

Toure said he hoped for a "landmark" accord on trying to bring broadband Internet to developing countries. "The Internet remains out of reach for 2/3 of world's people," said Toure, who is from Mali. 

The UN telecommunications agency dates back to 1865, when the telegraph revolutionized the speed of information. Over the decades, it has expanded to include telephone, satellite and other advances in communications.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They make daily deliveries to most foodservice...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Planner

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They make daily deliveries to most foodservice...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - C#, ASP.Net, MVC, jQuery

£42000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is looking for a C# ...

Recruitment Genius: General Driver - Automotive

£15500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading Motor Re...

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food