Google asks you to take action against the U.N.

On December 3rd a closed-door meeting will take place in Dubai. In attendance will be members of the United Nation’s International Telecommunications Union. On the agenda will be a proposal, tabled by Russia, for sweeping changes to how the internet operates.

The proposed measure is to add ‘IP-based networks’ to the existing International Telecommunications Regulations, which would in effect transfer all power of governance over the internet from the Internet Society, the W3C and ICANN, to national governments under the umbrella of the U.N.

The exact wording of the proposals is being withheld by the I.T.U. however worrying details are being leaked via the internet.

The first issue that you should be aware of is that if control for the development of web-standards is removed from the W3C and handed to national governments, the development of core internet technologies will no longer be based on technological appropriateness; for example, it is unlikely that HTML5 would have emerged as a web-standard if it was subject to ratification by nearly 200 separate governments, many of which have a long history of selling their votes in exchange for favors elsewhere.

The second issue that is likely to be of concern is that censorship that has previously been limited to two dozen countries could be imposed on the whole internet. Regimes such as Russia, Iran and China would not only be free to censor both incoming and outgoing internet traffic, they would, by law, be supported in that effort by the U.N. and all of its member states.

It is of little surprise that the repressive government in China blocks search results for “Tiananmen Square”. The concern many commentators share is that if the U.N. power grab goes ahead, Chinese officials will have the power to broker deals that will require all U.N. member states to enforce the same censorship.

The U.S. government has expressed serious concern at the proposal. We can expect the U.S. government to defend its citizens’ constitutional right to freedom of speech, however, like all countries at the U.N. assembly, the United States has a single vote. Raising enough support to block moves towards censorship may necessitate substantial compromise elsewhere.

Another aspect of the proposal leaked onto the web is the so-called “sender pays” system. The current I.T.R.s — which cover telegrams and telephone calls — allow nations to charge a set fee to anyone initiating a telephone call to their country; it is the person that makes the call, not the person who receives it that pays the fee. The “sender pays” system would, if introduced, mean that large content providers such as YouTube would be taxed on any data sent to a foreign country. Google would in effect be making 400 million international phone calls everyday.

Author and technology consultant Larry Downes is quoted by as stating that in the 1990s, under the current I.T.R.s, the United States paid $15 billion more for placing international calls than for receiving them. His fear, shared by a growing number of analysts is that web use in the United States and other western nations will be heavily taxed to subsidize web access in developing nations.

But it’s always when the orcs have breached the keep that the Rohirrim ride into view: fresh from its victories over SOPA and PIPA, Google has just launched a campaign to oppose the effective power-grab by the I.T.U. and they want you to get involved.

Google’s #freeAndOpen campaign is seeking to ensure that control of the internet remains where it has been for the last 20 years: with the engineers, technologists, futurologists and visionaries who built it.

Google state that “A free and open world depends on a free and open web” and they’re asking you to register your support for that principle.

In 10 days, the future of our industry; the future of web technologies such as HTML and CSS; the future of web-standards; the future of the content you are able to access online; even the price you pay for that access will all be debated behind closed doors. If we value our international community, now is the time to make our feelings known.

Do you believe the internet should be controlled by governments or non-profit organizations? Would you continue to work on a highly regulated internet? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Featured image/thumbnail, United Nations assembly via Songquan Deng /

  • SBP Romania

    Just watched the video – it is very powerful! although we do need certain laws, such as copyright laws in order to protect rightful authors, i think that everyone should have access to information, and shouldn’t be denied the right to communicate via Internet.

  • David Colgate

    I’m somewhat amazed that there hasn’t been more exposure about this, online or on TV. Maybe there has but I’ve missed it. I truly hope nothing does come of this; I can see it making our lives as Internet professionals extremely difficult, let alone how it will impact everyday users.

    • Benjie

      I presume that that is exactly why Google felt the need to launch the campaign.

