This week sees two international meetings which both contain within them significant threats to internet freedom.
In Dubai, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is meeting, and will be considering changes to the current structure of global internet governance. The ITU is a state-based treaty organisation, that falls within the United Nations system, and has been the governing body for international telecommunications issues since the 19th century, when it was formed as the International Telegraph Union.
The ITU currently has limited powers over the governance of the Internet, and there are a number of member states that would like to change this. Were these proposed changes to be adopted, it would likely mean the end of the multistakeholder, bottom-up policy development processes which have been largely successful in providing stewardship for the internet to this point. These processes are embodied in a number of international bodies, including the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), the Internet Engineering Taskforce (IETF) and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Each of these bodies is open to all comers, including the private sector, civil society and government representatives. The ITU, by contrast, is a secretive organisation which has been largely resistant to civil society involvement, and until very recently was not even willing to publish the proposals that it was to consider at its Dubai meeting.
The ITU proposals could also lead to increases in access costs and could seriously erode online civil liberties.
Many Western governments, including Australia, New Zealand and the European Union have come out strongly against the proposals for the ITU to take over elements of policy-making control for the Internet. The United States government has also been a long-standing supporter of the multistakeholder governance model.
EFA is also a strong supporter of the multistakeholder governance model for the internet and believes that it is essential to maintain the general degree of freedom in terms of speech and ability to innovate that have made the Internet what it is today.
EFA has joined with other international civil society groups to sign the Protect Internet Freedom petition, to campaign against these proposals. Please add your name to it today: www.protectinternetfreedom.net
Also, listen to Triple J's Hack programme from this evening which covered this story, including comments from EFA Executive Officer, Jon Lawrence: podcast here.
Meanwhile, in Auckland, New Zealand, trade negotiators from a range of Pacific rim countries are holding secretive meetings to continue negotiating towards the proposed multilateral Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). The TPPA is a very broad 'free' trade agreement which covers a wide range of subject areas, from agriculture through to digital products and everything in between.
The countries involved in the TPP negotiations are:
- United States
- New Zealand
As we've experienced in the Australia - US Free Trade Agreement, these types of 'free' trade agreements tend to favour the interests of the United States, and there are serious risks of economic and social harm contained within the various chapters being negotiated. As the negotiations themselves are held in secret, the exact state of negotiations is not known, but there have been some leaks of negotiating text that have given cause for serious alarm.
EFA is particularly concerned about the Intellectual Property and e-Commerce chapters, which may result in further erosion of the rights of consumers in TPP countries. The Intellectual Property chapter is believed to contain copyright enforcement mechanisms which go even further than the ACTA agreement which, disappointingly, it appears the Australian government is going to ratify before Christmas. EFA is particularly concerned about the potentially disastrous effects that this chapter could have on the New Zealand economy, and we have therefore joined with our colleagues from InternetNZ in their Fair Deal campaign.
We're also now working with other international civil liberties organisations in the campaign against the TPP Agreement.
Please support these campaigns by signing up at the following websites: