DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The head of the U.N.'s telecommunication overseers sought Monday to quell worries about possible moves toward greater Internet controls during global talks in Dubai, but any attempts for increased Web regulations are likely to face stiff opposition from groups led by a major U.S. delegation.
The 11-day conference — seeking to update codes last reviewed when the Web was virtually unknown — highlights the fundamental shift from tightly managed telecommunications networks to the borderless sweep of the Internet.
But others at the Dubai conference — including a 123-member U.S. delegation with envoys from tech giants such as Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. — worry that any new U.N. oversight on the Internet security could be used by nations such as China and Russia to justify further tightening of Web blocks and monitoring.
"Love the free and open Internet? Tell the world's governments to keep it that way," said a message on the main search page of Google.com with a link for comments directed to the Dubai conference.
The Dubai gathering will confront questions that include how much sway the U.N. can exert over efforts such as battling cyber-crimes and expanding the Internet into developing nations.
The secretary-general of the U.N. International Telecommunications Union, Hamadoun Toure, said that accusations how the meeting could limit Web freedoms is "completely untrue" and predicted only "light-touch" regulations.
"Many countries will come to reaffirm their desire to see freedom of expression embedded in this conference," he told reporters on the meeting's opening day.
However, the outcome of the Dubai gathering is far from certain.
The 193 nations at the meeting have put forward more than 900 proposed regulatory changes covering the Internet, mobile roaming fees and satellite and fixed-line communications. Broad consensus is needed for any item to be adopted for any changes — the first major review of the U.N.'s telecommunications agenda since 1988, well before the Internet age.
The gathering is also powerless to force nations to change their Internet policies, such as China's notorious "Great Firewall" and widespread blackouts of political opposition sites in places including Iran and the Gulf Arab states. Last week, Syria's Internet and telephone services disappeared for two days during some of the worst fighting in months to hit the capital, Damascus.
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