| SAO PAULO/BRASILIA, April 22
SAO PAULO/BRASILIA, April 22 A global conference
in Brazil on the future of the Internet in the wake of U.S.
spying revelations might be much less anti-American than first
thought after Washington said it was willing to loosen its
control over the Web.
Bowing to the demands of Brazil and other nations following
revelations last year of its massive electronic surveillance of
Internet users, the United States has agreed to relinquish
oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned of Names and
Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit group based in California that
assigns Internet domain names or addresses.
"The focus has changed from a political reaction to the NSA
allegations to one of more constructive criticism and talk about
the future of the Internet," said William Beer, a cyber security
expert based in Sao Paulo.
The two-day Net Mundial conference in Sao Paulo, which will
be opened on Wednesday by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff,
will discuss cyber security and how to safeguard privacy and
freedom of expression on the Internet, as well as the shape of a
future international body to oversee the decentralized digital
Officials from dozens of countries - from China and Cuba to
the United States and European nations - will attend, but
organizers say they will have no more voice at the event than
Internet companies, academics, technical experts and groups
representing Internet users.
"All of them should have equal participation in this multi
stakeholder process," said Virgilio Almeida, Brazil's secretary
for IT policy, who will chair the conference.
The event is not expected to result in any binding policy
decisions, but Almeida said it will launch a high-profile debate
that will "sow the seeds" for future reforms of the way the
Internet is governed.
Rousseff was infuriated by revelations last year that the
U.S. National Security Agency snooped on her personal emails and
telephone calls with secret Internet surveillance programs.
Other leaders, including Germany's Angela Merkel, were also
targeted by the NSA surveillance.
The revelations by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden brought
worldwide calls for the United States to reduce its control of
the Internet, created 50 years ago to link the computers of
American universities to the U.S. defense industry.
Last month, the U.S. government surprised many by announcing
it would relinquish oversight of the Internet Corporation for
Assigned of Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit group based
in California that assigns the network's domain names or
Washington said it will hand off control of ICANN by
September 2015 to an international body to be decided upon over
the next year, with one important caveat - the new organization
cannot be controlled by any other government.
The debate over who will run ICANN is likely to create a new
focus of tension with countries that want the Internet under the
control of a multilateral body such as the United Nations.
As its contribution to the debate this week, China submitted
a proposal with Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for a code of
conduct for the Internet to be drawn up at the United Nations.
The proposal, coming from states criticized for censoring
Internet content, is unlikely to win broad support at this
"Most participants here want a multi stakeholder model for
the Internet," Almeida told Reuters. "China wants a treaty at
the United Nations, but only governments are represented there."
(Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Kieran Murray and Andre