Representatives from around the world will meet in Dubai in December to update the International Telecommunications Regulations treaty for the first time since 1988.
As part of the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union, officials from 193 countries will have a say in the future of the international governing of communication exchange methods.
According to The Hill, the two-week negotiations have a lot at stake:
“Observers say some of the proposals put forward by countries for the treaty conference could threaten Internet freedom, encourage online censorship and expand a United Nations agency’s authority over the Internet.”
U.S. officials are already nervous about the proposals they say will expand the scope of the treaty to regulate the exchange of information on the Internet.
Ambassador Terry Kramer, who will lead the 95-member U.S. team of delegates, has said that countries like China and Iran will propose language that makes it possible to engage in online censorship and government monitoring of the Web’s traffic. The countries proposing the changes said they are intended to protect against cyber attacks, spam and child pornography.
Along with trade and advocacy groups, industry representatives from Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Verizon, AT&T and Cisco will join members of the Obama administration as U.S. delegates during the conference.
Last week, the search giant Google launched a worldwide campaign to raise awareness about the meeting. Using the hashtag #freeandopen, the company promoted a video via social media with a petition to get involved.
“A free and open world depends on a free and open Internet,” the petition says. “Governments alone, working behind closed doors, should not direct its future. The billions of people around the globe who use the Internet should have a voice.”
The International Telecommunications Union said there has been a lot of misinformation in the media about the treaty.
Union spokeswoman Sarah Parkes told The Hill that claims that the treaty will promote censorship and threaten free speech online are unfounded because the “protection of people and their right to communicate online is already enshrined in treaties that take precedence over anything that we will discuss in Dubai.”