ICANN chief: Russia, China will not hijack Internet oversight

Wed Apr 2, 2014 5:20pm EDT
 
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By Alina Selyukh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of a nonprofit that manages the infrastructure of the Internet defended on Wednesday the U.S. government's move to cede oversight of the body, and downplayed concerns that Russia, China or other countries could exert control and restrict the web's openness.

The Obama administration last month said it would relinquish oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, which controls the "address book" of the Internet, the master database of top-level domain names such as .com and .net.

It also helps keep order of the web by managing the numeric addresses that are assigned to each web address to ensure users find proper content when they look for websites.

The United States, which gave birth to the Internet, has overseen the process but since 1998 has contracted it out to ICANN. Since then, the Department of Commerce has planned to phase out its stewardship and has taken many steps toward that.

The U.S. contract with ICANN will expire in September 2015, and last month the Commerce Department said it plans to formally turn the oversight capacity, which it says has become symbolic, over to a global multi-stakeholder mechanism that the ICANN community will propose.

The plan has provoked a backlash among some conservatives and other critics who say it may allow countries interested in limiting their citizens' access to some information on the web, such as China or Russia, to use ICANN as a venue to push for more restrictive Internet governance policies.

On Wednesday, the head of ICANN said the multi-stakeholder model - with governments, the private sector and other interested parties reaching consensus with equal power - will continue to restrain countries seeking to limiting the web's openness and freedom.

"Everyone is focused on these three, four countries ... but in between we have 150 other countries that value the same values we do," ICANN's chief executive, Fadi Chehadé, said in an interview after a congressional hearing.   Continued...

 
Fadi Chehade, president and CEO of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), attends a meeting with Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff (not seen) at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia October 9, 2013. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino