GOP blasts decision to cut ties with ICANN

Republicans are criticizing the Obama administration decision not to renew its contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), saying that without US involvement, free speech on the net is threatened.


“While I certainly agree our nation must stridently review our procedures regarding surveillance in light of the NSA controversy, to put ourselves in a situation where censorship-laden governments like China or Russia could take a firm hold on the Internet itself is truly a scary thought,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Senate Commerce Committee and with the Commerce Department on this, because — to be blunt — the ‘global internet community’ this would empower has no First Amendment.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, minutes after the Friday announcement, tweeted: “Every American should worry about Obama giving up control of the Internet to an undefined group. This is very, very dangerous.”

And that’s just a start.

“This is red meat for the base,” said former Rep. Mary Bono (R-Calif.), who sponsored a resolution in 2012 aimed at keeping the Internet free of governmental control. “We’re at a critical time where [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is proving he is capable of outmaneuvering the administration. … As they digest it, I think people are going to be very upset.”

U.S. lawmakers have long warned about the dangers of ceding ICANN’s authority to the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations agency. They see the U.N. as a vehicle for countries with tight constraints to allow even greater online censorship. Congress unanimously passed Bono’s resolution ahead of a 2012 ITU meeting to reinforce America’s commitment to an open Internet.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration — the Commerce Department agency that made the announcement — emphasized ICANN would need to meet several principles ahead of the transition, including ensuring the openness of the Internet.

“We will not accept a proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or an intergovernmental solution,” the agency’s administrator, Larry Strickling, told reporters.

An NTIA official said Friday the agency had no intention of handing the contract over to another government or group, but wanted to find a method of oversight that incorporated broader voices. Only a proposal with broad community support would be approved, he said.

Since the administration believes that all cultures are equal, the idea that Russia, China, and Muslim Arab countries should have an equal say in internet governance puts the very notion of free speech in jeopardy. Even if the Commerce Department can get 180 countries to agree on an oversight format that doesn't include government control, you just know that a lot of countries will make sure that they can influence ICANN, whatever architecture is decided upon.

I suppose we shouldn't be surprised given this administration's incredible naivete about most nation's intentions toward us. They simply don't have the capacity - or desire - to protect our rights.