Russia, the UAE and several other nations have proposed at a U.N. conference in Dubai to restructure the governance of the Internet and place it under state control with authorization for extensive surveillance and censorship.
The nations have proposed that all member nations of the U.N. shall have “equal rights to manage the Internet” and want this stated in an international communications treaty, the BBC reported Monday.
The U.S., on the other hand, wants to limit how the Web features in the treaty's regulations, the report said.
Washington says the proposal to place state control on the Internet would aid censorship, adding that its view is backed by many countries in the Europe, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific.
The 11-day conference, seeking to update codes last reviewed when the Web was in its nascent stage, began last Monday with worries that it would turn out to be a battlefield for opposing sides to argue over new Internet regulation proposals.
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The 123-member U.S. congregation, with envoys from technology firms including Google and Microsoft, had earlier expressed concern that potential security oversights could be exploited by nations, including Russia and China, in stepping up censorship and crushing dissent.
The agenda for the gathering of more than 1,900 participants from 193 nations comprises possible new rules for a broad range of services such as the Internet, mobile roaming fees and satellite and fixed-line communications, according to an Associated Press report.
A message on the main search page of Google with a link for comments directed to the Dubai conference said: "Love the free and open Internet? Tell the world's governments to keep it that way.”
Though there were reports of an impending clash between the interests of the U.S. and Russia ahead of the conference, a document including a section dedicated to the internet, passed to the conference's organizer, the U.N.'s International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Friday proved that Moscow’s stance on Internet regulation was supported by several others.
The 22-page document, published on Wcitleaks — a website dedicated to leaked documents relating to the conference — said it was drawn up by Russia, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Sudan.
Though Egypt was named in the document, the head of the Egyptian delegation issued a statement Sunday saying it did not support the proposals.
Under a section titled "Internet" the document says the member states “shall have the sovereign right to establish and implement public policy, including international policy, on matters of Internet governance, and to regulate the national Internet segment, as well as the activities within their territory of operating agencies providing Internet access or carrying Internet traffic.”
The proposal also states that member states should have equal right to manage "internet numbering, naming, addressing and identification resources.” In the current system, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) — the body responsible for regulating the Internet's address system — is managed by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Tariq Al Awadhi, head of the Arab States delegation, defended expanding ITU’s mandate to include Internet, saying the move was not aimed at censorship and control.