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Protecting Internet Freedom

Dec 20, 2012 | Blog

Earlier today, I had a chance to meet with Terry Kramer, the U.S. ambassador to the recently concluded World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT), and thank him for his work at WCIT and for his commitment to Internet freedom. 

At this conference overseen by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), 193 countries convened to review and update rules governing international telecommunications. Going into the conference, I expressed my concern that some countries would try to use the opportunity to gain greater regulatory control over the Internet and to fundamentally change the current governance model that has allowed the Internet to thrive.  As last week’s developments show, my concerns were correct.  The U.S. ultimately decided not to sign the treaty because it broadened the scope of the ITU’s rules to include the Internet, and as I expressed to Ambassador Kramer today, I am pleased that the U.S. did so.   

Not surprisingly, this proposal was ultimately endorsed by countries such as China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Cuba – countries that will continue to call for more government control over the Internet.  When it comes to preserving Internet freedom, that is certainly not the type of company the U.S. should be keeping. What is more troubling is that many countries that claim to support Internet freedom also endorsed this treaty.

This should serve as a wake-up call to anyone who thinks Internet freedom is assured and under no threat.  The recent conference clearly shows there are enemies of freedom trying to gain legitimacy to their efforts to censor freedom of expression and to gain greater control the Internet.  It also confirms that work still needs to be done to show some of our allies and other developing countries how freedom and multi-stakeholder governance have enabled the Internet to thrive. We need to maintain our vigilance and strong advocacy in favor of a truly open and free Internet accessible to all.