When the White House seeks to avoid scrutiny, news is usually released on a Friday. This was no exception last week when the Obama Administration announced it was essentially giving up any further control over the Internet.
In the fall of 2015, when the U.S. Department of Commerce’s contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) expires, all remaining American authority over World Wide Web addresses and domain names will cease. This will herald an end to U.S. influence over this world-changing American innovation.
The only possible American governmental control over ICANN in a little over a year and a half will be the fact that the non-profit is physically located in California, and thus subject to tax rules and other laws. At least, that is, until it conceivably comes under the control of the United Nations and its employees potentially receive diplomatic immunity!
Robert Russell, a former top technology official to the George W. Bush White House, told the Daily Caller that the upcoming relinquished federal role in managing the Internet “raises the takes when it comes to the future of Internet governance.” Russell added that the laissez-faire management of the World Wide Web — spearheaded by the U.S. up to now — has been beneficial, saying, “[t]his light-touch oversight has allowed the Internet to blossom without government interference.”
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai indicated he will oppose the move if he is not assured that Internet freedom can be preserved after the U.S. pulls out of the Internet. He said “those advocating change must prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that their proposals would not increase the influence of repressive foreign governments over the Internet.”
There is concern that the Obama Administration making this radical move in an effort to trying to appease critics of NSA spying and ease those with fears that the Obama Administration cannot be trusted to not abuse any authority it has over the Internet.
However, this proposed major change raises new concerns that repressive regimes — such as those in China and Russia — will soon be emboldened in their own ongoing efforts to censor the Internet. Former Bush Administration State Department senior advisor Christian Whiton warned the Daily Caller that the move could also lead to U.N.-imposed Internet taxes. Calling it “the Obama equivalent of Carter’s decision to give away the Panama Canal — only with possibly much worse consequences,” Whiton said the U.N. could potentially “impose whatever taxes it likes” on things such as domain names.
Concern over the far-ranging implications of the Obama Administration virtually giving away the Internet is also shared by Horace Cooper, the co-chairman of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network.
Horace, who is concerned most about the notion of foreign control over content available to American users of the World Wide Web, said:
The White House’s plan to essentially cease any operational control over the World Wide Web is a terrible idea. It will allow cyberbullies such as the Russians, the Chinese and Iran to continue to tyrannize their own people through abusing the Internet. But those very despots could also now have potential say over what information Americans can access.
Freeing ICANN from U.S. control will ultimately result in less liberty, not more.
Like the Declaration of Independence, birthed in America and which acknowledged the God-given rights that every human deserves, the World Wide Web is a 21st century declaration of the importance of freedom and access to information — regardless of where people reside.
Letting the very people who oppose this freedom get a chance to silence more people on the Internet is tragic.
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