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Russia Advocates State Regulation of the Web, Then Pulls Back

BY Julia Wetherell | Tuesday, December 11 2012

WCIT 2012 panel (credit: Flickr/ITU Pictures)

A Russian-led proposal intended to give world governments regulatory power over the Internet has been effectively withdrawn, says the International Telecommunications Union. The plan was presented at the UN World Conference on International Telecommunications, held in Dubai this past week, where members of the ITU are renegotiating an upgrade its 1988 communications treaty.

Russia has previously clamped down on its sprawling Internet culture this year by restricting children under 18 from using public WiFi and apparently banning YouTube for a few frenzied minutes. The country’s coalition at the WCIT was purportedly joined by China, the UAE, Algeria, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia in its effort to grant member states greater influence over online activity. US officials balked at several measures in the document — which was leaked online by WCITLeaks, a group out of George Mason University that had posted initial versions of the proposal in November.

Terry Kramer, US ambassador to the WCIT, stresses the dangers to a “free and open Internet” presented by governments prying into the online lives of their citizens in a video interview. The proposal also includes a clause granting member states jurisdiction over "internet numbering, naming, addressing and identification resources," within their borders, as the BBC reports. That right currently remains solely in the hands of the US, a vestige of its funding of ARPANET.

The ITU has until Friday to deliberate on the treaty. The Russian plan is currently undergoing additional revisions, but if measures bringing state control to the Internet remain opposed by the US they will not be included.

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