UN and ITU intensify battle for control of the internet

By Graeme Burton
27 Nov 2012 View Comments

Writing recently in the New York Times, internet legend Vint Cerf wrote: "The 'net prospered precisely because governments – for the most part – allowed the Internet to grow organically, with civil society, academia, private sector and voluntary standards bodies collaborating on development, operation and governance. In contrast, the ITU creates significant barriers to civil society participation."

Further reading

In the past, a failure to reach unanimous agreement at the ITU has resulted in vague "agreements to cooperate", rather than binding global agreements.

Underscoring concerns about a political takeover of the internet another UN agency, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) 2012, was hosted in Baku, Azerbaijan, a country effectively controlled by the Aliyev family under one of the most repressive regimes in the world.

The IGF was founded by the United Nations with the aim of fostering "bring[ing] people together from various stakeholder groups as equals, in discussions on public policy issues relating to the Internet".

The UN stakes its claim to the internet under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on freedom of opinion and expression, despite the fact that a majority of UN members manifestly do not respect freedom of opinion and expression, while those that do are arguably going backwards.

And hosting an IGF summit in Azerbaijan, of all places, underlines just how much respect both the UN and the IGF actually accords such high ideals.

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