ICANNT even: Why the US government giving up control of the Internet is a catastrophic idea

AP Photo

AP Photo

While you were opening your first beer after a long week’s work last Friday, the administration made an announcement that may forever change the Internet:

It declared plans to give up control of the Internet.

The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced it will no longer oversee ICANN, the nonprofit formed by the U.S. government that, along with the Commerce Department, has managed distribution of domain names for the entire Internet since 1998. The announcement, when considering timing, surrounding circumstances, and foreign policy implications, reeks of sheepishness, irresponsibility, and naiveté.

“The bureaucracy buries news of which it is not proud with a release late in the day on a Friday afternoon,” accurately wrote Paul Rosenzweig in The New Republic.

America plans to allow its contract with ICANN to expire in 2015. While there is a consensus that there won’t be many noticeable short-term consequences, people are wary of long-term ones. The decision may put control of the Internet in untrustworthy hands, where it will no longer be protected by the First Amendment. And there is always the possibility that the U.S. government may backtrack if there are indications another government has the potential to take its place.

“Larry Strickling, head of the Commerce Department agency that oversees ICANN, said a main objective for the U.S. is to make sure that NTIA isn’t replaced by the U.N. or another governmental organization,” Gautham Nagesh, tech reporter at The Wall Street Journal, wrote. While this isn’t likely to happen in the short-term, it is naïve to think this couldn’t change a few years down the line — especially considering that certain countries which have pressured us are salivating at the prospect of further restricting their citizens’ speech.

In recent years, a collection of nations, led by China and Russia, have been pushing for control to be transferred to the United Nations. ICANN currently has an “international governance structure of what it calls ‘stakeholders,’ a group that includes governments, corporations, and civil society activists,” writes Brendan Greeley in Businessweek. But, China and Russia say “the only stakeholders that matter” are countries. That doesn’t sound too promising for internet freedom.

Greeley explains that, currently, China can “prevent users inside its borders from viewing a website that promotes Tibetan separatism, but can’t prevent that website from registering a domain name. It would very much like to, under the argument that the site threatens China’s domestic sovereignty.” The U.S. government’s decision means the Internet will no longer be governed by the Constitution, and accordingly, the First Amendment. Accordingly, China may get its wish.

“To turn internet governance over to a global body where their combined influence is stronger than America’s will likely change the nature of the Internet and reduce its value as a tool through which people gain political liberty and education,” writes Peter Roff in Politix. He points out the absurdity of the prospect that Russia, which by invading Crimea violated a 1994 agreement with the U.S. and U.K, would “feel bound in times of crisis to respect any agreements it made regarding Internet governance.”

This also shows further weakness in the Obama Administration’s foreign policy strategy. Initially, falling in line with hostile countries’ wishes is clearly one in a long line of this administration’s submissive and irresponsible foreign policy decisions.

But more importantly, part of the rationale behind this move is to act in a show of good faith to other countries after the NSA scandal. As America was found to have been spying on officials in foreign governments, this would help repair relations. This is not the way to accomplish that.

“Atoning for that by giving up our remaining control of the internet is … too high a price to pay to win the illusive forgiveness of the rest of the world,” says Roff.

Government would be wise to renege and not cave to pressure from our enemies. Weak foreign policy isn’t working for us, nor the global community, as Russia’s invasion of Crimea proves. If we want to show we learned from the NSA scandal, reforming the NSA — not harming internet freedom — would be a good place to start.

Comments

Polititainment

Jay Carney's son performs at White House

The former White House press secretary and now CNN political commentator tweeted out a photo of his son's band Twenty20 performing at a White House event Monday evening.

Stewart: Graham has panicked for 13 yrs
Comedian Jon Stewart is taking some time away from going after his favorite Republican war hawk Sen. John McCain and is now going after McCain’s fellow rally crier, Sen. Lindsey Graham. Graham had some strong words over the weekend on the topic of ISIS, saying,  ”This president needs to rise to the occasion before we […]
Actress: I made 'constitutional' stand

Django Unchained actress Daniele Watts said Monday morning that she made a stand for her "constitutional rights" in resisting the LAPD late last week.

Gillibrand Madam Secretary inspiration

After first revealing that CBS' upcoming "Madam Secretary" series was inspired by Hillary Clinton and Benghazi, the show's producers are now saying that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) was more of the inspiration for the lead role.

 

Maher compares GOP rep. to ISIS, Ebola

Liberal comedian Bill Maher announced who he calls the "winning loser" in Congress during a live taping of "Real Time with Bill Maher" in Washington, D.C., Friday, and that loser is Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.).

White House

Joe Biden should never be allowed to support a Redskins name change

Imagine for a moment a tied Senate vote urging the Washington Redskins to change their team name. Into the chamber steps Joe Biden.

Gaffetastic vice-president apologizes for slur

Vice-President Joe Biden apologized Wednesday for his use of an ethnic slur in a speech this week.

Two remarkable stories show why these Vietnam vets earned an exemption to receive the Medal of Honor

Two Vietnam War veterans who were granted an exemption to receive the Medal of Honor were officially recognized Monday, recalling the extraordinary courage of servicemen often obscured by the tumultuous domestic politics of the era.

Obama orders airstrikes in Syria for first time

WASHINGTON (AP) — Opening a new military front in the Middle East, President Barack Obama authorized U.S. airstrikes inside Syria for the first time Wednesday night, along with expanded strikes in Iraq as part of a broad mission to root out the violent Islamic State militants whose reign of terror has spread across both countries.

Golf courses are now rejecting President Obama

A president can no longer just golf like a major champion today.

Congress

'Finally, we're gonna audit the Fed'

The House passed a bill Wednesday afternoon to audit the Federal Reserve, a long-time crusade of former Rep. Ron Paul and libertarians.

No welfare for weed under House bill
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House passed a bill Tuesday night that could make it a little harder for people to use government welfare payments to buy marijuana in states where the drug is legal. Supporters call it the “no welfare for weed” bill. The bill would prevent people from using government-issued welfare debit cards to make purchases […]
Congress tweets the Constitution

For an alternative reading experience this Constitution Day, direct your attention to Darrell Issa's Twitter feed.

Democrat tries to blame GOP for Ebola outbreak
Sen. Richard Durbin (D- Ill.) is trying to blame House Republicans for the deadly spread of the Ebola virus. About 5,000 people have become ill from Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria and Senegal since the outbreak was first recognized in March.  At least 2,400 people have died from the disease. The World Health […]
Bipartisan bill to demilitarize police introduced
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho GOP congressman Raul Labrador is teaming with a Democratic lawmaker from Georgia to move a bill designed to curb police militarization among state and local law enforcement agencies. Labrador and U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson introduced the bill Tuesday, saying the Pentagon’s “1033″ program — which provides local law enforcement officers […]