Obama Gives Away American Control of the Internet
In another blow to American global leadership, the Obama administration is abdicating control of the internet. Countries that loathe freedom will gain more influence over what you’ll be able to find on the web.
The U.S. started the internet and served as its guardian for many years, guaranteeing that virtually any person or group, no matter how controversial, could add a website to the worldwide network. But on Oct. 1, the Obama administration surrendered U.S. oversight to a multinational organization, the 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.
Donald Trump says this 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 media are silent, preferring to dwell on green frogs, Skittles, “birthers” and beauty queens.
ICANN answers to a council that includes more than 160 countries. The U.S., no longer the referee, has only one vote. Just like China, which blocks tens of thousands of websites inimical to Communist Party control. And 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 Republican Senator Ted Cruz.
It could become impossible to get a web address that advocates for gay or women’s rights, displays sexy lingerie or criticizes Sharia.
Under the new arrangement, the U.S. loses power. That seems to be the theme of Obama’s overall legacy building — globalization and a reduction in U.S. influence.
Opponents of the 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. But expect more litigation ahead. Challenges to the giveaway will question the constitutionality of Obama handing over U.S. government property without getting Congress’s consent.
The internet was created by the United States a half-century ago as a Department of Defense project. Within 20 years, its influence had spread worldwide, and then-President Bill Clinton established and funded ICANN, to administer the technical side — allocating and keeping track of web addresses, and ensuring smooth, unhampered access to websites. ICANN reported to the U.S. 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. Obama warns that keeping U.S. control of the internet would “embolden authoritarian regimes,” It’s a repeat of the same foolish argument Obama makes that calling out Islamic terrorists will incite more attacks.
Nonsense, says Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, “these countries already fail to respect freedom of expression.”
In 2014, when Obama announced the deadline for the 2016 handover, Bill 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 State’s cybersecurity in shambles. Ceding control to ICANN will 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.
Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York state and a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and author of “Government by Choice: Inventing the United States Constitution.”