The US, UK, Canadian and Australian refusal to sign the UN Internet treaty

Over the last twenty years the Internet has been described as a world library and is known to contribute to access to wide access of various types of information. Early December 2012 brought in a debate of whether the control of the Internet shall be granted to nation-state government or whether the Internet shall be kept free from control.

The controversial conference that took place in Dubai, brought in mixed feelings as the world’s biggest states such as US and UK refused to sign the International Communications Treaty. While major European states are against the idea, on the other hand Russia, China and Arab states strongly are in favour of government control. The UK and US prefer the freedom of the Internet and claim the censorship will result in lack of freedom of expression, thus have embraced a hands-off approach.

But according to the UN telecommunication body, they claim that the major states fail to understand the whole purpose and objectives of the UN International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The ITU main objective is to fight spam and cyber fraud in order to regulate the international Internet network under the UN body and to ensure that the global interconnection is made easier, efficient and available to the public worldwide. It is not there to “hijack the internet”.

However, there is the fear of removal of ‘legitimate expression’ if the control of the Internet is given to the government. This is especially true in some Arab countries where government have controlled all the Internet connections. Such freedom of expression is seen as a criminal offence in some areas of the Arab world and citizens can be arrested and subjected to torture if views against the regime are made.

The UN body and the international body have guaranteed that legitimate expression will remain along with the protections of basic human rights are maintained globally. But despite the promise on paper it has not shifted the opinion of US, UK, Australian and Canadian to ratify the UN Internet treaty, which is further supported by Google whom ran a petition against the treaty.

After two long weeks of negotiations among the global community it seems that there is a division. It seems that the US, UK, Canada and Australia are firm within their decision of a hands-off approach to the Internet and will not be shifting their decision on the freedom of the internet any time soon or at all.

As for the states in favour of the ITU it can be argued that this is another form of censorship upon the people of the state, where undoubtedly freedom of expression, fundamental human rights will be taken away that will bring about another debate of the denial of democracy.

In conclusion, it seems we will not hear the last of this topic. The coming of the New Year will mean the revisiting of the ITU and it is very likely disputes will follow.

BY: Pammie Hasinae