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UN Internet talks fail after Britain and US refuse to sign treaty

Last Updated: Friday, December 14, 2012 - 13:05

London: The British and American Governments have refused to sign a new UN telecoms treaty, over concerns that the clauses supported by China could lead to greater online censorship.

The British delegation called the proposals, meant to update an international telecoms agreement signed in 1988, “a bad agreement that does nobody any favours and makes nobody happy”.

The Americans said the draft treaty was an attempt to increase official influence online at the expense of the existing ‘multi-stakeholder’ model of Internet governance, whereby private firms, NGOs and other organisations have equal sway, the Telegraph reports.

“Today, we`re in a situation where we still have text and resolutions that cover issues on spam and also provisions on internet governance,” Terry Kramer, the US ambassador to the World Conference on International Telecommunications, said.

“But the United States continues to believe that Internet policy must be multi-stakeholder driven. Internet policy should not be determined by Member States, but by citizen, communities, and broader society,” he said.

“Such consultation from the private sector and civil society is paramount. This has not happened here,” he added.

According to the report, after governments of both the countries said they would not sign the proposed treaty, a series of Western nations, including Canada, New Zealand and Sweden, also declared they would not sign.

It means that the countries will reject the proposed treaty on the last day of the talks in Dubai.

An array of less controversial issues, such as mobile roaming rates, will therefore also remain unsettled, the report said.

The rejections will, however, gratify web firms such as Google, which campaigned against any treaty that would bring the Internet under the influence of the UN, the report added.

According to the report, Britain and the United States feared regulations around spam email could be used as a Trojan horse for restrictions on all sorts of content.

“We all agreed that content was not intended to be part of the [treaty], but content issues keep coming up,” the British delegation, led by Simon Towler, a senior official in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, said.

China, Russia Iran and their allies also objected to language supported by the West that would have introduced human rights around telecoms access to the treaty. They argued that states have rights too, the report added.


First Published: Friday, December 14, 2012 - 12:56
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