Former President says US should continue to lead the way online
Bill Clinton has suggested that internet freedom could be compromised if the US does not remain in its position as its main overseer.
The former US president stated his belief that his country had done a good job of keeping the internet "free and open", while accepting that last year's NSA revelations from Edward Snowden had caused a clamour for the US to share the task of monitoring the net with other nations.
He suggested that the US policy of allowing users to openly criticise a country's administration and heads of state would be reversed if certain nations were allowed to run the rule over internet use.
Mr Clinton said:
"I understand in theory why we would like to have a multi-stakeholder process. I favour that. I just know that a lot of these so-called multi-stakeholders are really governments that want to gag people and restrict access to the internet."
His comments were supported by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, who said that while it was important to be sensitive to other cultures, this concept could easily be manipulated to censor content.
ICANN set to relinquish internet control
Clinton's comments come in the wake of Barack Obama's announcement that internet control would revert to a multi-stakeholder model with no outright US control.
This changes a long-standing position whereby the assignation of web addresses and the direction of traffic has been the responsibility of the US-run Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Its contract with the US government expires in September 2015.
The Obama administration is keen to stress that the new setup will not see the internet ruled by any government-led organisation, a move designed to combat online oppression and censorship.
ICANN has reportedly been planning this transition for some time. Its president, Fadi Chehade, said: "All stakeholders deserve a voice in the management and governance of this global resource as equal partners."
Daniel Nolan, managing director at theEword, said: "While on the face of it sharing power over the internet seems fair and reasonable, you can see why Bill Clinton has his concerns. It is vital that this process is monitored to ensure that the net remains a place where people can air their views freely."