[bestbits] Fwd: [] US, UK and Canada refuse to sign UN's internet treaty

Avri Doria avri at acm.org
Sat Dec 15 02:33:12 EST 2012

Sent this message to another list, but it is something I wanted to say on these list.

Begin forwarded message:

> From: Avri Doria <avri at acm.org>
> Subject: Re: [] US, UK and Canada refuse to sign UN's internet treaty
> Date: 15 December 2012 08:30:15 GMT+01:00

I can't speak to why the US and other democracies did not sign not the other treaties and the fact the US republicans filibustered  its own laws made treaty in the Treaty on the Disabled.  But since I was in Dubai and immersed in this process, I will try to speak to this situation somewhat. 

In this case, the ITR treaty, was seen as  threatening the Internet and Internet governance in some ways, especially with regard to Internet content and the scope of Member State and ITU control over the Internet.  I know that Milton and Fadí beleive this is not the case, and I will admit that the attacks are not as blatant as was expected, but I agree with the decision by many governments, including my own governments decision to not sign, and thus disagree with the analysis of these august gentlemen.

For me one the major issues related to the security and robustness of the Internet being a Member State responsibility.  


Security and robustness of networks

41B             Member States shall individually and collectively endeavour to ensure the security and robustness of international telecommunication networks in order to achieve effective use thereof and avoidance of technical harm thereto, as well as the harmonious development of international telecommunication services offered to the public.

First what is security at the telecommunication layer other that robustness?  And what does it mean to apply this security not only to the physical network but also to harmonious development...  The worst power of the ITRs is what they allow Member States to do inside their countries with permission of international law.  Also what is envisioned in the collective endeavor. To what extent does this empower one country to impose on the legal system of another country to support its laws concerning the security, i.e harmony, of its network development?

It does not take much imagination to see  the future actions of repressive states with regard to their power to protect the security of the network from disharmony.  Yes, it is less than these governments wanted, but it is yet another step forward toward government control of the network - especially since for most of those nations Internet is infrastructure and the ITRs are about infrastructure.  It is only a small abstraction that, while not made in the ITRs, has been made by them and can be seen in their reservations.

I also see threat in the article on spam, even though they have named it euphemistically: Unsolicited bulk electronic communications

Unsolicited bulk electronic communications
41C             Member States should endeavour to take necessary measures to prevent the propagation of unsolicited bulk electronic communications and minimize its impact on international telecommunication services.
Member States are encouraged to cooperate in that sense.
True this is not as bad as unwanted Spam, which could mean anything, since Spam cannot be defined without reference to content.  But even this: has this criminalized political statements sent to mailing lists?  Will a sender potentially need to prove that every recipient solicited the mailing.  Or will this feed into new crimes being defined in Russia and elsewhere that all email on LGBTQIA.+ event criminal propaganda.  Remember we can't even prove that every email sent on this list is solicited.  And will the general reference bulk electronic communication extend this to beyond just the consideration of email?  What about SMS and other tools used in events such as the Arab spring - what can potentially be deemed illegal based on this article.  remains to be sen, but it is a dangerous open door on repression of communications.

I also have a problem with the preeminent place they have created for ITU-T protocols.  True they did not go as far as initially proposed and state that only UTU-T protocols could be used, but they went far enough making the use of ITU-T recommendations something that must be taken into account. Specifically: "taking due account of the relevant ITU-T Recommendations."  A step too far in my estimation especially if you take into account the recommendations that came out of WTSA, including the approval of DPI standards.  We have to take WTSA and WCIT, and in fact the upcoming WTPF as a progression of events and look at the effects with a comppound perspective.

Some will argue that these are not binding on member States, and that is true.  My issues, and the issue of many governments, is not that all states will be bound by these (except [perhaps those that require collective endeavor), but that many States will use these as their legal bulwark for repressive acts that threaten the freedom of the Internet.

I am also concerned with its scope, While Authorized Operating Agencies (AOA), a new term that is as of yet untested, and is not as broad as Operating Agency (OA) that would have allowed regulation of every infrastructure company, it is not as restricted as the Recognized Operating Agency (ROA).  Some have argued that  AOA is as restricted as ROA, yet logic demands the question that if AOA is the same as ROA, why did it need to be changed.  There is extra scope in AOA which remains to be discovered in practice.

Beyond that, while not binding on governments, 

To foster an enabling environment for the greater growth of the Internet

Gives the iTU marching orders on Internet governance.  While the ITRs themselves did not mention the Internet, this resolution did, in a big way.  With a statements  like:

instructs the Secretary-General
1                 to continue to take the necessary steps for ITU to play an active and constructive role in the development of broadband and the multistakeholder model of the Internet as expressed in § 35 of the Tunis Agenda;

We can expect to see a much stronger presence of the ITU everywhere.  I even would bet that Fadí will be seeing a lot more of his good friend Hamadoun.  And I expect the encroachment of the ITU on the IGF and all things Internet governance to continue unabated.  ICANN may be safe for the moment, but the rest of the Internet ecosystem is certainly not.

So not this wasn't the horror we expected.  The governments did a fine job of negotiating this back, and I think without the attached resolution might have taken their chances on the other stuff, no matter how nervous it makes me and some of them.  But the resolution that gives the ITU extra responsibilities for governance of the Internet broke the sense of an acceptable agreement.  

There is a lot of good stuff in this treaty for roaming, for  emergency services, for landlocked countries and for accessibility, and I expect that these will be adhered to de-facto by most of the non-signatories (though some like Chile may not adhere to new regulation on landlocked countries and the US may not adhere to the new rules on roaming).

And I expect (purely a personal prediction) that if something can be done about the Internet resolution in the Plenipot in 2014, more countries will sign on to the treaty before 2015 when if goes into effect.  the story is not over by a long shot, just this episode.


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