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Growing Concerns at ITU Net Intervention
[December 10, 2012]

Growing Concerns at ITU Net Intervention

Dec 10, 2012 (M2 PRESSWIRE via COMTEX) -- One week into the International Telecommunications Unions conference in Dubai, global unions are renewing their calls for United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to intervene to protect the integrity of the world wide web.

The International Trade Union Confederation today flagged concerns that the meeting was moving towards seeking to impose regulations on the Internet with the potential to undermine the ability of citizens to organise and campaign free of state control. Over the past days propositions put forward by Russia that would give individual nations control of the way the net operates in their country have been inserted into a so-called 'compromise document'. Proposed by the chair, the UAE, with ITU assistance, the document also vastly increases the remit of the ITU to cover nearly any organisation which runs a network - companies, banks, universities, internet service providers and NGOs - not just telecom operators.

The Russian proposal follows the adoption of a new ITU standard for powerful 'deep packet inspection' monitoring technology, without proper safeguards for Internet users. The standard was finalised in behind-the-scenes talks convened by the ITU in the days leading up to the Conference, despite the user-privacy concerns of a number of countries, led by Germany.

"While the ITU was accusing critics of scaremongering ahead of the conference, the actual meeting is unfolding as we feared," ITUC General Gecretary Sharan Burrow said.

"There is a concerted effort from the ITU to create new ways to insert itself into the operation of the net in a way that would fundamentally challenge both the Internet's basic operation and the freedoms inherit in it to date. The ITU Conference is heading in the opposite direction to Ban Ki-moon's call in his opening address for a process which is transparent, democratic and inclusive of all stakeholders." "Our concern is that if the model changes, repressive regimes will be more able and willing to restrict internet freedoms for its workers - to organise politically and industrially." 'As the talks are proceeding we have news that an 18 year-old blogger from the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed Salem al-Zumer, has been detained by authorities for writing in support of political prisoners in the Emirates.

"The UAE has tightened internet restrictions even further - this is precisely the type of government intervention that we don't want to see normalised." Nearly 100,000 workers worldwide have signed petitions calling on the ITU to reject proposals that would alter net governance from the current multi-stakeholder model.

Ms Burrow said the United Nations Secretary General needed to personally intervene to ensure a UN agency did not move beyond its ambit - originally to regulate the protocols governing telephony and telegrams.

The ITUC has also called on Ban Ki-moon to fill crucial vacancies in the UN's own multistakeholder Internet Governance Forum. "Properly resourced, the IGF should be the venue to debate very important issues related to how the Internet is governed in a truly multistakeholder and transparent way, instead of the secretive ITU." The ITUC represents 175 million workers in 308 affiliated national organisations from 153 countries and territories.

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