After years of meddling with the internet and censoring everything left and right, China now wants to introduce a new authoritarian-friendly internet protocol. The Financial Times has recently gained access to several documents about the protocol. Huawei, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MITT), and state-run Unicom and China Telecom were the ones to craft the proposal and presented it to the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
It was found that Russia and maybe Saudi Arabia were in favor of the proposal, whereas nations such as the US and UK expressed concerns. Based on what the developers of the protocol say, it may be standardized at a conference in India later this year with the testing of the protocol beginning in early 2021. On the whole, China’s new proposal states that the internet must catch up with the future and that the “current designs are obviously insufficient”. Considering the fact that the underlying technical architecture of the internet hasn’t really changed in a long time, China’s thoughts to modernize the whole infrastructure does sound like a necessary step to take. The proposal calls for an advanced internet that has improved security and efficiency while supporting holograms as well as latency stability.
Finally, the new protocol aims to integrate the interactions between ManyNets (networks from IoT and satellites) and the internet seamlessly. But there is a strong concern with the new proposal that was even pointed out by countries such as the US and UK. The new proposal, if accepted globally, will give governments the ultimate power over the internet accessibility in their nations.
Such a “top-down” internet architecture will lead to potential internet censorship. With many countries already practicing blatant internet censorship, especially China, the idea of placing more power over internet accessibility into the hands of a country’s government may not be the wisest course of action. It is also worth noting that authoritarian governments such as Russia are already moving in the direction of gaining “cyber sovereignty“. For instance, Russia already tested its own heavily controlled internet.
At such a juncture, the new proposal by China, while promising the hopes of a better future, might make it easy for countries to practice internet censorship.