Keeping Governments from Controlling the Internet: Why Geneva Matters

BY CCIA Staff
February 15, 2012

Geneva is the epicenter of intergovernmental processes that have a key impact on the future of the Internet.  As the only ICT sector trade association in Geneva, CCIA Geneva is in a great position to help ensure that governments like China, Russia, South Africa, and India which use these processes to push for an Internet managed by governments aren’t successful.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is a key battleground: long known as a place where essential standards for telecommunications are developed, in recent years it has moved aggressively to expand its remit into Internet governance, using hot-button issues like cybercrime and Internet porn in a cynical game to scare member-states into deciding that the ITU is the institution most capable of addressing their security needs.

Russia, with the help of China, North Korea, Iran and other notably un-free countries, has been suggesting a ‘cyber arms control’ treaty. The objective, though, is not just to reduce cyber warfare by states, but as a way for states to have international legal ‘cover’ to declare information they don’t like as a danger to the state and therefore the equivalent of ‘cyber warfare’ so they can censor it. The World Affairs Journal has a great article on this here.

This is part of a larger struggle for control of the management of the Internet. The Economist has an excellent article “A Plaything of Powerful Nations” on why governance by all stakeholders, not just governments, is essential.  Also by the Economist, “In Praise of Chaos” outlines why the Internet Governance Forum, a key venue for international discussion on Internet policy and governance, is so important.

The process of planning the 10-year anniversary of the World Summit for the Information Society (WSIS) begins in 2012 in Geneva, and the head of the ITU has said privately that he wants the outcome of that conference to be a ‘Code of Conduct’ for the Internet similar to what China and Russia proposed in 2011 at the UN General Assembly. This ArsTechnica article gives you a good overview of that proposal and its dangers.

2012 is also the year a major ITU conference will be held, the WorldConference On International Telecommunications (WCIT) will be held and again all the planning is in Geneva. WCIT is being used by countries (again including China and Russia) to try to “significantly expand the jurisdiction and legal authority of the ITU, even potentially giving this United Nations agency greater influence over … major telecoms issues such as accounting rates and termination charges for next-generation networks, data privacy, cybersecurity, international mobile roaming, and equipment specifications” according to former US Ambassador David Gross. He and a colleague have written an excellent introduction to WCIT and why it is so important to the ICT sector which you can find here.

The Internet is the key to our sector’s future. We cannot leave it to other stakeholders to defend our interests: we have to do that ourselves. Geneva-based activities must be a key part of that effort.

Related Articles

CCIA, NetChoice Ask To Block Texas Social Media Law From Taking Effect During Appeal

Sep 29, 2022

Washington – The Computer & Communications Industry Association has asked a federal appeals court to prevent Texas’s controversial social media law from taking effect ahead of a potential Supreme Court hearing of the case. CCIA along with its partner NetChoice argue that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling is likely to be overturned because…

CCIA Statement On ITU Electing Longtime Veteran To Lead UN Agency

Sep 29, 2022

Washington – The International Telecommunications Union, an agency of the United Nations that facilitates standards for international communications and spectrum coordination, has elected its new Secretary General at a meeting in Bucharest. American Doreen Bogdan-Martin, who brings three decades of telecommunications experience to the ITU, will be the first female leader of the ITU. The…

CCIA Statement on Florida’s Petition To U.S. Supreme Court In Social Media Law Case

Sep 21, 2022

Washington – Florida has filed a legal brief asking the Supreme Court to hear the case challenging its social media law, which an appeals court struck down in May as unconstitutional. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled unanimously in a 3-0 decision that Florida’s social media censorship law violated the First…