- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.
This unlikely quartet of countries has introduced a resolution to the U.N. General assembly, calling for the establishment of "international norms and rules guiding the behaviour of States in the information space."
Nate Anderson of Ars Technica has the details:
The code demands that countries show respect for “human rights and fundamental freedoms” and pledges support for “combating criminal and terrorist activities that use information and communications technologies, including networks.” States would also pledge not to use Internet tools to “carry out hostile activities or acts of aggression.”
But the document commits its signatories to “curbing the dissemination of information that incites terrorism, secession-ism, or extremism, or that undermines other countries’ political, economic, and social stability, as well as their spiritual and cultural environment.”
Governments will also have the responsibility to “lead all elements of society, including its information and communication partnerships with the private sector, to understand the roles and responsibilities with regard to information security.”
This is all quite general, but it’s not hard to see how curbing information that undermines “social stability” is going to lead to problems; indeed, the generality of the wording is part of the problem. Would other signatory countries be asked by China to start cracking down on pro-Falun Gong posts, for instance?
If nothing else, this initiative offers at least one reason for hope: Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, who often look on the verge of war, have actually agreed on something.