The United Nations conference on the Internet begins today in Dubai. The UN’s International Telecommunications Union hopes to reach a broad consensus to revise codes not updated since 1988. And we know how much has changed since then!
Each of the 193 nations at the 11-day meeting can propose regulatory changes. Organisers say the gathering will focus on issues such as Web security and expanding Internet services in developing countries.
However companies such as Google, Microsoft are opposing the conference, stating that this could end the Internet as we have come to know it.
In fact Google's search page today has the following message just below the search box. It reads: Love the free and open Internet? Tell the world's governments to keep it that way.
The message is linked to a special page that Google has created asking users to help keep the web open and giving a detailed outline of how some of the proposed changes could hurt the Internet as we've come to use it. Check out Google's page here.
So why is Google opposing this conference? Well it points that some proposals at the conference could permit governments to censor legitimate speech — or even allow them to cut off Internet access.
Another proposal would require services like YouTube, Facebook, and Skype to pay new tolls in order to reach people across borders. This could limit access to information — particularly in emerging markets.
It also highlights that only governments have a vote at this conference. As Google points out, governments that do not support a free and open Internet are also part of this conference and have the right to vote. While Engineers, companies, and people that build and use the web don't get any vote.
Google has started the hashtag #freeandopen and is asking users to submit their voice to the campaign. Currently around 1 million have supported the campaign and seems to be rising fast.
Google is also letting users share the pledge on Facebook and Twitter from the page.