US, Canada, UK and other democracies refuse to sign UN Internet treaty

By Daniel S Levine,

A UN technology conference in Dubai essentially broke down today after a group of Western democracies - lead by the US, Canada and the UK - refused to sign a treaty that would allow the UN to have a hand in regulating the Internet.

The treaty, the topic of discussion at the International Telecommunication Union meeting, was backed by several countries that have poor human rights records and keep a close eye on how the Internet is used by its citizens, notes CNet. The conference had included debates on the mention of “human rights obligations,” language that China and Iran opposed, and whether or not the UN could even regulate the Internet.

The BBC notes that the ITU would have given all states the equal right to regulate the Internet.

“It's with a heavy heart and a sense of missed opportunities that the US must communicate that it's not able to sign the agreement in the current form,” US ambassador Terry Kramer stated. “The internet has given the world unimaginable economic and social benefit during these past 24 years-- all without U.N. regulation.”

The UK’s delegation said that regulation on content was “not intended to be part of the [treaty], but content issues keep coming up.” Canada said it could not approve the treaty because it is committed to keeping the Internet a place “in which people are free to participate, communicate, organize and exchange information.”

Other states that didn’t support the treaty include the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic.

The goal of this meeting of the ITU was to finally make amendments to the International Telecommunications Regulations, which were established back in 1988.

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