By and large, the Internet is a decentralized system not owned or run by one single entity. At its most basic form, the Internet is a bunch of networks connected to each other with limited regulatory oversight. Governments can control access to the Internet, and in some cases even influence what appears on the web such as in the case of domain takeovers or censorship requests, but they cannot control the Internet itself.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a United Nations agency, has indicated it will try to assert its regularly authority over the Internet. Google, and many other pro-Internet advocates, feel this threatens the very existence of the Internet and they want you to speak up to prevent this from happening.
There are two main reasons why Google and other advocates oppose handing over control to the ITU:
- First and foremost, Google fears giving ITU power over the Internet would allow governments to dictate how the Internet is used. The billions of people that actually use the Internet will have little to no say.
- Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, not all governments around the world support the idea of a censor-free Internet. In fact, I dare say no government in the world supports the idea of a censor-free Internet. While some may take part in more excessive censorship than others (e.g. China), every government (yes, including the American government) takes part in digital censorship to some degree. So to give control of the Internet to governments would be disastrous. At least, that is in theory (hopefully we will never find out in fact).
In Google’s own words:
A free and open world depends on a free and open Internet. Governments alone, working behind closed doors, should not direct its future. The billions of people around the globe who use the Internet should have a voice.
Because of this opposition to ITU control of the Internet, Google is running a small text ad on Google.com and its international variants asking people to stand up for the “free and open Internet”. The ad leads to Google’s Take Action page that provides more information about what this move would mean plus a prompt asking you “add your voice in support of the free and open Internet”. Check out the page if you are interested (you should be interested).