UN May Implement Treaty Allowing for Digital Censorship

UN May Implement Treaty Allowing for Digital Censorship

December 13th, 2012

New developments at the UN World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in Dubai have upset many nations, as the language of a treaty being updated could allow for censorship of the digital space. The conference is aimed at updating a 1988 global treaty on International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), though many nations, including the United States and many European states, believe the internet is outside of the scope of the WCIT and have refused adding mention or definition of "Internet" to the new treaty.

This sets the international community at odds as a number of governments, including Russia and China, are pushing proposals which might allow more stringent censorship on the web. Mashable reports on the conference, which had an upset yesterday evening.
 
In a last-minute action late Wednesday, the chair of the conference announced he "wanted to have the feel of the room on who will accept" a compromise draft resolution which would allow counties to discuss "international Internet-related technical, development and public policy issues" at United Nations fora, which is exactly the result the United States wants to avoid.
 
Those in favor of the draft proposal raised placards, as one would do at an auction. The chair then asked for "the feel of the room, who is against this resolution." Other placards were raised. Then, after this simple vote, the chair declared "[t]he majority is with having the resolution in" and moved to other business.
 
The process left participants shellshocked and confused. Spain immediately put the process into question. "I would like you to clarify whether the temperature you were taking was simply a taking of the temperature," said the Spanish delegation. "Has it now been interpreted as a vote and had we known that it was a vote, we might very well have acted differently."
 
The chair's response? "It was not a vote, and I was clear about it.”
 
However, the chair's previous declaration that the "majority is with having the resolution in "the updated treaty could easily be interpreted as an official and final statement of fact -- in other words, the result of a vote.
 
In response to the confusion, the United States is now threatening to withdraw support for the conference if it "did not receive concessions on the key sticking points," citing "two people briefed on the situation." Though the draft proposal is not technically official until the whole of the treaty is adopted, it may or may not become official by the end of the week. As the second-to-last day of the conference begins Thursday, those involved with the conference expect the Wednesday controversy to take center stage as partipants seek clarification and understanding.
 

Link to Original Content: