Web

WCITLeaks.org aims to expose UN ‘takeover’ of the Internet

WCITLeaks.org hopes to expose UN 'takeover' of the Internet

Last week, I wrote about how the US government is gearing up for a showdown with other United Nations member states over the future of the Internet. Basically, a growing number of countries — most notably, Russia and China — want to give regulatory power of the Internet to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which is a wing of the UN. This, in turn, would give ITU member states more power over the Internet. The Obama administration, Congress, and US-based businesses are all against this plan.

At the moment, Internet governance is the duty of a number of nonprofit organizations, like the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), among others. While no government legally controls these organizations, they were more or less set up by the United States and its allies, and generally follow the lead of the US. Because the Internet is a global entity, some other countries think this is unjust and want to change the power balance. Thus, the ITU proposals.

The proposals to make this shift are expected to be presented at a meeting in December called the World Conference on International Telecommunications, or WCIT (pronounced “wicket”). Technically, there’s nothing secret about these proposals — or, at least, there’s not supposed to be. That said, the proposals and other documents related to WCIT are frustratingly out of sight, often closed behind firewalls on the ITU website.

Enter WCITLeaks

And that’s where WCITLeaks.org comes in. Launched this week by Jerry Brito and Eli Dourado, policy analysts for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, WCITLeaks is calling on those with access to the ITU proposal documents to anonymously share the information with the rest of us. Any related documents will be posted to the Website for all to see.

Three documents have been posted so far — and what they show isn’t good. Among the documents is a proposal by the European Telecommunications Network Operators Association (ENTO), a Brussels-based lobbying group that represents 35 companies around the world. As CNet reports, the ENTO proposal wants to amend the International Telecommunications Regulations treaty (pdf) to impose taxes on major Internet companies, including Google, Facebook, Apple, and Netflix, for the traffic they gather over Internet service provider’s Internet connections.

As you might imagine, charging such fees would create havoc in the Internet business ecosystem, and could have a wide variety of unintended consequences for users and businesses alike.

Problems with ITU power

In addition to allowing taxes and other fees to be imposed on Web content providers, proposed changes to the ITR treaty could also allow “governments to monitor and restrict content or impose economic costs upon international data flows,” which would be detrimental to free speech and the open Web alike.

In short, the proposals would presumably allow for far greater governmental control of the Web, and complicate the global nature of the Internet by allowing individual countries to have more say over what comes in, what goes out, and what types of technologies are used across borders.

In a blog post, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy sums up the problems with giving the ITU more power like this:

Governmental proposals to replace the Internet’s decentralized and open system must be resisted. Centralized control over the Internet through a top-down government approach would put political dealmakers, rather than innovators and experts, in charge of the future of the Internet.  This would slow the pace of innovation, hamper global economic development, and lead to an era of unprecedented control over what people can say and do online. Centralized control would threaten the ability of the world’s citizens to freely connect and express themselves by placing decision-making power in the hands of global leaders who have demonstrated a clear lack of respect for the right of free speech.

As mentioned, WCIT will take place this December in Dubai. Representatives from all 193 member states of the ITU will be in attendance. And each country has one vote over the proposals to empower the ITU.

In the mean time, we’ll be watching WCITLeaks like a hawk to see what kind of changes these countries are proposing, and how that could affect the Web. Stay tuned.

Social Media

This band owns Twitter, according to list of top accounts and tweets for 2018

What was the biggest buzz on Twitter in 2018? Twitter's 2018 Year in Review highlights the biggest tweets, accounts, and hashtags. The most-tweeted celebrities, movies, TV shows, athletes, politicians and more in Twitter's 2018 trends.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Twilight Zone’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in December, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to endangered cats

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Mobile

5G’s arrival is transforming tech. Here’s everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Mobile

Verizon begins RCS messaging rollout with the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL

What is RCS messaging? It's the successor to today's text messaging. It offers features like real-time audio, read receipts, and encryption, but adoption so far has been slow. Here's everything you need to know.
Social Media

What do yodeling and Kylie Jenner have in common? YouTube’s top 2018 videos

In a true nod to the variety found on YouTube, the platform's top 10 list of videos from 2018 range from celebrities to sports, from perfectly tossing a picture frame on the wall to a kid yodeling in aisle 12 at Walmart.
Web

Google’s updated Santa Tracker entertains and teaches coding throughout December

Google's Santa Tracker is in its fifteenth year and is back again with even more features. You can have fun with more than 20 games, learn about different holiday traditions around the world, and enjoy some festive animations.
Computing

Make a GIF of your favorite YouTube video with these great tools

Making a GIF from a YouTube video is easier today than ever, but choosing the right tool for the job isn't always so simple. In this guide, we'll teach you how to make a GIF from a YouTube video with our two favorite online tools.
Computing

How to change your Gmail password in just a few quick steps

Regularly updating your passwords is a good way to stay secure online, but each site and service has their own way of doing it. Here's a quick guide on how to change your Gmail password in a few short steps.
Computing

Tired of paying a monthly fee for Word? The best Microsoft Office alternatives

Looking for a competent word processor that isn't Microsoft Word? Thankfully, the best alternatives to Microsoft Office offer robust features, expansive compatibility, and an all-too-familiar aesthetic. Here are our favorites.
Computing

Worried about your online privacy? We tested the best VPN services

Browsing the web can be less secure than most users would hope. If that concerns you, a virtual private network — aka a VPN — is a decent solution. Check out a few of the best VPN services on the market.
Computing

Microsoft is ‘handing even more of online life’ to Google, Mozilla CEO says

Not everyone is happy with Microsoft's switch to Google's Chromium engine. In a new blog post, Mozilla CEO Chris Beard writes that he believes the move is "handing online life control" to Google.
Computing

Edit, sign, append, and save with six of the best PDF editors

There are plenty of PDF editors to be had online, and though the selection is robust, finding a solid solution with the tools you need can be tough. Here, we've rounded up best PDF editors, so you can edit no matter your budget or OS.
Computing

How to easily record your laptop screen with apps you already have

Learning how to record your computer screen shouldn't be a challenge. Lucky for you, our comprehensive guide lays out how to do so using a host of methods, including both free and premium utilities, in both MacOS and Windows 10.