SOPA Worldwide: UN Group Plots in Secret Against Net Freedom

December 4th, 2012

At this very moment, the 2012 World Conference on International Telecommunications is underway. Meetings of the International Telecommunication Union, a subsidiary of the UN, generally deal in policy issues relevant to telecoms, but the non-democratic institution is now considering a power grab that could lead to SOPA-like internet regulation at the international level.

Wired is reporting that the organization has already suggested some radical concepts. It claims that governments have the power to regulate internet transmissions already, and many foreign governments are pushing for a new service model for the internet under which consumers must pay host networks in other countries each time they visit a website. Let’s examine this vicious new threat to internet freedom, happening right now.

ITU’s New Internet Service Model Would Render It Useless to Many

From an economic standpoint, applying “termination fees” like those used in international cell phone calling to the internet could totally destroy the user experience currently realized in the marketplace. As it stands, consumers are free to visit whichever websites they want. Those websites can choose to limit access to particular types of content in exchange for money if they like, but users are not charged simply for visiting the site at all.

Termination fees would penalize consumers for using internet content on other networks by requiring providers to charge those users who visit sites outside of their host network. Also, the plan is to implement record-keeping policies that would allow online browsing to be monitored in a manner similar to cell phone calls. As such, it’s safe to say that the move towards treating internet sessions like a telephone call has both economic and user privacy implications.

ITU Secretary-General Claims Governments Can Already Censor the Internet

Despite the democratic victories that have been won by people worldwide against various government-backed internet-takeover schemes such as CISPA and SOPA, ITU chief Hamadoun Touré claims that governments already have the authority to censor web content if it is allegedly “dangerous to the security of the State or contrary to its laws, to public order or to decency.” Making this claim represents an extraordinary power grab for an organization which has been granted no regulatory authority over the internet.

Executives at Google and Mozilla have expressed concerns that this secret organization is attempting to dictate internet policy without taking providers into consideration. Meanwhile, many of the secret documents from the conference have already been leaked online.

On the domestic front, additional threats to internet freedom are being plotted. A group of US senators recently failed to add an internet sales tax to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013. After SOPA originally failed, it was essentially re-branded as the international treaty CISPA. When that also failed, executive orders were written, claiming that similar authorities are already within the existing power of the executive branch.

The free and open internet is one of the few things working in the modern economy. It has also given people worldwide unprecedented power over tyrannical governments, as many brutal regimes were toppled as soon as their citizens began using social media. It’s clear that governments will continue to try to sneak through bills to limit internet freedom.

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About the Author: Barry Donegan

Barry Donegan is a singer for the experimental mathcore band Look What I Did, a writer, a self-described "veteran lifer in the counterculture", a political activist/consultant, and a believer in the non-aggression principle.