At the ongoing International Telecommunications Union conference in Dubai, bureaucrats from 193 countries are rewriting the obscure UN legislation that oversees how the Internet works. The conference turned into a three-way showdown between authoritarian states such as Russia and China, web giants such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon, and the United States. While the U.S. government seeks to keep the current status quo, authoritarian states hope to centralize control of the Internet in non-U.S. hands and make censorship easier; Facebook, Amazon, Yandex and other web giants are hoping that new proposals will be amenable towards greater (profit-generating) decentralization.
Yesterday, a surprise proposal was backed by Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia that would allow governments to block censored web locations entirely within their countries’ borders. The proposal would also shift control of domain names away from American-based non-profit ICANN to the United Nations.
U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer recently spoke about the proposed changes; Russia has been vocal about creating new controls for the Internet and recently introduced domain-blocking legislation aimed at child porn sites, pro-drug abuse sites, and web forums belonging to Russia’s political opposition.