Fighting international cyber-terrorism isn’t easy, but it’s a mission on which we can all agree, right? Not so fast.
Russia has been pushing a proposal in The United Nations agency for information technology, which describes the greatest cyber-threat not as hacking or stealing but as using the Internet to spread ideas that might undermine a country. Russia wants any such use of the Internet classified as “aggression,” and hence illegal under the UN Charter.
Sounds like China right? Yes, but check out this awfully teal map of countries that agree. It seems that a lot of the world seems more aligned with the Chinese view of controlling any information that may be considered subversive than they’re aligned with the high-minded Western ideals of freedom of speech and access to information. Most notably they include the other BRICs: India, Brazil and Russia. In fact, it’s Brazil that has asked Google to remove more content from the Web than any other nation this year. Brazil made more than double the requests of the next closest country, Libya.
NPR covered the story this morning, but it’s not a new shift in thinking. Russia has actually tried to introduce this information-arms-control-like agreement every year since 1998. So why do we only jump up and down about China? Presumably, under Russia’s proposition, Iran could hold Twitter accountable for giving people the ability to change their avatars to green or any Middle Eastern country could hold Facebook accountable for providing a platform by which people de-radicalize potential suicide bombers.
It’s a delicate issue for the US diplomatically and inside the US– way bigger than “Googlegate” because, well, I refer you again to the map. The issue doesn’t seem to be about different political systems, but rather different levels of stabilization in more chaotic emerging markets. Near-unfettered Internet freedoms aren’t always as high a priority in these countries, not because they’re evil, but because there are more pressing problems of gun violence, terrorism, or a paucity of food, water, jobs and basic infrastructure.