Ceding Control of Internet <br>Puts the Global Debate <br>Under Threat of Censors
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
In another blow to American global leadership the Obama administration is abdicating control of the Internet. Countries that loathe freedom are gaining more influence over what you’ll be able to find on the web.
America started the Internet and from its inception served as its guardian, guaranteeing that virtually any person or group, no matter how controversial, could add a website to the worldwide network. But on October 1, the Obama administration surrendered American oversight to a multinational organization, ICANN, which stands for Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.
ICANN will have sole power to grant web addresses — or deny them, essentially banning sites from the Internet. If a site doesn’t have an address from ICANN, you won’t be able to find it. That is why Donald Trump is warning that Obama’s policy threatens our freedom of expression and our national security.
Hillary Clinton is falling in line with President Obama, just as she did with the Iran deal. The press is silent, preferring to dwell on green frogs, skittles, birthers and beauty queens.
ICANN answers to a council that includes more than 160 countries. America, no longer the referee, has only one vote. Just like communist China, which blocks tens of thousands of websites inimical to Party control within its borders. Just like Iran, which censors political messages and photos of women not wearing mandatory Islamic dress. The danger is that repressive regimes will outnumber free nations and impose censorship everywhere.
“Imagine an internet run like many Middle Eastern countries that punish what they deem to be blasphemy,” warns Senator Ted Cruz (R. Texas).
Under the new arrangement, America loses power. That seems to be the theme of Mr. Obama’s overall legacy building — globalization and a reduction in U.S. influence.
Opponents of the Mr. Obama giveaway are going to court to reverse it. Last Friday, four states — Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Nevada — failed to get a federal court judge to delay the transfer. Expect more litigation. Challenges to the giveaway will question the constitutionality of President Obama handing over our government property without getting Congress’s consent.
The Internet was created by the United States a half century ago as a Defense Department project. Within 20 years its influence had spread worldwide. Then President Clinton established and funded ICANN, to administer the technical side — allocating web addresses, keeping a “yellow pages” of them, and ensuring smooth, unhampered access to websites. ICANN reported to the United States Department of Commerce.
In recent years, hostile governments have pushed to make ICANN part of the United Nations. ICANN executives argue that “fairness” dictates giving all nations an equal role. Mr. Obama warns that keeping American control of the Internet would “embolden authoritarian regimes.” It’s a repeat of the same foolish argument Mr. Obama makes that calling out Islamic terrorists will incite more attacks.
Nonsense, says Senator Grassley: “These countries already fail to respect freedom of expression.”
In 2014, when Mr. Obama announced the deadline for the 2016 handover, Mr. Clinton opposed it: “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.” Too bad Hillary Clinton doesn’t see that.
Disappointing but not surprising from a former Secretary of State who left the department’s cybersecurity in shambles. Ceding control to ICANN would put all federal websites, even military and Homeland Security sites, under the thumb of this multinational organization.
The only protection is a letter of agreement with ICANN that is not legally enforceable. Good luck with that. Advocates for cybersecurity, national defense, and First Amendment liberty agree that ceding any control of the Internet to intolerant, anti-democratic nations is a dangerous leap in the dark.