GENEVA -- The United States said at the outset of global talks on information technology yesterday that it will fight attempts to put the United Nations or any international group in charge of the Internet.
"We want to make sure the private sector leads and the Internet continues to be a reservoir of great innovation, and that governments continue to focus on enabling the growth of the Internet, and not of controlling its use," Ambassador David A. Gross told The Washington Times in an interview.
Major developing nations spearheaded by China, Brazil, South Africa, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and a number of industrialized countries including Norway, Switzerland and Russia would like to see the United States relinquish its historic control of the Internet.
"This situation is very undemocratic, unfair and unreasonable," said Sha Zukang, the ambassador from China, which this week imposed new rules that allow only "healthy and civilized" news to be read by the mainland's 100 million Web users.
China's government will determine which news is healthy and which news is not.
The question of Internet governance is the most politically charged issue in preparatory talks here for the second World Information Society Summit to be held in Tunis, Tunisia, in November.
Mr. Gross, U.S. coordinator for international communications and information policy, said the role of the U.S. government is "to ensure stability and reliability of the Internet.
"We will take no action that would undermine that stability," he said.
The U.S.-based ICANN -- or Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers -- is a nonprofit corporation that administers the Internet's domain name system.
Massod Khan, Pakistan's ambassador and chairman of the Internet governance segment of the talks, said the issues are difficult and added "there is a will to engage, but we have to wait for the outcome."
Paul Twomey, president of ICANN, said his organization does not want to see "the Internet's technological future politicized."
Britain, which speaks at the talks on behalf of the European Union, also said that governments "should not seek involvement in day-to-day operational issues, nor should they interfere in technical decision making processes."