The June 12 Our View, “Keep U.N. Hands off the Internet,” regrettably misleads the reader, creating a misperception that the United Nations is taking unilateral action to censor and control the Internet. Nothing could be further from the truth.
While the editorial begins by identifying that select nations — namely, Russia and China — have expressed a desire to amend the U.N.’s International Telecommunication Union treaty, the headline would imply that action is being taken institutionally by the U.N. or ITU. This error fuels a dangerous myth about the ITU, its work, and the intentions of the U.N.
In fact, the U.S. and U.N. are on the same page when it comes to Internet regulation — meaning there is no interest in assigning the ITU broader authority over Internet governance or regulation. What’s more, due to the decentralized nature of Internet infrastructure and governance, it would be a technical impossibility for one entity to do so.
The ITU is emphatic that it does not seek authority to regulate the Internet. On the heels of his first election as secretary-general of the ITU, Hamadoun Touré explicitly stated that, “we are not talking about ITU taking over governance.”
The ITU brings many voices to the table, and not all of them agree. U.N. treaties, like any that would relate to Internet regulation, are generally negotiated under the principle of consensus, meaning that every country must agree, or at least not object, to proposals in order for them to pass. Because of strong opposition from the U.S. and other nations to efforts to fundamentally change the nature of Internet governance, the reality is that any such proposals would be non-starters.
Any headline to suggest the U.N. has the support or capacity to govern the Internet misrepresents the story and misinforms the public.
President, Davis chapter United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA)