Congress Seeks to Head Off UN Interference in Internet Governance

That's what makes the ITU conference in 2014 so important. If the agency's constitution is rewritten to grant it more powers to regulate the internet -- a near certainty -- all sorts of mischief might follow.

What kinds of mischief? There will be an interim conference prior to the Plenipotentiary Conference next month, and the ITU secretary general has released a report outlining what he wants to accomplish at the meeting:

On January 11, 2013, ITU's Secretary-General Hamadoun Toure released the fourth and final ITU/WTPF-13 report outlining groundwork for Internet governance—and internet regulatory topics— at the February 6-8 and May 14-16 meetings.

The ITU/WTPF-13 report explicitly includes the creation of "Global Principles for the governance and use of the Internet," and resolving issues pertaining to "use of Internet resources for purposes that are inconsistent with international peace, stability and security."

It also redefines the multi-stakeholder definition of Internet governance as currently insufficient because it does not grant governments—now defined by ITU as underrepresented multi-stakeholders—"sufficient" Internet governance power.

Just what is meant by the "use of internet resources that are inconsistent with international peace, stability and security"? I can guarantee you that statement means one thing in China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia and another in Great Britain, France, and the U.S. For one thing, it is an open invitation for governments to censor anything that "disrespects" Islam. For another, it invites censoring political thought at odds with the ruling powers.

Chairman McDowell concluded his congressional testimony with this warning:

And so, I ask you in the strongest terms possible, to take action and take action now.

Two years hence, let us not look back at this moment and lament how we did not do enough.

We have but one chance.

Let us tell the world that we will be resolute and stand strong for Internet freedom. All nations should join us.

Congress -- and the rest of us -- would do well to take his warning to heart.