Google: ITU meeting a risk to free and open Internet

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Internet giant Google claims that an upcoming International Telecommunications Union (ITU) meeting is yet another hurdle in their quest to maintain a free and open Internet.

The gathering in Dubai is set to begin December 3 and will see governments across the globe attempt to thrash out a new treaty - which could potentially put control of many parts of Internet into the hands of the United Nations agency.

However, Google is concerned that citizens and user advocacy groups will have no say in the proceedings.

In fact, the firm has created a new Take Action portal to specifically challenge the meeting - asking users to take action and fight against growing web censorship and site takedown efforts.

Writing on the portal, Google said: "Only governments have a voice at the ITU.

"This includes governments that do not support a free and open Internet. Engineers, companies, and people that build and use the web have no vote."

Google is also concerned that proposals could hit its own video service YouTube, along with Facebook and Skype, with new tolls if their users used the services, 'to reach people across borders.'

The ITU is an agency of the United Nations and will meet at the World Conference of International Communication (WCIT) in Dubai from December 3 to 14. The meeting will see governments discussing the creation of a new information and communication treaty.

However, it comes only a month after Google revealed that authorities worldwide had made some 21,000 requests for access to personal data from its users. These requests covered a variety of things including, search results and even access to Gmail accounts.

Google is therefore using its support of a free and open Internet as an online PR tool to demonstrate that it wants to stand up for the two billion plus people now using the Internet, in face of ever-increasing restrictions from authorities.

The ITU has quickly moved to refute Google's claims though, writing in its blog that Google's claims of a totally behind closed doors meeting with only governments in attendance is wrong.

The ITU blog states: "The so-called closed-door meeting is however inclusive of 193 national delegations which are participating in WCIT-12. In addition, ITU is pleased to note that private sector companies and civil society organizations have registered to attend WCIT-12 in large numbers.

"The United States, where Google itself is headquartered, has confirmed more than 125 people in its delegation to WCIT-12, with a large majority of these delegates representing the private sector and civil society."

With a slight dig at Google, the blog also adds: "It is interesting to note that Google representatives are part of the United States delegation."

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