Can the GOP stop Obama's internet giveaway?
As the October 1 deadline approaches for the us to turn over control of ICANN, the domain name nonprofit, to the international community, several congressional Republicans are vowing to fight the move because they say it's dangerous and premature.
GOP lawmakers have long warned that the administration's plan to relinquish its authority over ICANN, the global nonprofit that manages the internet's domain name system, could give authoritarian countries like China and Russia an opening to make an online power grab. Now, as the actual date of the transition approaches — Oct. 1 — Republicans are looking at throwing up new obstacles.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is pledging to make the issue his primary focus this month, beginning with a floor speech on Thursday, in which he's expected to rail against the Obama administration's strategy. Cruz has already launched a website claiming the president is “giving away the internet," complete with a spinning countdown clock against a black background. And he's scheduled a hearing of the Senate Judiciary oversight subcommittee he chairs next week to “investigate the possible dangers” of the plan.
Meanwhile, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) said Wednesday that language to delay the transition could be included in the continuing resolution to fund the government past this month. And House Republicans are considering their options in the coming appropriations bill, a GOP aide confirmed this week.
“I don’t think the foundation has been appropriately laid for this,” Thune said in an interview. “Some members are adamantly opposed to transition, period, and a lot of them just think now is not the time, and it really just hasn’t been vetted, and it’s not ready yet.”
Can Republicans succeed in stopping the transfer? They can definitely delay it – perhaps for a couple of years – but the momentum for international control of the internet is very strong. And tech companies are fully supportive of the giveaway. Most of them have already made their peace with the dictators and willingly go along with the censorship.
But a broader concern has to be this: is the international community ready for the responsibility? ICANN has not demonstrated the independence necessary to resist individual countries from imposing their will on the internet. The danger is that ICANN will become a tool of powerful nations like China and Russia, which would threaten internet freedom.
Obama refuses to follow the simple, time-tested adage: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." This transfer is being done to kowtow to Arabs, the Russians, and the Chinese, who have their own ideas of what "internet freedom" means, and it's not what our idea of the concept is.