  • mediasips

    All the three organizations controlling the internet are essentially in US control. Its about time someone realized that their people’s access to the internet should be controlled by their own Governments instead of the US. what is so wrong about that. Why should a law passed in the US like SOPA or PIPA etc effect the internet access to the rest of the world. Who says US is not censoring the internet….

    • Benjie

      This isn’t about governments controlling access to the internet. It’s about governments controlling every aspect of the internet across not just their own country but the whole globe.

      If the measure is passed and ratified, North Korea will have exactly the same level of control over the internet as the U.S. government, not just in North Korea, but in every country in the world. (That goes for every other country in the U.N.)

      The U.S. does exert disproportionate influence over the internet, however that is due to two things:

      1) The physical infrastructure that enabled the development of the internet was built in America using American taxes.

      2) Most of the big players in the internet world are based in the U.S. and therefore subject to U.S. jurisdiction.

      If other countries wish to take the same level of control, there is nothing preventing them investing in infrastructure and restructuring their economies to encourage entrepreneurship.

      • Lowell Denzel Orlando Richmond

        you fool the US is still in control of the internet and with google getting stronger every month it’s not making things better for US the people

      • Benjie

        I haven’t suggested the U.S. isn’t in control of the internet, quite the opposite. What I’ve tried to argue is that the status quo of the three existing bodies is preferable to multi-national bureaucracy.

        I’m curious why you think that Google “getting stronger every month” (which I think is debatable) is a bad thing for internet users.

    • greekdish

      US isnt censoring anything. Get over yourself. Its controlled by the US because it was created by the US.

  • Ionx Desi

    Follow the money. This meeting is all about funneling and controlling the flow of money. The internet is a cash cow to the people (us), and the governments have struggled to find a way to get the largest chunk of the pie. Of course there are countries that see it more as a threat to their regimes and influence, but they won’t turn down the money either if they can get the firehose pointed at their coffers.

    With all the different legislative acts (SOPA for example) that we’ve seen over the last few years, I fear for my profession as a web developer. How I do business may not be threatened today, but I know it will always be threatened as long as backwards politicians and governments want in on the action.

    • Lowell Denzel Orlando Richmond

      smart man for noticing the UNs pre plan with google which already controls the internet basically in a sense

  • Brad Potter

    Ben Moss has really summed it up, this article is amazing I just come onto this site to read articles and they are spot on most of the time. Thanks Ben!

    • Benjie

      You’re welcome, I’m glad you found it informative.

  • Bill Toth

    Reform needs to happen in internet governance. ICANN etc. all need to be accountable somehow, but it is so much more important that the organizations that govern the internet not be subject to global politics. What can we do to stop this?

    • Benjie

      The first thing you can do is register your support with the Google campaign here: the next thing you can do is call the office of your political representative (regardless of nationality) and ask them to make sure they’re aware of this development.

  • Suraj Vibhute

    One and half week is not enough to aware all internet users. This campaign must be started one month ago, anyways I joined and invited my friends. Let’s see if other big players like Facebook and Mozilla join this movement or not. Thanks for posting!

  • Sandeep

    If Google alone would go on an indefinite strike, the UN will relent in a matter of days.
    We’ve had enough of the world government controlling us.
    Anything left to any government would only make it slow, lethargic and stupid!! This shouldn’t happen.

  • greekdish

    This is just ANOTHER power grab by the UN, all to get us closer to the NWO. This is no conspiracy, as this is pretty well known the UN wants to rule the world. They also want to regulate gun laws, where they are trying to eliminate the 2nd Amendment. This is a fact. Put it all together and its obvious the UN is more brazen with Obambi in charge.

  • Stephen Gibson

    Tbh we are fucked, the goverment gets what they want at the end of the day and are willing to get rid of anyone who gets in the way.

    • danimal

      Only if we allow it, stand up for your rights to freedom, it’s “we the people” not “me the dicktator”

  • La Palisse

    I definitively prefer my Government controlling the information than Google. The Governments are doing people’s interests, Google it’s own.