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Internet’s axis of evil proposes—then pulls—sweeping Web regulations

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The Internet’s axis of evil proposed stringent new restrictions on the Web as a whole at the U.N.’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) meeting in Dubai Friday.

The proposal, backed by at least six countries including Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia, would create what Terry Kramer, U.S. ambassador to the ITU, called an “open door for a review of content and potential censorship there.”

The sweeping new regulations prompted immediate opposition outrage. “We were surprised and disappointed, candidly,” Kramer said in an interview. “It will create a chilling environment for the Internet.”

The proposal has since been withdrawn, though the ITU doesn’t conclude until Friday. But those countries seeking more regulation showed they’re still pushing for many of their most criticized proposals, like making it easier for countries to block politically dissident websites and assuming control of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a U.S.-based nonprofit that already regulates the Internet’s numbering system.

“The irony is the US has a very laid-back role and protects the Internet from political interference, but the fact it's the US makes it highly political,” Markus Kummer, vice president of the Internet Society, told IOL.

An odd, powerful mix stand against those countries seeking new regulations. A unanimous Federal U.S. government, the EU, the hacktivist group Anonymous, as well as Internet freedom activists and leading tech companies like Google, are all vehemently opposed.

Egypt was listed as a co-author on Russia’s proposal, but on Sunday, the country retracted its support. Its Ministry of Communications & Information Technology called a it “misunderstanding” and declared that “the Internet should remain free, open, liberal.”

Ambassador Kramer was reported to be willing to walk out of negotiations unless some regulations were taken off the table, but he tweeted early Monday morning that the U.S. “remains fully committed to achieving a successful conclusion “

Photo via Wikimedia Commons