Looking left and right

By Anna Boratyn
Executive Opinion Editor|
Like every other teenage internet activist on the planet, I believe that the “internet should be free.”  And kumbaya, to you too.  But what does freedom entail?
To me, it simply means that both countries and corporations shouldn’t have undue influence over social networks and websites.
The SOPA/PIPA/ ACTA kerfuffle of last year was a something worth fighting against because SOPA, PIPA and ACTA would have given the federal government the regulatory power to shut down sites like Tumblr, YouTube and Reddit.
The proposed legislation would have affected large swathes of the internet, so the whole internet protested.  A handful of sites shut down, Anonymous masks started getting worn, and it was a phenomenon.
On Google’s homepage a few days ago appeared the message, “Love the free and open Internet? Tell the world’s governments to keep it that way.”
The message linked to an interactive map that allowed you to add your voice to an online petition to halt some nebulous meeting in Dubai.  The map let you write a message and plotted a cheerfully colored  donut where at your location.  You could now watch other doughnuts pop up all over the world!  It’s was all so very exciting!  It warmed the ventricles of my heart!
Until, that is, that I noticed that the rest of the internet had neither interactive maps nor doughnuts.  Why?  Whatever happened to the fervor of SOPA/PIPA?
The fervor is gone because this nebulous meeting isn’t as well understood or publicized as SOPA-PIPA, though it’s possibly just as important, unpredictable and dangerous.
The meeting is of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)  which sets the technical standards for the world’s communication technologies.
It involves 190 countries, some of whom, like Russia, want the Internet to be governed by the ITU instead of the volunteer organizations that currently govern it.  Other entities,  like European telecommunications companies, want to be able to charge YouTube for the bandwidth it takes up.
“Many states and corporations would like to get a stranglehold on the Internet,” said Tim Berners-Lee, the internet’s inventor, in an interview with the Huffington Post. “The multi-stakeholder system that governs the Internet works well and we need to preserve its openness.”
Did you catch that? This man invented the internet. Even he agrees that reallocation of power and commercialization would be horrible.
But we haven’t been fighting back because we don’t know anything about the ITU.  We fought SOPA/PIPA  because anyone can understand the legislative system.  We can count votes.  We can listen to legislators.  We can curse at our computer screens and dramatically vow to never ever vote for that guy ever again.
But the ITU meeting takes away that power. We don’t know if what we’re doing will change anything and we don’t even really know what’s happening.
Our lack of power is a cause of the ITU being the oldest thing in the universe.  The ITU isn’t even vintage.  It’s antique.  It was founded in 1865 (!), and includes the word, “telecommunications.”
Pray, tarry no more, ITU, and don’t wait up.   The internet is not old. It’s constantly changing, it includes everyone’s voices, and it doesn’t make decisions behind closed doors in Dubai.
The Internet is composed of a multitude of voices, and the use of a regulatory system that doesn’t take into account any of those voices is something that I find terrifying.
But for now, all we can do is mutter angrily, post on our blogs and sit on our hands in the hope that we can “LOL” about it tomorrow.