bill-o-drights-1

While some are eager to regulate the Internet, how about regulating the would-be regulators?  The UN finds itself caught in the middle of a whirlpool of a controversy that is most likely to drag down its reputation as contradictory agendas and philosophies regarding the future of the Internet are now being offered. This month a conference has been scheduled in Dubai under the auspices of the United Nations International Telecommunications Union (ITU) – a longstanding institution that has had more success in addressing shared global interests with respect to previous manifestations of the telecommunication revolution, (although one can fairly ask whether the global citizen or governments and their ordained monopolies have benefited more from such intra-border “regulation” and pricing controls).

Case Against Global Regulation:
There are several concerns/complaints regarding the latest version of regulating the Internet, the World Conference on International Communications (WCIT): Some more authoritative governments have apparently sought to employ the WCIT to finally gain control over the content, presumably unfavorable political content now more freely exchanged among citizens. Others see the potential for another parasitic evolution – consumers paying favored monopolies for the privilege of what has been a largely borderless and free Internet. Perhaps the consideration that has raised the greatest ire is the asserted lack of transparency. The case against the WCIT is more thoroughly elaborated upon in the article linked: “UN Agency’s Leaked Playbook – Panic, Chaos Over Anti-Internet Treaty” by Larry Downes http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrydownes/2012/11/26/un-agencys-leaked-playbook-panic-chaos-over-internet-treaty/3/

Cyber Security & Projected Threats?
No doubt there are legitimate concerns regarding the abuse of the Internet for criminal and/or terror purposes. However, security has been abused as pretext ever more to subdue dissent and squelch freedom of expression. Internet exploitation for crime/terror has become an ever more frequent concern offered within western democracies – unlawful intrusions and hacking into personal, business and government Internet accounts. “Cyber-security” has become both a catch phrase and rapidly growing business. Warnings that entire economies and electronic grid systems can be shot down via cyber space are part of the political discourse and marketing of new services. Regardless though of how valid and sincere perception of such threats, progressive and authoritarian governments may be seduced also by the prospect of greater regulation over the Internet for the sake of control. While cyber security threats are debated, China and other authoritarian governments have evidenced how much a real threat “control” can be to personal freedoms and individual security.

Narrowing the “Digital Divide”:
The United Nations Secretary General has framed the debate in Dubai in terms of access: “A digital divide has no place in the information age and 21st-century knowledge economy. Our overall objective must be to ensure universal access to information and communication technology – including for the two-thirds of the world’s population currently not online. “Information and communications technologies are transforming our world, opening doors, educating and empowering people, saving lives. Mr. Ban also highlighted the effects of social media and technology in driving the Arab Spring protests and similar democratization efforts around the world. We must continue to work together and find consensus on how to effectively keep cyberspace open, accessible, affordable and secure for all.” I have no reason to doubt the UN Secretary General’s word. However, there is no doubt that some governments/regimes would usurp an agenda slated for the empowerment of global citizens to gain greater control for their much narrower and at times anti-democratic objectives.

“Bill of Rights” before Shared Security/Efficacy? – A Lesson from History
Whether the time has come for greater international regulation over the Internet under UN auspices can be debated further; however, it is from perspective of the global citizen paramount to start with regulation of the regulators. The greatest threat may come from those who would assure us that they act in our immediate interest, great or small. It is no coincidence that after the American Colonies liberated themselves from the British, some of the framers of American Independence perceived the next great potential threat to their newly won freedoms coming from the very new federal and state governments they had helped empower. The major architect of American liberties, George Mason, refused to sign the new US Constitution, designed to address the need for greater efficacy and defense, unless and until a “Bill of Rights” was incorporated.

Before we speak of greater cyber space security, efficacy and regulation we must first define, debate and adopt an “Internet Bill of Rights.”  

By,  Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey

Facebook Become a Friend:  “Susan Sacirbey”

Twitter: Follow us @DiplomaticallyX
PHOTO: Courtesy of geekosystem.com

Advertisements