Protecting the Open Web: Net Activists Unite

Citizen media activists, digital rights advocates, and tech policy experts from Thailand to Colombia to Kenya have been buzzing in recent weeks about the complex issue of global Internet governance. Wonky and technical as it sounds, good governance—the making of global standards for Internet functionality and policy—is central to maintaining openness and technical efficiency on the global Internet.

Why all the noise now? At this December’s conference of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a UN sub-agency, member states will decide whether the ITU should expand its regulatory authority to areas of Internet governance.

David Westerfield. Labeled for reuse.

 

Background: Historically, the ITU has been dedicated to setting technical standards for interoperability of international telecommunications, radio, and satellite systems, in addition to promoting access to ICTs.  But some member states have proposed expanding the ITU treaty to cover Internet-policy matters—leaked treaty documents include proposals for global regulations that could place limitations on online privacy, free expression, access to information and ICT use around the world.

 

Threat to openness: Many voices in international civil society are concerned that ITU members’ lack of expertise on Internet issues and the agency’s closed, non-transparent decision-making process could make this a problematic shift for the global Internet. Advocates are taking action around the conference by analyzing leaked proposals, participating in national-level public consultations on the issue, or commenting in online fora.

Internet traffic map by Joana Breidenback CC-BY

Get involved: Two recent initiatives allow civil society groups and individuals to publicly support a global Internet governance agenda that prioritizes openness and technical efficiency.

 

A coalition of digital rights groups (Access, CDT, Fight for the Future, Free Press, and OpenMedia) has launched a petition-style “unity statement” open for sign-on by any person or civil society (non-profit, non-government) organization. The platform also gives users a range of ways to continue learning about and advocating on the issue. Read the statement and sign on here.

 

Digital rights advocates and Internet governance experts from around the world met in Azerbaijan last week, just prior to the global, UN-sponsored Internet Governance Forum, to discuss coordination and advocacy strategies for improving Internet policy at an international level. At the meeting, entitled “Best Bits,” the group drafted a statement that highlights the lack of openness and transparency in the ITU process and the negative human rights implications of proposed changes to the treaty. Any group or individual can endorse the statement here.

 

Every voices counts: The ITU is made up of 193 member states – nearly every country on earth is represented there, and all members must make decisions by consensus. Every state has equal footing in this process – this means that citizens in any country can have an influence on the process by participating in public consultations, signing petitions, or contacting government officials to voice their concerns. The Internet Society has a crowdsourced resource page where anyone can go to learn what is happening in their country and how to get involved.

 

Readers can learn more about the ITU conference by visiting resource pages created by the Center for Democracy & Technology, Access Now, and the Internet Society.

27 comments

  • Thanks for this post Ellery, but we would like to correct a few misunderstandings that seem to be being perpetuated about this conference.
    WCIT-12 is being held at the behest of ITU Member States, who believe the current 1988 treaty governing the way communications are handled is out of date and does not reflect the current technology environment.
    Contrary to what some lobbyists are telling the media, the conference will NOT not examine management of critical internet resources such as domain names and IP addresses. These functions are already performed by ICANN and regional internet registries. What it WILL look at are issues such as the high cost of mobile roaming, ways to cut taxes on ICT services and goods, possible methods to combat spam and cybercrime, and measures to ensure global interoperability and quality of service for users everywhere. I’d be surprised to find many people against discussion of these issues.
    ITU processes are by no means secretive. ITU has been urging governments around the world to lead national consultations on WCIT, and to share all WCIT documents with stakeholders as they see fit. Some goverments have embraced this enthusiastically. If some have not, it is for their constituencies to hold them accountable for this decision. ITU also has an open public consultation page in 6 languages where anyone with a view can post a comment which will be fed into the conference process. Over the past 6 months we have also held 3 comprehensive global briefings for media and civil society with full remote participation over a simple phone line using Adobe Connect.
    National delegations can be composed as countries wish, and many will indeed comprise representatives from civil society and private industry. In addition, civil society stakeholders can attend the conference free of charge, as can accredited media. All substantive discussions are webcast (live and archived) in 6 languages, with full captioning in English to promote acess for people with disabilities – so one might conclude that a statement ‘demanding’ this is somewhat redundant.
    In invite those who would wish to be well-informed about the issues on the table to visit ITU’s WCIT Newsroom, where there are 14 FAQ and backgrounder documents, again in 6 languagues, along with archives of the previous global briefings including Q&A sesssions, and a WCIT Myth-Buster presentation that spells out very clearly the agenda and dispels many of the inaccuracies perpetuated in your piece:
    http://www.itu.int/en/wcit-12/Pages/newsroom.aspx
    http://www.itu.int/en/wcit-12/Pages/WCIT-backgroundbriefs.aspx
    http://www.slideshare.net/ITU/myth-busting-presentation

  • [...] the structure of the Internet and erode human rights online. For more about the issues at stake read this post by our team member Ellery [...]


  • [...] the structure of the Internet and erode human rights online. For more about the issues at stake read this post by our team member Ellery [...]


  • [...] the structure of the Internet and erode human rights online. For more about the issues at stake read this post by our team member Ellery [...]


  • [...] Over the next seven days, Global Voices Lingua volunteers will be translating a public online petition that supports the protection of human rights online and urges government members of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to preserve Internet openness at the upcoming conference of the ITU. [...]


  • [...] 今年会议时机相当关键,选在由联合国辖下组织国际电信联盟(ITU)策画、将在杜拜举行的世界国际通讯会议(WCIT)之前。线上言论自由倡议者对于世界国际通讯会议背后决策缺乏透明度表达忧心,认为如此一来对网路的结构将造成深刻的改变以及侵害线上人权。读者如果想要更多了解相关新闻发展,可参阅网民报导成员Ellery Biddle所写的文章。 [...]


  • Links for 2012-11-19 [del.icio.us]…

    Israel cites 44 million cyber attacks @ircpresident @mmbilal 5000 Israeli leaders hacked by #anonymous…

  • [...] على مدار الأسبوع القادم، يعمل متطوعو مشروع لينجوا الأصوات العالمية على ترجمة عريضة عامة على الإنترنت تدعم حماية حقوق الإنسان على الإنترنت وتلح على الحكومات الأعضاء في الاتحاد الدولي للاتصالات لحماية انفتاح الإنترنت وذلك خلال المؤتمر القادم للاتحاد. [...]


  • [...] in der die Mitgliedsstaaten der Internationalen Fernmeldeunion (ITU) aufgefordert werden, auf ihrer bevorstehenden Konferenz [en] die Offenheit des Internets zu [...]


  • [...] Nos próximos sete dias, voluntários [en] do Global Voices Lingua farão a tradução de uma  petição divulgada na Internet [en] que oferece apoio à proteção dos direitos humanos on-line e apela aos governos membros da União Internacional das Telecomunicações (ITU, na sigla em inglês) que preservem a liberdade da Internet na próxima conferência da ITU [en]. [...]


Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.