Free Speech and the UN

There is a carefully sub rosa international attack on free speech in progress, and unless our government takes a more active role than it has been, that attack is going to have very serious negative repercussions right here at home.  Gordon Crovitz described this in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed.

The UN’s International Telecommunications Union is hosting a World Conference on International Telecommunications this December, which will be attended by all 193 of the UN member nations, including the US.  This meeting has been utterly devoid of publicity, and any knowledge we have about the agenda and goals have come to us only through leaks.  But here’s what we know, according to Crovitz.

A 200+ page “planning document” indicates the UN’s goals for the conference, and Eli Dourado, a George Mason University researcher, summarized the document’s contents thusly:

These proposals show that many ITU member states want to use international agreements to regulate the Internet by crowding out bottom-up institutions, imposing charges for international communication, and controlling the content that consumers can access online.

The proposals include the following:

  • give countries authority over “the information and communication infrastructure within their state”
  • require that online companies “operating in their territory” use the Internet “in a rational way”

Since these proposals come from the People’s Republic of China, this means government authorities and government definitions of “rational way.”

Other proposals would actually let the UN regulate Internet content:

  • “protect” against computer malware or spam
  • inspect private communications
  • measure Internet traffic along national borders and bill the originator of the traffic
  • give the UN authority over allocating Internet addresses, replacing ICANN, the self-regulating body that presently ensures the stability of the Internet

These proposals come from Russia and Iran; although amazingly, Europe supports the billing drive (perhaps not so amazingly considering the penchant for government controls that EU member nations have).

So far, our government’s reaction to this assault on free speech—and on American free speech—has been…muted.  The best the Obama administration has been able to do is to mumble about

“unnecessary and beyond the appropriate scope” of UN regulation


the text [of the planning document] suggests that the ITU has a role in content-related issues.  We do not believe it does.

This is a far cry from the bolder response we took took when the UN’s UNESCO became too ideological and not enough concerned with science and education: we cut off funding to the organization.

This administration needs to become a whole lot more forceful in opposing this attempt to grab the Internet and to use that control to stifle free speech.

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