US, UK refuse to sign internet treaty

Following widespread criticism, the UN has failed to win consensus on its planned internet regulation treaty.

Countries including Canada, the UK and Australia joined the US in refusing to sign the treaty, which they say would open the gates for government control over the internet.

It’s come under fire from everyone from the FCC and Google to human rights organizations and hacking group Team GhostShell – even EC vice president and commissioner for the digital agenda Neelie Kroes has described it as unnecessary.

The aim at the Dubai meeting this week has been to update the 24-year-old International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), which regulate international routing and billing of telecoms and internet services.

But many see it as the thin end of the wedge, whereby repressive regimes could use it to legitimize censorship, as it included measures that would allow countries to access international telecoms services and block spam.

Several countries asked that the draft be amended to remove content-related aspects of the treaty, to specify that only technical network infrastructure was covered.

The countries that have refused to sign the treaty in its present form – which also include Denmark, Norway and Cost Rica, will now continue to be bound by the 1988 version of the treaty.

Dr Hamadoun I Touré, secretary general of the ITU, is not a happy man.

“The new ITR treaty does NOT cover content issues and explicitly states in the first article that content-related issues are not covered by the treaty. Likewise, in the preamble of the new text signatory Member States undertake to renew their commitment and obligation to existing human rights treaties,” he says.


“The word ‘internet’ was repeated throughout this conference and I believe this is simply a recognition of the current reality – the two worlds of telecommunications and Internet are inextricably linked.”