Why the ITU is like Freemasonry

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30 FreemasonryIn the wake of the anti-climatic conclusion to the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) earlier this month, readers could be forgiven for being confused about whether all the hype about the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) staging a UN takeover of the Internet had ever represented a real threat, or had just been a beat-up by special interest groups with an agenda to push.

A good metaphor always helps to make a complicated story simple. So let's consider the ITU as Freemasonry, a secretive, exclusive and anachronistic society, best known for the secret handshake by which members identify each other. The International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) are the Masonic Constitution, a seldom-amended document which guides the members of a Masonic Lodge in matters of ritual and morality.

Less well known is that when Freemasonry began, the symbols and language of masonry (with a lowercase “m”) weren't just metaphorical; its first members were actually stonemasons, and amongst the precepts of Freemasonry were practical rules for their craft. Today of course, Freemasonry has no particular relevance to the building and construction trades. But imagine that a group of Freemasons proposed to hold a meeting (open to members only, of course) to update their Constitution to include new rules for the construction industry.

This would stimulate immediate opposition from construction workers, and rightfully so. But it would also play into a range of existing conspiracy theories that Freemasons are part of a much greater secretive plot to form an authoritarian one-world government, which would take over the sovereignty of nation states. In the environment of fear instilled by these exaggerated stories, it would be forgotten that whilst Freemasonry may have some dumb ideas, it also actually does a lot of good work in charity and community service.

And so it was with the ITU at WCIT.

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