Russia backed by China and India is pushing through a takeover of the internet by a UN supranational agency to make the web truly universal. The aim of the plan is to standardize the behavior of countries concerning information and cyberspace.
Leading emerging economies supported by other United Nations members initiated the discussion around handing over internet regulation to a UN agency. At present it is controlled by private shareholders.
BRICS countries China, Brazil, India and Russia share the belief that the Geneva-based UN agency the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) would do a better job if put in charge of international cyber security, data privacy, technical standards and the global web address system.
This week the US House of Representatives prepares to vote on the proposal and the expectations are, there will be no great uphill struggle.Washington opposed UN regulation of the internet just weeks after the “international code of conduct for information security” was submitted to the General Assembly
Commander of US Cyber Command Army Gen. Keith Alexander said “I'm not for regulating, per se. I'm concerned about it, and this is a tough question.”
Gen. Alexander stressed that instead of expecting action from the UN, sovereign states should better secure critical infrastructure and government networks without official regulation.
The American side admits that the current multi-stakeholder system gives maneuver space to nonprofit organizations worldwide instead of governments. Nonprofits are the indispensable element of American “soft power” over the world and it is highly doubtful they could be sacrificed that easily.
The head of the US Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration Larry Strickling has been categorical, saying in the regulations supposed by the initiative “it is really the governments that are at the table, but the rest of the stakeholders aren’t.”
On April 19, US Congress adopted Resolution 628 “expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States should preserve, enhance, and increase access… to an open, global internet”.
“It is the sense of the House of Representatives that if a resolution calling for endorsement of the proposed international code of conduct for information security or a resolution inconsistent with the principles above comes up for a vote in the United Nations General Assembly or other international organization, the Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations or the United States representative to such other international organization should oppose such a resolution,” the bill announces.
But the International Telecommunication Union is far from giving up. The United Nations agency prepares to hold a vast World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) in December in Dubai where ITU member states will discuss the proposed revisions to the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITR) that might expand the ITU’s mandate to encompass the internet.
The ITR is a legally binding international treaty signed by 178 countries.
Last June, then-PM Vladimir Putin met ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré. The two discussed global access to the benefits of information and communication technologies (ICT). Vladimir Putin announced his support for an internet takeover by the United Nations and backed the International Telecommunication Union.
Recalling that the ITU is one of the oldest international organizations (an extension of the International Telegraph Union established in 1865), Putin said that “Russia was one of its co-founders and intends to be an active member”.
Among many issues on the global agenda that require international cooperation, Putin stressed the importance of the internet in particular.
That was the beginning. Three months later, in September 2011 China, Russia and several other countries submitted to the UN a Document of International Code of Conduct for Information Security.
Drafted as a formal document of the 66th session of the General Assembly, the paper called on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to distribute the document among all UN member states for further discussions within the framework of the United Nations.
This initiative could guarantee a “multilateral, transparent and democratic international management of the internet”, the paper said.