GENEVA / DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – Japan, the United States, European countries and other major developed economies refused to sign revised international telecommunication rules Friday, arguing they could allow authorities to regulate expression on the Internet.
The revised regulations do not reflect common opinions among the 193 member states of the International Telecommunication Union, according to a Japanese government source with access to the ITU conference in Dubai that failed to enact the revision.
The unraveling of the conference displayed the deep ideological divide at the 193-nation gathering in Dubai, where envoys grappled with the first revisions of global telecom codes since 1988 — years before the dawn of the Internet age.
The revised rules were adopted by a bloc that included China, Russia, Gulf Arab states, African nations and others that favored U.N. backing for stronger government sway over Internet affairs and claimed the Western dominance of the Internet needs to be addressed.
But major industrialized countries including Japan strongly opposed amended clauses that could lead to government restrictions of online expression, arguing such rules should be made voluntarily by the private sector.
A total of 55 ITU member countries declined to sign the revised regulations. As a result, the nations that didn’t ink the pact will continue to abide by the 1988 rules even after the revised ones enter into force in January 2015.
“Internet policy should not be determined by member states, but by citizens, communities and broader society . . . the private sector and civil society,” said Terry Kramer, ambassador of the U.S. delegation. “That has not happened here.”