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Last Updated: Monday, 12 November 2007, 09:09 GMT
Brazil hosts web policy forum
Statue in Rio de Janeiro, AFP/Getty
The meeting in Rio de Janeiro is the second of five
More than 2,000 people who oversee the workings of the net around the world are gathering in Brazil.

Policy makers, activists and officials are gathering in Rio de Janeiro for the second Internet Governance Forum.

The UN-backed body aims to give those developing policies for the net a place to air problems and hear about others who have succeeded.

Sessions at the four-day forum will debate security, international domains and control of core net functions.

Debating chamber

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) grew out of the World Summit on the Information Society meetings which were held in 2003 and 2005.

The forum is intended to be a debating chamber that, among other things, helps to keep the UN Secretary General up to date with pressing net issues.

The IGF was also created to be a "neutral space" in which policy makers, concerned citizens, lobby groups, educators and companies can debate and swap ideas without the need to produce recommendations or decisions.

But this lack of measurable success has led some critics to decry it as little more than a talking shop.

"Using 'talking shop' as a negative suggests communication is a bad thing," said Emily Taylor, director of legal and policy at UK domain name overseer Nominet, who will be attending the meeting.

She said it was one of the few times that those involved with overseeing the net get a chance to gather.

"I know from working in the industry for a few years that an awful lot can be learned from your peers," she said.

Theresa Swinehart, general manager of global and strategic partnerships at net overseer Icann, said one of the most positive aspects of the IGF was that lack of pressure to produce decisions and policies.

"One of the big issues at the WSIS was the importance of sharing information and addressing issues that may not be under the jurisdiction of one particular organisation," she said.

In some senses, she said, the IGF could already be judged a success because it had put in touch people around the world working on the same thorny net problems.

"It's already demonstrated benefits because people are aware of the issues and have information about how to solve them," she said.

Ad hoc working groups have emerged from the first IGF in Athens and many are expected to report what they had been doing at the 2007 event.

Sessions at the IGF will debate how to improve net security and ways that governments have tackled rising cybercrime. Other sessions will look at linguistic diversity online, the move to IP version 6, the number system for all online devices, and how to protect free speech.

Ms Taylor said the debates typically involved the sharing of success stories, recounting of the mistakes some made and policies that did and did not work.

She said: "Often you learn as much from what went wrong as from what went right."

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