Around the globe, governments and corporate interests are working hard to restrict our internet freedom – passing laws, proposing treaties and putting up firewalls that drastically limit our access to information and threaten our privacy. Activists have come together in massive numbers to confront these attacks – and are winning everywhere from Italy to the US to India.
But now there's a new threat to the web: from the UN. Russia and China are pushing for a United Nations body, the International Telecommunication Union, to have more power to regulate the internet – especially in matters of privacy and security. If they get their way, governments will be able to monitor and censor the online activities of the world's two billion internet users much more easily than ever before.
Rolling back people power
The web has always been a remarkably free, open environment. Where regulation has been necessary – in handing out domain names, for example – it's been handled by a hub of experts, making decisions by consensus: not by governments.
Under this system the net has flourished: half a million new users come online every day. Internet freedom has brought fantastic economic growth, and allowed people power to drive mass movements like Occupy and the Arab spring.
But that freedom disturbs many governments. This map by the Guardian shows which regimes exercise the tightest control: not surprisingly, they are the same ones pushing global regulation schemes. These governments want to see global rules that would do everything from impose new controls on data privacy and cybersecurity, to allow companies to charge fees for international net traffic. No prizes for guessing who has been a vocal champion of these ideas: Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The biggest threat yet?
Critics of this UN-led internet regulation are sounding alarm bells: they fear that an international conference in Dubai next December could be the strongest attack on our net yet. In a stark warning against global regulation, Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt called the openness of our internet “one of the greatest achievements of mankind in our lifetime".
Take action: Save the internet from a US law that would destroy privacy worldwide – sign this Avaaz petition against CISPA and join the fight for freedom on the web.