The biggest battle in the history of the internet looms in Dubai, as tyrranical countries and revenue hogs seek UN-sanctioned control of the information highway. The fight will take place during the 12-day conference of the International Telecommunications Union (a branch of the UN), which begins next week. The goal of the conference is to decide whether or not the UN should regulate the internet, and if so, to what extent. Countries like Russia, China and much of the Arab world are going in with a clear position: take the internet away from the United States and give control to the UN.
The body’s top official, Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré, is hoping for internet regulation to prevail despite large divisions within the group, as Reuters reports:
While specifics of some of the most contentious proposals remain secret, leaked drafts show that Russia is seeking rules giving individual countries broad permission to shape the content and structure of the Internet within their borders, while a group of Arab countries is advocating universal identification of Internet users. Some developing countries and telecom providers, meanwhile, want to make content providers pay for Internet transmission.
In other words, Russia and the Arab autocracies want more control over what their citizens see on the web, and they want to know who, precisely, all those dissident bloggers are. Naturally, the U.S. staunchly opposes this, along with the EU and some countries in Asia.
Fortunately for freedom, the ITU like most UN bodies is completely dysfunctional and is unlikely to get much done. Good. While there are problems with the Wild West character of life on the web, the governments most eager to regulate are exactly the people whose power needs to be curbed.