Russia, Cuba oppose Internet control, surveillance agreement

While most countries are signing on to a new agreement on Internet governance, Russia and Cuba have pushed back, according to U.S. officials.

The nonbinding agreement was drafted at NETmundial, a meeting in Brazil this week that brought together representatives from governments, the tech industry and civil society to discuss Internet governance issues.

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White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel called the agreement drafted at NETmundial “a critical step forward in the global discussions around the Internet." He said the meeting was “a huge success” for reaffirming global support for bottom-up governance of the Internet.

NETmundial was initially scheduled in response to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s concerns about Internet freedom after last year’s revelations on U.S. surveillance.

The nonbinding agreement developed at the meeting lays down basic Internet governance principles — such as free speech, privacy rights, security and protections for the Internet companies that connect people online — and calls for a global approach to Internet governance and oversight.

Specifically, the transition of oversight over the Internet’s Web address system, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), away from the U.S. government “should be conducted thoughtfully with a focus on maintaining the security and stability of the Internet, empowering the principle of equal participation among all stakeholder groups and striving towards a completed transition by September 2015,” the document said.

The agreement also addresses government mass surveillance, saying it “should not be arbitrary or unlawful,” a standard that the U.S. government “is very comfortable” with, according to Scott Busby, deputy assistant secretary of State.

That principle is “consistent with standards that have already been articulated in international law,” he said.

“There is nothing groundbreaking new here in terms of mass surveillance or surveillance generally.”

Some countries, including Russia, Cuba and India, raised concerns about the agreement, according to Ambassador Daniel Sepulveda, the State Department’s coordinator for international communications and information policy. Russia and Cuba in particular have supported language allowing govenrments to block certain content.

But most governments and stakeholders supported the agreement, Busby said. “We have now a very, very strong group of countries and people from the developing world committing themselves” to the bottom-up approach to Internet governance.

Christopher Painter, cyber coordinator at the State Department, said this consensus around Internet governance will be critical as the Internet community develops a plan for the IANA oversight transition.

“There’s much more than unites us ... than divides us,” he said.

The meeting came weeks after the U.S. government announced that it would be relinquishing its oversight of the technical side of the IANA.

Under a plan from the Commerce Department, the global Internet stakeholder community will develop a plan to transition oversight away from the U.S. government.

The process to draft a transition plan began at a meeting last month held by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and continued at NETmundial this week.

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