The Commerce Department is finalizing the transition of control of the internet from US hands to a “multi-stakeholder” model that includes Russia and China.
None of this was approved by Congress. The administration is acting unilaterally to strip US control of the internet and give it to totalitarians and religious fanatics.
The move means the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, which is responsible for interpreting numerical addresses on the Web to a readable language, will move from U.S. control to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a multistakeholder body based in Los Angeles that includes countries such as China and Russia.
Critics of the move, most prominently Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, have pointed out the agency could be used by totalitarian governments to shut down the Web around the globe, either in whole or in part.
“The proposal will significantly increase the power of foreign governments over the Internet, expand ICANN’s historical core mission by creating a gateway to content regulation, and embolden [its] leadership to act without any real accountability,” Cruz wrote in a letter sent to Commerce and signed by two fellow Republicans, Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah.
In the event any facilities are relocated to China, senators noted, they could go in the same building as the agency responsible for censoring that country’s Internet. “We have uncovered that ICANN’s Beijing office is actually located within the same building as the Cyberspace Administration of China, which is the central agency within the Chinese government’s censorship regime,” they wrote, noting that some of the American companies involved with the transition process have already “shown a willingness to acquiesce” to Chinese demands to aid with censorship.
“While this is certainly not illegal, it does raise significant concerns as to the increased influence that governments … as well as the culture of cronyism,” they added.
Opponents similarly made the case that Congress has passed legislation to prohibit the federal government from using tax dollars to allow the transition, and pointed out that the feds are constitutionally prohibited from transferring federal property without approval from Congress. A coalition of 25 advocacy groups including Americans for Tax Reform, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and Heritage Action sent a letter to Congress making those points last week. A fourth, Americans for Limited Government, joined that letter and issued a separate statement calling for Congress to sue in the event the transfer moves forward.
Has there ever been a nation that voluntarily gave up a powerful tool that drives commerce and allows for the freest flow of information in the history of civilization? Probably not because such a tool never existed before this. But some ideologies can’t stand freedom. Russia, China, the Arab world, and others have tried for decades to wrest control of the internet from the US. Finally, they found their naive pidgeon in Barack Obama.
This is a radical change. I suspect we will see almost immediately that it was a mistake. But once the transfer is made, it will be too late to get it back, leaving us pretty much at the mercy of anti-freedom governments.