By Glynn Wilson –
Organized worker unions in the United States are not exactly known for championing the rights of a free and open Internet, although perhaps they should be since the Web is about their only hope for obtaining fair and balanced news coverage. Newspaper publishers have historically been anti-union and television news stations tend to lean in their coverage toward their corporate sponsors. Just look at all the one-sided and misleading coverage of what happened along the Gulf Coast, for example, in the wake of the millions BP spent to promote tourism in the oil spill zone.
So now the AFL-CIO has joined the fight against a move by the United Nations to restrict Internet access in some cases and allow for even more government monitoring of citizen activity online.
“This year, they tried to take our cupcakes and our football referees. Now, they’re trying to take the Internet,” Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, said in an e-mail blast to members. “We don’t usually email you about Internet rights, but this is big.
“This week, a UN conference in Dubai will consider amendments to a treaty that would significantly infringe on our Internet policy. This isn’t hyperbole,” he said. “The Internet as we know it is at risk.”
The International Telecommunications Union (or ITU), a United Nations agency, is considering new rules that could clamp down on the fundamental freedoms of citizens online.
A group of giant Internet corporations and countries, including China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia — countries that already impose heavy restrictions on internet freedoms — have put forward proposed regulatory changes to the UN World Conference on International Telecommunications.
Under their proposals, governments and companies all over the world have much more scope to restrict Internet access and monitor what we do online.
“So far the proposal has flown under the radar, but its implications are so serious that we’re mobilizing right now to make sure that the ITU and its member countries know that we won’t let them take away our right to free speech online,” Trumka said. “And this won’t just have repercussions in the U.S. — people in poorer countries and under dictatorships would be hurt even more.”
If accepted, the changes would allow:
* Increased government restriction or blocking of information disseminated via the Internet.
* Creation of a global regime of monitoring Internet communications, including the demand that those who send and receive information identify themselves .
* Requirement that the Internet only be used in a ‘rational’ way.
* Governments to shut down Internet access if they decide that it may interfere in the internal affairs of countries or that information of a ‘sensitive nature’ might be shared.
* Introduction of a new pricing regime which would increase costs and slow down Internet growth, especially in the poorer countries.
“So many workers are affected by Internet policy, even if we don’t think about it as we go about our day,” Trumka said. “The Internet represents one of the few places in our world that is open and accessible by everyone. We need to make sure our voices are heard before U.S. representatives head to the conference.”
The union is urging people to sign a petition to support freedom of association and freedom of speech on the Internet.
© 2012, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.