Trade unions, Greenpeace and communications corporations including Google on Monday launched a campaign to stop a proposal before the United Nations that would give the UN control of the internet.
"Stop the Net Grab" opposes the plan by some telecommunications companies and countries including China and Saudi Arabia. If approved, it would allow the UN's International Telecommunications Union to charge users for services such as email and restrict access to the internet and monitor activity online.
The International Trades Union Conference, representing 6.2 million union members in Britain, wrote that the proposal could "restrict political freedoms and harm civil society." Such changes would hit users from developing countries particularly hard, according to the ITUC.
"Unless we act now, our right to freely communicate and share information could change forever," ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow told Australia's News Limited Network (ANLN). The ITUC represents 6.2 million union members in Britain.
If the plan is accepted, according to ANLN, "the changes would allow government restriction or blocking of information disseminated via the internet and create a global regime of monitoring internet communications—including the demand that those who send and receive information identify themselves." It would also allow governments to shut down the internet "if there is the belief that it may interfere in the internal affairs of other states or that information of a sensitive nature should be shared."
Chris Disspain, CEO of auDA, told ITWire that the effort is a combination of the ITU warning more power and "for some countries it is about a belief that they can control things more easily if they go through the UN."
Greenpeace and the ITUC wrote to UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon to "express their "deep concern about a potentially very damaging change to the governance of the Internet," ITWire reports.
At a hearing last May of a U.S. House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee, Republicans and Democrats were united in their opposition to any move by Russia and China to transfer control of the Internet to the U.N., according to Steve Elwart of the Koinonia Institute, a subject matter expert for the Department of Homeland Security.
Vinton Cerf, vice president and chief Internet evangelist for Google, told Elwart, "A new international battle is brewing, a battle that will determine the future of the Internet. And if all of us from Capitol Hill to corporate headquarters to Internet cafés in far-off villages don’t pay attention to what is going on, users worldwide will be at risk of losing the open and free Internet that has brought so much to so many and can bring so much more."
The 193-member ITU will meet in December in Dubai at the 12th World Conference on International Telecommunications.