Eli Dourado: Why is anonymity important in ensuring transparency in international telecommunications?

The WCITLeaks.org co-founder discusses how anonymous uploads to his website are shedding light on the upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications.

It’s no coincidence that WCITLeaks sounds like Wikileaks. Both websites were established to increase government transparency. Whereas Wikileaks has faced lawsuits and arrests, WCITLeaks co-founder Eli Dourado says the worst his new site might face is diplomatic strife.

Dourado set up WCITLeaks to host anonymously uploaded documents pertaining to the upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT). As Brian Pellot explained in a previous post, WCIT will be held in December under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to update the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) for the first time since 1988. ITR changes could bring the internet under the ITU’s regulatory authority. Until WCITLeaks, only member states and private industries willing to pay more than $30,000 could access the ITU’s working documents, leaving civil society groups in the dark. That all changed when the site launched in June. “Everything we’re doing is totally legal, so we don’t have to hide our identities. There’s not really a danger that if you leak to us you’re going to go to jail,” Dourado says. But leakers could face political backlash from the ITU and member states (12mins 36secs).

Dourado and his co-founder Jerry Brito recently updated the WCITLeaks site “to be more of a one-stop shop where people can get informed on this issue” (10mins 20secs). This meant adding a civil society resource section containing research and advocacy materials. In July, amidst a flurry of leaks, the ITU Governing Council released one summary document of proposed ITR amendments. Dourado says this move, while promising, did not represent real transparency (17mins 44secs).

WCIT differs from SOPA and PIPA, two US bills that caused great furor among internet users and activists in early 2012, because political pressure in the US will not be enough to defeat it. “This process is much more of a diplomatic process. It involves reaching out  to our friends in other countries to put pressure on their governments, not just everybody flipping out at congress” (13mins 40secs). Echoing our second draft principle, Dourado says ITU regulation of the internet would constitute an illegitimate encroachment of power. “The ITU doesn’t have the expertise to regulate the internet, they don’t have any democratic accountability at all, and they operate completely contrary to the spirit of the internet so far” (21mins 9secs).

Dourado expects a new batch of leaks when member states submit draft proposals to the ITU in November and again when the conference gets under way in December. Despite a dearth of media coverage around WCIT so far, he thinks civil society groups “will sound the alarm if it looks like it’s going to be a bad outcome” (15mins 35secs).

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Comments (2)

Automated machine translations are provided by Google Translate. They should give you a rough idea of what the contributor has said, but cannot be relied on to give an accurate, nuanced translation. Please read them with this in mind.

  1. Hi Sky Talker,

    Would you be interested in writing a ~500-word piece for FSD making the case for more regulations? If so, please email editor@freespeechdebate.com. Thanks for your many interesting comments across the site. You’re playing an important role in the debate!

  2. I work for a leading telecoms company in the UK and have a few comments for you. First off the fact that the ITU is gearing up to regulate higher protocol stacks is not surprising. In 1988 all communication was based solely on physical connections whereas today most functionality relies on higher levels, the physical predominantly being used for signalling.

    Your point that students at MIT may not be able to enjoy their international online lectures is also somewhat tenuous. I don’t think that ISP’s will suddenly be forced to charge people for Skype calls, to do so would mean the end of most of them. No, what i believe they are attempting to organise is the future of telecommunications through VoIP which will be a ubiquitous technology within a decade.

    I predict that the vast majority of the documentation will pertain to the standarisation of the network in order to provide ease of transfer internationally. This will be an attempt to reduce the number of unique systems running on any individual network and therefore reduce costs associated with protocol translation.

    Now i agree certain players of this game are always looking for an opportunity to increase control of their populace through communication regulation however i believe there to be some more subtle factors that may persuade the usually docile nations to push for more. For example I know that OFCOM is causing serious grief amongst UK companies and any opportunity to increase profitability on data rates would most definitely be welcomed.

    Finally your comment that if there is anything really nasty included, civil society groups will cause a fuss. Well i must remind you that you are monitoring the progress of this bill so its your responsibility to cause a fuss!!

    That said i want to thank you for your hard work and dedication to a good cause. If the world had more Eli’s then maybe we wouldn’t be living in such a moral mess!

    P.S Oxford can you please use the proper spell check here?!? No Americanisms please! No offence Eli

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