Technology & Science

Internet rights poster sparks UN fight

The United Nations is drawing fire after disrupting a meeting of rights activists at its internet governance convention in Egypt.

The United Nations is drawing fire after disrupting a meeting of rights activists at its internet governance convention in Egypt.

Over the weekend, UN officials asked organizers of a book reception at the Internet Governance Forum to remove a poster for a book, which mentioned censorship and the Great Firewall of China. The organizers, a group of activists known as the OpenNet Initiative, were told the poster had to be removed because of objections from a member state.

Ronald Deibert, co-founder of the OpenNet Initiative and director of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, said the UN was being hypocritical by demanding the poster's removal.

"If we cannot discuss issues of internet censorship, surveillance, and privacy at a UN forum on internet governance, then what is the point of the Internet Governance Forum?" he said.

UN officials told BBC News they had received complaints about the poster from conference delegates, and that the group had not received prior approval to display it.

Parts of the poster read "internet censorship and surveillance are increasing in democratic countries as well as authoritarian states," and "the first generation of controls, typified by China's 'Great  Firewall', are being replaced by more sophisticated techniques that go beyond mere denial of information."

Earlier in the conference, UN officials had also asked the OpenNet Initiative to stop distributing flyers that mentioned Tibet. Officials said the flyers were invitations to a movie about freeing Tibet, which was a political issue not related to internet governance.

The group agreed to stop handing out the flyers.