Civil Society concerns over Internet regulation and ITU

By EDRi · May 23, 2012

With the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) to
take place during 3-14 December 2012 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and
the World Summit on the Information Society Forum (WSIS) 2012 having
taken place in Geneva between 14-18 May 2012, a large group of human
rights advocates, freedom of expression groups, academics and
organisations of the civil society all over the world, including EDRi,
drafted a letter raising several concerns related to the preparation

The letter of 17 May 2012, addressed to WCIT organiser, the
International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Council Working Group
to Prepare for the WCIT-12 and to ITU member states, is asking for more
transparency and expresses the wish of the signatories to participate in
the preparation process for WCIT.

In the groups’ opinion, the present preparatory process “lacks the
transparency, openness of process, and inclusiveness of all relevant
stakeholders that are imperative under commitments made at the World
Summit on Information Society (WSIS).”

Although the Tunis Agenda for the Information Society urges
international organizations “to ensure that all stakeholders,
particularly from developing countries, have the opportunity to
participate in policy decision-making … and to promote and facilitate
such participation,” the group considers there has been little
participation by civil society in the Council Working Group’s
preparatory process for the WCIT so far.

During the WCIT in December, there will be a renegotiation of the ITU’s
underlying treaty, the International Telecommunications Regulations
(ITRs). Presently, the ITRs do not address Internet technical
standards, infrastructure, or content. What we have now is a
decentralized system in which governments, industry, engineers and civil
society have the opportunity to participate in standards and policy
development. OECD member states have recently adopted a set of Internet
Policymaking Principles that backs up the existing model.

There are however states such as Russia or China, which advocate for
the expansion of ITRs to include Internet regulation, which would
fundamentally change the Internet governance, affecting freedom of
expression, access to information and privacy rights, thus undermining
the use of the Internet as a platform for innovation, economic and
human development.

The civil society’s participation in the current process is limited by
restrictions on sharing of preparatory documents, high barriers for ITU
membership (including cost), and lack of mechanisms for remote
participation in preparatory meetings.

The letter therefore asks for the removal of the restrictions on the
sharing of WCIT documents and the release of “all preparatory materials,
including the Council Working Group’s final report, consolidated reports
from all preparatory activity, and proposed revisions to the
International Telecommunication Regulations”.

It also asks for the participation of the civil society, “in its
own right and without cost at Council Working Group meetings and the
WCIT itself”, with formal speaking opportunities and the facilitation of
remote participation as much as possible. Open public processes at the
national level in the Member States are also required “to solicit input
on proposed amendments to the International Telecommunication
Regulations from all relevant stakeholders, including civil society, and
release individual proposals for public debate.”

Some of the proposals that would allow the ITU and its governments to
exert unprecedented regulatory control over the Internet include a
governmental regulation of IP-traffic routing, content-related proposals
referring also to “information security” and online child protection
issues, the expansion of the scope of the ITRs to cover any entity that
operates a telecommunications installation, the mandatory compliance
with technical standards developed by the ITU and the expansion of the
ITRs to address issues of cybercrime and cybersecurity.

“Beyond the creaking bureaucracy, the undemocratic procedures and the
fact that the ITU effectively sells access to decision-makers through
exorbitant corporate membership fees, the single biggest practical
problem with the ITU is that it moves extremely slowly and cannot
readily remedy any mistakes that it makes. Any damaging policy adopted
under this process will burden global freedom of communications for
years to come,” stated Joe McNamee, EDRi Advocacy Coordinator.

Letter from Civil Society to the World Conference on International
Telecommunications (WCIT) raising concerns with the engagement process

Letter for Civil Society Involvement in WCIT (17.05.2012)

Keep the Internet Open (16.05.2012)

Civil Society Must Have Voice as ITU Debates the Internet (16.05.2012)

Hey ITU Member States: No More Secrecy, Release the Treaty Proposals

EFF Joins Coalition Denouncing Secretive WCIT Planning Process (17.05.2012)

Article 19 Statement – ITU: Greater transparency and participation
needed in WCIT 2012 (18.05.2012)