At the opening of the NETmundial conference, Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff signed into law legislation guaranteeing the privacy and neutrality of the Net in Brazil, which had been passed by Congress just a few hours earlier.
Government officials, industry executives and academics from around the World participating in the two-day conference are expected to agree on a set of principles to enhance online privacy while preserving the network's self-regulated nature.
They will also debate how to govern the internet after the US government hands off management of ICANN in September 2015, a decision that avoided US-bashing at the conference and opened the way for fruitful discussion, participants said.
The meeting's resolutions are non-binding and will likely have little or no impact on the way several billion people around the world use the internet.
But Brazil hopes the conference will lay the ground for a broader global discussion over how to achieve a more transparent and inclusive network.
Rousseff praised the United States for its decision to ease control over the internet and called for a more democratic, transparent network following the US National Security Agency spying scandal.
"The internet we want will only be possible in a scenario of respect for human rights, in particular the right to privacy and freedom of expression," she said.
"I salute the US government's recently announced plan to replace its links to IANA and ICANN with a global management of those institutions," she added, referring to the US-based bodies in charge of assigning internet domains or addresses.
Revelations last year by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden that the United States spied on internet users with secret programs prompted worldwide calls for reduced US control over the network now connecting one-third of the world's population.
Rousseff, whose personal emails and phone calls were targeted by the NSA, according to documents leaked by Snowden, said massive surveillance of the internet was unacceptable.
NETmundial faces the challenge of finding common ground among governments and companies with very different views.
Internet companies like Google or Facebook feared that the conference would result in heavier regulation, which they see as a threat to expansion and innovation.
But these concerns were allayed by a draft conference document that proposes governing the internet through multiple stakeholders — from governments and businesses to academics, technicians and private users.
(Editing by Anthony Boadle and Jonathan Oatis)