For the next two days, leaders from around the globe will collude with tech giants to discuss how to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the Internet. Translation: they’ll be negotiating a global Internet treaty.
It’s reported that officials from 60 countries will join Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Tudou.com (Chinese video sharing site), as well as cyber crime agencies, and computer security firms at the London Conference on Cyberspace.
The London summit is hosted by Foreign Secretary, William Hague, who said the purpose is to “discuss ideas and expected behaviour in cyberspace”.
To which he claims the goal is bring together major players to determine how “collectively, we should respond to the challenges and opportunities which the development of cyberspace presents.”
A few days before the conference, Council on Foreign Relations members Adam Segal and Matthew Waxman wrote that the conference presents those calling for a global Internet treaty with “a step in that direction.”
They also pointed out that NATO allies have already essentially agreed to a treaty; “June 2011, NATO defense ministers agreed to a collective vision of cyber defense, and the United States and Australia recently announced that their mutual defense treaty extends to cyberspace.”
Meanwhile, in September of this year, an alliance between Russia, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan collaborated on cybersecurity by introducing The International Code of Conduct for Information Security to the U.N. Secretary General.
This alliance views “information security” to mean combating the dissemination of certain types of information which “undermines other countries’ political, economic and social stability, as well as their spiritual and cultural environment.” In other words, if passed, political dissent on the Internet would be censored by U.N. decree.
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Analysts explained the power struggle to be that Western states want to protect their networks from cyber attacks, while China and Russia seek security of information, which means controlling content.
Western powers will preach Internet freedom to their counterparts at this conference, yet they themselves have engaged in draconian measures like arbitrarily seizing websites for merely linking to copyrighted material and ordering politically “harmful” material removed from websites like YouTube. Also, in a blatant act of censorship, they infamously colluded with Amazon to drop hosting service to WikiLeaks.
What’s more, multiple bills are floating in the U.S. Congress that seek further control over the Internet like the recent “rogue websites” bill which one Representative called the “end of the Internet.” At the same time, the new net neutrality rules initiated without Congress, rather by the FCC with a 3-2 vote (where one commissioner was rewarded with a cushy job at Comcast), go into effect on November 20th.
So, while they talk a good game about protecting free speech, the U.S. and other Western powers seem to have similar ambitions to censor the Internet as China and Russia do, each already using private Internet cartels to do their dirty work. Therefore, they’re likely not as far off from agreeing on a treaty as the mainstream press is letting on.
Where they may not agree, however, is how to respond to potential cyber crimes and suspected threats.
China, while strongly denying any government involvement, has been blamed for many recent cyber attacks. Therefore, China, and most others, tend to take the approach of prosecuting cyber crimes through a legal process.
The Pentagon, on the other hand, in their recently released cybersecurity strategy, said the military would be “prepared to respond to hostile acts in cyberspace.”
“The United States reserves the right, under the laws of armed conflict, to respond to serious cyber attacks with a proportional and justified military response at the time and place of our choosing,” said Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn at a speech announcing the new strategy.
Most nations want to legally separate cybersecurity from traditional security concerns. So, if only America can convince other attendees to police the Internet with predator drones, they may actually agree to a global Internet treaty.