Washington (AFP) – The US government on Saturday ended its formal oversight role over the internet, handing over management of the online address system to a global non-profit entity. The US Commerce Department announced that its contract had expired with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which manages the internet’s so-called “root zone.” That leaves ICANN as a self-regulating organization that will be operated by the internet’s “stakeholders” — engineers, academics, businesses, non-government and government groups. The move is part of a decades-old plan by the US to “privatize” the internet, and backers have said it would help maintain its integrity around the world. US and ICANN officials have said the contract had given Washington a symbolic role as overseer or the internet’s “root zone” where new online domains and addresses are created. But critics, including some US lawmakers, argued that this was a “giveaway” by Washington that could allow authoritarian regimes to seize control.