By Andy Sullivan
Negotiators agreed on Tuesday to set up a global forum to discuss
online crime, but appeared unlikely to resolve a dispute about control
of the Internet ahead of a U.N. technology summit.
In talks before 50 heads of state arrive for the World Summit on the
Information Society on Wednesday, negotiators said their work would
likely lead to a crime-fighting forum that could help law enforcers
track down online criminals who operate across borders.
But they did not seem set to approve language that would force the
United States to give up its exclusive oversight of the domain-name
system that guides traffic across the Internet.
The work proceeded slowly as negotiators debated whether to describe
an Internet body as a "framework" or "mechanism" in one paragraph,
before settling on "framework and mechanisms."
"This was supposed to be a compromise text but now it has been changed
and bruised beyond recognition," Ambassador Masood Kahn, the Pakistani
diplomat who served as a referee, said after reviewing 12 different
versions of another paragraph.
The summit was launched two years ago to bridge the technology gap
between rich and poor countries, but the U.S. control over the
domain-name system has become a sticking point for countries like Iran
and Brazil, who argue the system should be managed by the United
Nations or some other global body.
The United States says an international bureaucracy would stifle
innovation and create uncertainty that could scare away investors,
though it does not oppose an international forum to discuss crime and
other online issues, as long as it does not have regulatory powers.
While such a forum could be productive it must not be allowed to take
on any formal powers that could usurp the United States' position,
U.S. Assistant Commerce Secretary Michael Gallagher told Reuters.
But the European Union will continue to push for more international
control of the domain-name system in meetings after the summit next
year, one EU official said.
"Oversight is a taboo word for the United States," said the official,
who declined to be named.
The head of the International Telecommunications Union, the U.N. body
sponsoring the summit, said the increased attention would ensure the
United States runs the domain-name system responsibly even if no
agreement was reached.
"When we started this process seven years ago ... nobody knew that one
country was managing everything. Now it is transparent, and you are
discussing," ITU Secretary-General Yoshio Utsumi told a news
(Additional reporting by Astrid Wendlandt)
Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.
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