WASHINGTON — The USA and Russia are tussling over management of a United Nations group that units requirements for brand spanking new applied sciences, a part of a world battle between democracies and authoritarian nations over the route of the web.
American officers are pushing greater than 190 different member nations of the Worldwide Telecommunication Union, a U.N. company that develops technical requirements for expertise like cellphone networks and video streaming, to vote on Thursday for Doreen Bogdan-Martin, a longtime American worker, to steer the group. She is working in opposition to Rashid Ismailov, a former Russian authorities official.
The American marketing campaign has been particularly intense. President Biden endorsed Ms. Bogdan-Martin final week, capping months of private and non-private lobbying on her behalf by prime administration figures and main U.S. company teams.
Whoever leads the I.T.U. may have energy to affect the principles by which new applied sciences are developed world wide. Whereas the group is just not well-known, it has set key tips lately for the way video streaming works and coordinates the worldwide use of the radio frequencies that energy cellphone networks.
The election has develop into a logo of the rising world battle between a democratic strategy to the web, which is calmly regulated and interconnected world wide, and authoritarian nations that need to management their residents’ entry to the net. Russia has constructed a system that permits it to do exactly that, monitoring what Russians say on-line about subjects just like the invasion of Ukraine, whereas the USA largely doesn’t regulate the content material on social networks like Fb and Twitter.
Some fear that Russia and China, which additionally has closed off its web, may use the I.T.U. to reshape the net of their photographs. The 2 nations put out a joint assertion final yr calling for preserving “the sovereign proper of states to manage the nationwide phase of the web.” They stated they have been emphasizing “the necessity to improve the position of the Worldwide Telecommunication Union and strengthen the illustration of the 2 nations in its governing our bodies.”
Erica Barks-Ruggles, a State Division official and former ambassador to Rwanda who’s representing the USA at an I.T.U. convention this week, stated the group would assist decide if individuals world wide may have reasonably priced entry to new expertise and talk throughout borders, and “whether or not their governments are in a position to disconnect them from the web or not.”
“That’s why we’re placing time, cash, power into this,” she stated.
The I.T.U. was based in 1865 to sort out points involving telegraph machines. It historically targeted on bodily networks moderately than the web, however has develop into concerned in setting requirements for all the pieces from good residence units to linked vehicles. The company’s plenipotentiary convention, which takes place each 4 years, started on Monday in Bucharest, Romania.
Final week, Mr. Biden stated Ms. Bogdan-Martin “possesses the integrity, expertise and imaginative and prescient essential to rework the digital panorama.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and different senior administration officers have additionally backed her candidacy.
At a current convention in Kigali, Rwanda, the USA hosted a reception on the metropolis’s convention middle the place attendees heard a pitch from Ms. Bogdan-Martin, noticed a video endorsement from Vice President Kamala Harris and listened to music from a neighborhood band.
In response to emailed questions, Ms. Bogdan-Martin stated she hoped her management of the I.T.U. may broaden world entry to the web and enhance transparency on the group. She stated she hoped to steer in “bringing an open, safe, dependable and interoperable web to all individuals world wide.”
Moscow is supporting Mr. Ismailov, a former deputy minister for telecom and mass communications for the Russian authorities and a former govt at Huawei, the Chinese language telecommunications firm that American officers fear may leak information from its merchandise to Beijing.
The Russian Embassy in Washington didn’t reply to a request for remark.
The proxy battle of the election will be the first of many extra.
“I see the U.S. actually engaged in a brand new form of overseas coverage assault, the place they see our adversaries and our rivals are wanting to vary the principles of the sport to close off entry,” stated Karen Kornbluh, a senior fellow on the German Marshall Fund.