Singapore talks on Internet's future hear plea for freedom

Singapore talks on Internet's future hear plea for freedom
Fadi Chehade (C), President and CEO of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Domain (ICANN) speaks during the opening of the ICANN Singapore meeting on March 24, 2014.

SINGAPORE - Control of the Internet should be handed from US supervision to a diverse group of stakeholders, and not to governments that could limit freedoms, a meeting on the web's future heard Monday.

Organisers also said that a US decision to relinquish control was not the result of any one event -- after speculation it came under pressure from snooping disclosures from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

The talks are the first global consultation since the US announced this month it will hand control of the Internet's technical operations to "multi-stakeholders" including IT organisations, businesses, governments, civil society groups and academia.

The four-day Singapore meeting was convened by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which the US has tasked with guiding the transition.

ICANN, a US-based non-profit group, controls domain names and Internet addresses under a contract that expires in September 2015, by which time back-end operations of the Internet are expected to be under new administration.

ICANN chief executive Fadi Chehade said any transition plan must adhere to the principles of keeping the Internet open and secure.

"Whatever we do to replace the US stewardship must be rooted in the multi-stakeholder model," Chehade told some 2,000 delegates at the meeting.

"We cannot come back to them (the US) with a transition plan that hands our important work to a government, a group of governments (or to) an inter-governmental organisation. No, it will not work."

His remarks came in response to moves by countries including China and Russia to have the function ceded to the UN's International Telecommunications Union, which is made up of national governments.

Critics say that having governments, especially those with authoritarian leaders, control the Internet's domain name system would allow states to clamp down on dissent and the freedom of expression.

At present, the US government approves top level domain names such as .com, .net and .org.

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