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NetMundial conference in Brazil set to discuss "the future of the Internet"

A conference called to determine the future of the Internet and how it is governed has started in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, organised the NetMundial summit following allegations that the US National Security Agency had monitored her phone and email records.

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The US at present decides who regulates the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, which is responsible for regulating the Internet's codes.

Washington now wants to give that responsibility over to a "global multi-stakeholder community" by autumn 2015. Campaigners have warned that the plan may backfire.

"Part of the strength of the Internet over the last couple of decades has been that the technical aspects have not had direct political or government interference," Thomas Hughes, executive director of human rights group Article 19, told the BBC.

"The real nightmare situation would be the Balkanisation of the internet with governments changing technical standards to suit commercial interests, to remove interoperability between different countries or regions of the world, and to give them the ability to perform things like mass surveillance and the control of content."

850 government officials, academics, campaigners and experts are attending the conference, with a goal to agree shared principles and highlight issues that could occur in the future of the Internet.

A draft has already been produced based on the input of the various parties involved. Whether the document will reach consensus is another matter entirely.

China, Russia and others want the document to be followed up within a UN framework while several European nations, along with the US, want responsibility passed to a group not run by governments.

See more: A closer look at the NSA's spying tactics

Others have pointed out that the drafting of the document is overshadowing a prevalent issue – the mass surveillance of people by governments.

"The text does not spell out clearly that mass surveillance is inherently a disproportionate measure that violates human rights," the Electronic Frontier Foundation' Katitza Rodriguez told the BBC.