As you may have heard, the UN is trying to take over the internet. Well, that’s not really true, but member states of the UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) are definitely going to negotiate an agreement related to the Internet at the World Conference on International Communications (WCIT - pronounced ‘wicket’) this December in Dubai. U.S. officials have warned that some member states, including Russia and China, have put forth proposals to regulate the Internet. Vint Cerf has warned that “Such proposals raise the prospect of policies that enable government controls but greatly diminish the ‘permissionless innovation’ that underlies extraordinary Internet-based economic growth to say nothing of trampling human rights.”
So what are these proposals? Well, we don’t know exactly. To see them, you have to have access to the ITU’s password protected website. This lack of transparency brings to mind secret negotiations like the one that gave us ACTA, and several civil society groups have written to the ITU demanding access to the documents.
The proposals are not classified and it’s not illegal to share them. In fact, they often are shared. At a recent panel discussion that I attended, the State Department’s Richard Beaird said, “Access to the proposals, of course, as I have done and others have done, is if you ask me, I will give you those proposals. I don’t want to have a flood of requests coming in from the room or those int he television audience.”
At the time, I tweeted: “If someone will pass them to me, I volunteer to host a site with gov WCIT proposals.” It seemed weird to me that someone wasn’t collecting and publishing the documents, like how opencrs.com does with Congressional Research Service reports. I promptly forgot about the idea, but was reminded yesterday when Milton Mueller wrote this post urging the U.S. to make documents available. He wrote:
Today, IGP has learned that the U.S. government is in possession of a document that brings together descriptions of all the WCIT proposals emerging from the ITU’s Council Working Group. The document, known as TD 64, compiles all the proposals on the table into a single document without attributing them to any specific government. No law or treaty stops the US government from making this document available to the public. We urge the U.S. government to release TD 64 of the ITU Council Working Group immediately.
Of course, while it’s not illegal, publishing these documents is probably not considered polite in the rarefied diplomatic circles of the ITU. So, I thought we’d give folks with access to the documents a helping hand.
Yesterday Eli Dourado and I spent a couple of hours putting together a website at WCITLeaks.org. The idea is simple: If you have a WCIT or ITU related document you’d like to share, submit it anonymously and we will publish it. That’s it. We hope you find it useful and that you’ll spread the word.