RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) — The darker corners of the Internet are to be exposed under the bright light of Brazil's sun next week when a UN conference on how the web is run gets underway.
Rio de Janeiro will from Monday host the UN Internet Governance Forum, in which 2,000 participants from 100 countries will examine ways to tackle pedophilia and cybercrime.
It will also discuss the implications of more than 80 percent of the world's population not having access to the worldwide network, mainly those in developing countries.
The forum, which has no power to pass or enforce rules on the Internet, was created at the world summit in Tunisia in 2005 as a way for representatives from governments, the private sector, associations, Internet communities and the media to talk over issues stemming from the revolutionary technology.
The event runs to Thursday out of a beachside hotel in Brazil's top tourist city.
One of its organizers, Markus Kummer, told AFP that protecting children online "is a theme of general concern" that is high on the agenda.
"We can do a lot in this area if there is good cooperation," he said.
That direction was recently backed by a Council of Europe recommendation that access to child pornography and the "grooming" of children online by sexual predators be criminalized.
The US Congress also gave information recently that hinted at the size of the problem. According to an agent in the Justice Department's special crimes investigation bureau, the Internet has allowed "maybe millions" of pedophiles in the world to form a network online.
And last June, the British police broke up an operational pedophile ring, saving 31 children and identifying some 700 suspects around the world.
The other main theme of the Rio forum will be the application to the Internet of various treaties and conventions on cybercrime, protecting personal data, fighting the smuggling of human beings, and preventing terrorism.
It will also give participants an opportunity to measure what opposition exists to the continued key role of the United States in governing the Internet through its mandate to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
In 2005, the European Union suggested that an international body be set up to oversee ICANN.
But several groups fear what would happen if responsibility for running the Internet is shifted, possibly leaving it vulnerable to the sort of political censorship seen in China or Myanmar.
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