At a conference in Dubai on Thursday, countries including the US and the UK refused to sign an update to the 24-year-old Intentional Telecoms Regulations (ITR) treaty.
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a United Nations-backed agency, invited delegates from around 150 countries to a 12-day conference in Dubai to discuss rewriting the ITR.
Measures proposed by the ITU included giving countries a right to access international telecommunications services and the ability to block spam.
“The treaty sets out general principles for assuring the free flow of information around the world, promoting affordable and equitable access for all and laying the foundation for ongoing innovation and market growth,” the ITR said on its website.
According to a report by Bloomberg, an agreement to approve the ITU’s rules was approved despite opposition. Countries that do no sign the new treaty will be bound by the old version, which was last negotiated in Melbourne, Australia in 1998, Bloomberg said.
Denmark, Australia, Norway, Costa Rica, Serbia, Greece, Finland and others followed the US in refusing to sign the pact on the grounds that it would pave the way for government censorship and control over the web, the report said.
The UK said the measure, which was approved by 77 votes to 33, opened the door to “Internet and content issues,” it said.
Google, which complained that it did not get a voice in the negotiations, encouraged Internet users to oppose the ITU’s treaty by signing an online petition.
“Proposed changes to the treaty could increase censorship and threaten innovation,” Google said on its website. “Some proposals could permit governments to censor legitimate speech – or even allow them to cut off internet access.
In a statement on its website, ITU secretary general Hamadoun I. Toure said that the organisation’s conference had succeeded in that “history will show that this conference has achieved something extremely important.”
“It has succeeded in bringing unprecedented public attention to the different and important perspectives that govern global communications,” he said. “There is not one single world view but several, and these views need to be accommodated and engaged.”