Activists worldwide were celebrating after a United Nations conference, which was seeking to hand control over the Internet to an obscure UN agency known as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and its mostly dictatorial member regimes, ended in failure when a coalition of Western governments refused to back the schemes. However, analysts are warning that serious threats to the free and open Internet by the UN and a broad alliance of its authoritarian members are far from over.
Before and during the summit in Dubai, dubbed the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), forces hoping to impose a global UN-led regulatory regime over the World Wide Web had expressed cautious optimism. ITU Secretary General Hamadoun Touré, for example, said he expected the gathering of almost 200 governments and dictatorships to produce so-called "light-touch" Internet regulation with an increased role for the UN agency he leads and its member states.
Among the most controversial proposals discussed at the summit was the creation of a so-called Internet “kill switch” that opponents said would be used to censor content and destroy free speech. Also being sought by the ITU and some of its tyrannical members were a global surveillance regime, online taxes and fees, regulation of social media, an end to Internet anonymity, putting the Web under UN jurisdiction, handing oppressive regimes the power to shut down the Internet, and much more.
A global uproar against the UN scheming led by organizations, activists, companies, and some Western policymakers, however, killed those dreams of Internet regulation — for now at least. The ITU responded by waging a massive, taxpayer-funded propaganda blitz to counter the international outrage. By the end of the summit, though, opposition to the ITU and its member regimes’ plot to gradually take over the Web reached a boiling point — especially after the UN’s “public relations” schemes were leaked.
"It's with a heavy heart and a sense of missed opportunities that the U.S. must communicate that it's not able to sign the agreement in the current form," the Obama administration’s ambassador to the UN summit, Terry Kramer, told delegates, citing threats to free speech and the plan to hand jurisdiction over the Internet to the ITU rather than leaving it with the private-sector organizations that currently control its architecture. "The internet has given the world unimaginable economic and social benefit during these past 24 years. All without UN regulation. We cannot support a treaty that is not supportive of the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance.”
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