An Alliance of Western democracies including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada has rejected a proposed treaty over concerns it hands repressive governments too much authority over the Internet.
Ambassador Terry Kramer, head of the U.S. delegation to the Dubai summit “This conference was never meant to focus on Internet issues and the Internet has given the world unimaginable economic and social benefit during these past 24 years — all without U.N. regulation.”
Delegates from the Netherlands, New Zealand, Denmark, Sweden, the Philippines, Poland, and the Czech Republic also said they could not sign the proposed International Telecommunication Union treaty, which is scheduled to be finished by today. Kenya’s delegate appeared to take the same position, saying “we reserve our rights” to “go back home and do more consultations” before signing, and India has signaled it agrees with the U.S. position. Japan’s delegation said needed to consult with Tokyo before proceeding.
Deep divisions became apparent over the mere mention of “human rights obligations” in the treaty — a proposal that China and Iran opposed — and whether the U.N. was the proper organization to oversee key decisions about how the Internet should be managed. Currently groups including the Internet Engineering Task Force and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, fulfill that role.
Canada said it was forced to reject the proposed treaty because of its commitment to an Internet “in which people are free to participate, communicate, organize and exchange information.
At least a dozen nations, especially the United States, has likely doomed the entire summit, which was convened to draft a new treaty, unless a competing alliance including China and Algeria are willing to offer a dramatic last-minute compromise. ITU secretary general Hamadoun Touré said in September that “no proposal is going to be passed if it does not have very wide support from all involved.”