How big a threat is the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), that branch of the United Nations that’s meeting this week to decide if it should grant itself special powers over the Internet?
It’s the first problem big enough for the Internet Defense League (IDL), that group of influential Web activists so dedicated that they even have their own Cat Signal, to sound its alarm for the first time in the IDL’s four-and-a-half-month history.
For the moment, IDL spokeswoman Tiff Cheng told the Daily Dot, this is only a “soft alarm,” and thus a cartoon cat face isn’t going to light up the night sky in cities like New York and San Francisco. It does mean, however, that the IDL is urging Internet users around the world, particularly in the Middle East and Africa, to spread word about the ITU on their websites and social media channels.
“It is time to make sure the IDL is international,” Cheng said.
That’s because for the first time in recent memory, what activists perceive as a major threat to the Internet isn’t either a western country or a nation acting unilaterally. The U.S. and EU both vocally oppose the move, so groups like the IDL are seeking allies in other U.N. countries—about 26 of them in particular.
And what does an ally do? The first step is making sure everyone knows about the ITU to begin with. While it’s hard to escape news of it in American tech publications (and Google’s live petition is now at over 1.6 million signatures), it’s more difficult for the IDL to reach people in, say, Lebanon, to tell both their countrymen and to petition their government. So it’s got activists around the world petitioning influential websites and Internet celebrities to talk about the ITU.
“We want to know the itu know that we're watching,” Cheng said.
Screengrab via YouTube