Russia is relentlessly pushing a plan to revolutionize the governance of the internet. Working behind the scenes, Russia is scheming to place control of crucial aspects of the internet under the auspices of the UN’s International Telecommunications Union.
The Russian Federation is calling on the United Nations to take over key aspects of Internet governance, including addressing and naming, according to documents leaked on Friday from an upcoming treaty conference.
The Russians made their proposal on November 13 in the lead-up to December’s World Conference on International Communications in Dubai. The conference will consider revisions to the International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs), a treaty overseen by the UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The treaty has not been revised since 1988, before the emergence of the commercial Internet.
Russia’s proposals would, if adopted, dramatically affect Internet governance, transferring power from engineering-based organizations such as the Internet Society and ICANN to national governments, all under the authority of the UN.
There are 193 Member States participating in the WCIT. Each gets a single vote on proposed changes to the treaty. The treaty negotiations and its documents are secret, though many have been exposed through the Web site WCITLeaks, run by two researchers at George Mason University.
“The [proposed] additions to the ITRs…are aimed at formulating an approach that views the Internet as a global physical telecommunications infrastructure, and also as a part of the national telecommunications infrastructure of each Member State,” the Russian proposal says.
Russians propose bringing “IP-Based Networks” under UN control
Currently, the ITRs cover only international telecommunications services (PDF). But the Russians propose adding a new section to the treaty to deal explicitly with “IP-based networks.” Bringing the Internet into the treaty in any capacity would represent a major expansion of the scope of the ITU’s authority.
A congerie of the world’s civil liberties lovelies, including Iran and China as well as Russia, is pushing this initiative. If that doesn’t engender warm and fuzzy feelings, what will? What could possibly go wrong?
A word to the wise: putting anything under the auspices of the UN is to surrender it to the control of autocrats and kleptocrats, and autocratic kleptocrats. Where the UN treads, freedom dies.
There is no surprise that Russia, China, Iran and the other assorted modern day fascists want to control the internet. Where information is free, autocrats are vulnerable. Control of information is necessary to maintain control of power-and the spoils that go along with it.
On the surface, it’s all about protecting Russian kids from internet pedophiles. In reality, the Kremlin’s new “Single Register” of banned websites, which goes into effect today, will wind up blocking all kinds of online political speech. And, thanks to the spread of new internet-monitoring technologies, the Register could well become a tool for spying on millions of Russians.
Signed into law by Vladimir Putin on July 28, the internet-filtering measure contains a single, innocuous-sounding paragraph that allows those compiling the Register to draw on court decisions relating to the banning of websites. The problem is, the courts have ruled to block more than child pornographers’ sites. The judges have also agreed to online bans on political extremists and opponents of the Putin regime.
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Most importantly, however, the new Roskomnadzor system introduces DPI (deep packet inspection) on a nationwide scale. Although DPI is not mentioned in the law, the Ministry of Communications — along with the biggest internet corporations active in Russia — concluded in August that the only way to implement the law was through deep packet inspection.
In other words: all your packets belong to us.
The invocation of child pornography to justify these efforts is typically cynical. Russia has long been the largest producer and exporter of child pornography (not to mention virtually every other species of internet crime), and hasn’t done a damn thing about it. Presumably because those who produce it and export it have paid well for the requisite krysha. The interests of the state and the criminals are aligned.
Presumably-hopefully-the US will fight these efforts to extend the UN’s malign influence to the internet. But if the Russian initiative succeeds-or even portions of it are implemented-do not believe for a moment that the USG will not take advantage of the powers it would confer. Have any doubts about that? Just look at the Petraeus-Broadwell episode, in which a ditzy socialite can call a self-righteous FBI agent friend who unleashes a efishing expedition and leaks the results to a Congressman when the investigation doesn’t proceed as he thinks it should, thereby unleashing a personal and national security nightmare.
I began to write about Russia precisely because it is a real life libertarian dystopia, and as such should serve as a warning to those who have been heretofore able to maintain some semblance of civil liberties and property rights (a redundancy, actually, because property rights are the foundation to civil rights). But we in the West, and in the US are specifically, are converging to Russia from above. There are aspects of the Benghazi debacle that provide further evidence of that convergence. More on that soon.