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Sir Tim Berners-Lee: 'The UN Should Not Run The Internet'

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TIM BERNERSLEE
Inventor of the world wide web Sir Tim Berners-Lee | PA

Inventor of the world wide web Sir Tim Berners-Lee has warned that the UN should not be allowed to 'run the Internet'.

The British communications pioneer told the BBC that he was concerned about elements of a meeting of communications officials in Dubai where a new treaty is under discussion.

Berners-Lee said it would be "a disruptive threat to the stability of the system" if the UN was to extend its influence over the web.

Currently the Internet is controlled by a range of groups, many based in the United States.

They include Icann, which is a nonprofit group in California that maintains the web address system on behalf of the US government.

Some countries including Russia have argued that the UN's International Telecommunications Union should play a greater role in the management of the internet.

A clause put forward by Russia for a new telecommunications treaty at the World Conference on International Telecommunications says:

"Member states shall have equal rights to manage the internet, including in regard to the allotment, assignment and reclamation of internet numbering, naming, addressing and identification resources and to support for the operation and development of basic internet infrastructure."

That has been taken by some as a move to switch powers from Icann and other bodies to the ITU, or another UN-run agency.

But Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who is the director of the World Wide Web Consortium standards group, said that could endanger the fundamental principles of the web - and would probably just be less efficient.

"I think it's important that these existing structures continue to be used without any attempt to bypass them," he said, according to the BBC.

"These organisations have been around for a number of years and I think it would be a disruptive threat to the stability of the system for people to try to set up alternative organisations to do the standards."

He added that countries who want the ability to block and filter the Internet more easily in their countries should be resisted.

"A lot of concerns I've heard from people have been that, in fact, countries that want to be able to block the internet and give people within their country a 'secure' view of what's out there would use a treaty at the ITU as a mechanism to do that, and force other countries to fall into line with the blockages that they wanted to put in place," he said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said that Sir Tim Berners-Lee made his comments while in Doha, but this is incorrect.

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