It’s not every day that Google’s (News - Alert) homepage is accompanied by anything other than its logo and search bar. Today, the homepage features a simple question and statement, “Love the free and open Internet? Tell the world's governments to keep it that way.”
The link leads to Google’s Take Action page, a site dedicated to a free and open Web. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is bringing together regulators from around the world to re-negotiate a decades-old communications treaty. Forty-two countries filter and censor content and in just the last two years, governments have enacted 19 new laws threatening online free expression. Some proposals could permit governments to censor legitimate speech — or even allow them to cut off Internet access.
Proposed changes could increase censorship, and would require services like YouTube (News - Alert), Facebook and Skype to pay new tolls in order to reach people across borders. This could limit access to information — particularly in emerging markets.
More than two billion people around the world use the Internet to discover, work, share and communicate. More than two million smartphones are connected around the world every day, more than 325 million photos are shared on social media every day, 143,000 Internet-related businesses started every year in 30 developing countries and there are 70 hours of video uploaded to YouTube per minute, with 70 percent of viewers outside of the U.S. Google’s aim is to get users, experts and organizations to voice their support for a free and open Internet that enables all of this sharing and communicating.
“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,” the page reads.
The site is promoting the movement with the #freeandopen hashtag, and more than 1.5 million people have signed to petition the ITU’s proposals. There is an interactive map updated in real-time to show how many and where people are voicing their support. The ITU negotiations will begin today and continue until Dec. 14.
This isn’t the first time the Internet has teamed up to protest changes to the Internet as we know it. Jan. 18, 2012 was the largest online protest in history to stop the Internet censorship bills, SOPA and PIPA. The Internet also joined in an anti-ACTA protest earlier this year.