Making Sense of the Web Curtain: Pushing Back VS Online Control

(Ping! Zine Web Tech Magazine) – “Contentious” could perhaps be the best word to describe opposing viewpoints during December’s World Conference on International Telecommunications. Beforehand, analysts had speculated the UN-backed event, a meeting of government representatives worldwide – could threaten the stability of a free and open Internet.

The conference was expected to consider changes to the International Telecommunication Regulations, initially passed in 1988. The treaty itself grants how governments can control communications standards.

Preceding the event in Dubai, web pioneer and current Google Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf issued a strict warning against web censorship – drawing on experience of a career that has included stints at DARPA and MCI.

“Starting in 1973, when my colleagues and I proposed the technology behind the Internet, we advocated for an open standard to connect computer networks together. This wasn’t merely philosophical; it was also practical,” Cerf stated via a blog post. “Our protocols were designed to make the networks of the Internet non-proprietary and interoperable. They avoided “lock-in,” and allowed for contributions from many sources. This openness is why the Internet creates so much value today.”

Is that openness now being threatened? During the meeting, China, Russia and Arab-based countries were reported to desire more government control of the web – now currently overseen by U.S.-backed private initiatives including ICANN.

The Center for Democracy and Technology’s Emma Llanso described a primary concern in a report from The Telegraph. “What we’re seeing is governments putting forward their visions of the future of the Internet, and if we see a large group of governments form that sees an Internet a lot more locked down and controlled, that’s a big concern,” Llanso stated.

Not surprising, the U.S. pretty much scoffed at the notion of ceding online control to government panels, as desired by others including Russia, China, Sudan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. After all, some of those places, especially China, have a highly criticized record in terms of online censorship. In China alone, websites including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are currently blocked.

The proposal, meanwhile, failed to gain traction. U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer appeared to lead most of the opposition. He later described the proposal as something that would lead to a “chilling environment for the Internet,” according to the International Business Times (ibtimes.com).

So with the new regulations having failed, can the internet community rest assured that the web will remain free and open? Not likely.

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