The Evil Empire that wants to destroy and tax the free internet

Darth Vader or Vladimir Putin? Pic courtesy: http://www.downwithfilm.com

Bloggers beware. A group of the world’s  repressive regimes have teamed up with greedy telecommunications companies to form one unholy alliance. Their aim is to restrict who can access the internet and to milk and tax the billions of people who already use it.

No, this is not science fiction, it is fact ,despite my illustration. And the first steps are going to made at a UN  conference in Dubai next month.

The plotters are at a meeting of an extraordinary obscure and secretive UN body called the International Telecommunications Union. Its remit until now has been to police such quaint inventions like telegrams and international landline telephones. It now wants to extend its remit to the internet.

It is being hijacked by a number of the world’s most repressive regimes as a  body to control who can access the internet and how much they can be charged.

The Evil Empire of countries behind this move include China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria  and sadly after the Arab spring, Egypt. Hardly paragons of  human rights these countries are canvassing over 80 other developing countries, including African and Asian dictatorships, to back a  new UN Treaty legitimising the right of governments` to limit who can access the internet. Using Orwellian language they want only “rational” people to have access and the power to refuse them an IP  address or block any e-mails or communications sent to them.

But there is a further twist. A group of  unnamed European telecommunications companies want to profit from this by introducing charges for using the net, including sending e-mails and talking on Skype being well aware that the decline in post and international calls  means the end of an income stream. And the repressive regimes are also interested in introducing a tax on free country users. Called the ” Sender Pays” model it will mean if your blog  or e-mail was read by anybody in Russia, Iran  you will would be sent a tax bill or charge.

This ” Tweet Tax” will inhibit communication and price out citizens from using the net.

To check this out see the conference site at http://www.itu.int/ and  go for the section on the World conference on International Communications. Click on documents and you will see the submissions but be blocked for accessing them. These include submissions from Israel, Tunisia, Cuba and Cameroon to name a few. You can read on the public views  and opinions section  the Centre for Democracy and Technology submission which will give you a clue. But don’t try direct  at http://www.itu.int/en/wcit-12 or you will be blocked!

It is not pretty reading.

Worse although I gather it is opposed by the United States – no country can have a veto over this treaty. And countries like the UK which is looking at a new draft communications bill to collect details of people on the internet – are actually creating a system which will allow repressive regimes to tax you by allowing the Revenue and Customs to pass your details to them.The UK does not appear to have submitted anything to protest about this. New Zealand has – as this report shows – see http://m.nbr.co.nz/opinion/nz-will-vote-against-un-taking-control-internet …

Hardly anyone seems to have spotted this and we are  less than a fortnight away from the conference. But a campaign and petition has been launched by the TUC with the backing of the International Trade Union Confederation and they held a press conference about it last week – which received virtually no coverage. If you want to back it – the links are  www.tuc.org.uk/stopthenetgrab.

Details of the petition by the ITUC  are at: http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-the-net-grab.

See my article in Tribune.

I am amazed that no-one  has taken this up.  You would think  the Huffington Post or  Political Home, or bloggers like  Guido Fawkes,  might be alarmed about this. I for one can’t see  Lord Ashcroft or Paul Staines willingly paying over taxes to Russia or Iran collected by our Revenue and Customs because someone overseas has reads their blog or received an e-mail.

And I see nothing public from think tanks like Compass, Policy Exchange, and the Taxpayers Alliance, objecting to this.

As has been said many times the defence of liberty needs eternal vigilance. This attack on internet freedom transcends the Left and the Right and is as big a threat to free speech as any nasty dictator.

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