SAO PAULO – Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff took aim at US dominance of the Internet Wednesday, appealing at an international meeting for global governance that would give no state greater weight than others.
Rousseff called the two-day NetMundial meeting in a bid to curb abuses following the furore sparked by allegations of US spying revealed in documents leaked by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
Rousseff’s own Internet communications were targeted by NSA surveillance, prompting the Brazilian leader to call on the United Nations last year to oversee a new global legal system to govern the Internet.
“Internet governance should be multipartite, transparent and open to all,” she said in a speech opening the meeting, attended by officials from 80 countries.
“The participation of governments should occur with equality so that no country has more weight than others,” she said to applause.
Rousseff praised Washington for saying it wanted to replace its institutional links to ICANN, the Internet’s governing authority, with a global institution.
The recently revealed US plan would set into motion a process that foresees a “multi-stakeholder” model of Internet governance.
The United States has had a supervisory role over Internet website addresses overlords at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
As it looks set to relinquish supervision of ICANN, the next steps are unclear.
Some countries like China and Russia want oversight of the Internet’s technical functions to come under a group of governments or an intergovernmental organization.
Kuek Yu-Chuang, ICANN vice president and managing director for the Asia Pacific, said at a meeting last month that “there is widespread agreement” on the multistakeholder model.
But NETMundial chair Virgilio Almeida, a Brazilian government official, said he sees “some points of contention” at the gathering.
Snowden Leaks on Unofficial Agenda
US online spy tactics exposes by Snowden are not on the official summit agenda but were expected to be hot topics.
Almeida, a senior official at Brazil’s ministry of Science and Technology, told AFP that giving concrete shape to a new model of governance will be difficult “because the Internet has no ruler.”
Governance happens at the national and global levels, which interact, he said. If a country does not accept new rules of governance, civil society can exert pressure for it to do so, Almeida said.
Any resolutions that come out of the summit will not be binding.
It remains unclear whether a consensus can be reached at the summit amid these concerns, and with some countries seeking measures that could allow more filtering and censorship of Internet content.
NETmundial organizers maintain that Internet governance must be “open, participatory… technologically neutral, sensitive to human rights and based on principles of transparency (and) accountability.”
The US on Tuesday confirmed a delegation led by the White House cybersecurity coordinator Michael Daniel would take part in NETmundial.
Established in 1998, ICANN issues domain names on the Internet, like .com or .gov. Despite having its headquarters in California and being watched over by the Department of Commerce, it sees itself as an international organization.
The goal is to transition ICANN to a new model without US oversight sometime next year.
“This transition should be conducted thoughtfully with a focus on maintaining the security and stability of the Internet, empowering the principle of equal participation among all stakeholder groups and striving towards a completed transition by September 2015,” NETmundial said at its website.
New online neighborhoods began opening in January with the introduction of Web addresses ending in “.guru,” “.bike” — and even “.singles.”
The meeting begins a day after Brazil’s Congress passed comprehensive legislation on Internet privacy in what some have likened to a web-user’s bill of rights.