(CBC) A United Nations conference is set to debate whether the international body should play a larger role in governing the internet, stirring criticism from technology companies and rights groups who say the proposal holds potentially dire implications.

The World Conference on International Telecommunications is set to begin Monday in the United Arab Emirates, a country that has been criticized for restricting online dissent and where internet users often encounter “surf safely” warnings upon visiting government-blocked websites.

For the first time in nearly a quarter-century, the summit will update a treaty governing how the world’s telecommunications infrastructure connects people in 178 signatory countries. Another key item on the agenda is a proposal that would change the way internet users pay for content online.

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