Are the Days of Internet Freedom Numbered?


Imogené Wofford, Entertainment Editor

Ever think about getting on the Internet and being able to search whatever you want, without anyone looking over your shoulder?

President Obama is proposing that the oversight of the Internet be turned over from the U.S. Government to a global organization called Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, ICANN. This event is scheduled to go into effect Oct. 1.

ICANN is a nonprofit organization that is responsible for coordinating the maintenance and procedures of several databases.

“If Congress fails to act by September 30, the Obama administration intends to give away control of the Internet to an international body akin to the United Nations, causing irreparable damage not only to our nation, but to free speech across the world,” Texas Senator Ted Cruz said.

ICANN was created on Sept. 18, 1998 and put into action on Sept. 30, 1998. Its headquarters is located in Playa Vista, California.

“This decision poses a significant threat to our freedom…it will empower countries like Russia, China and Iran to be able to censor speech on the Internet,” Cruz said.

Cruz has launched a website that warns the dangers that the administration’s plan and has a countdown clock.

“Congress should not sit by and let this happen,” he said. “To hand over control of the Internet, to potentially muzzle everybody on the Internet…that ought to frighten everybody.”

The Obama Administration currently has authority over Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). IANA functions are managed by ICANN, which is where the transition from the administration to the nonprofit organization.

“The transition of the IANA functions to the global multi-stakeholder community is a serious, groundbreaking, and potentially unalterable action,” U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune, Senate Committee on the Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte said in their letter to the U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.

The members of these committees have passionately overseen the work done by the administration, IANA and ICANN for the past two years.

“We have closely examined the arguments for and against the proposed transition, including concerns about whether the transition could enhance the role of authoritarian regimes in Internet governance.

“In particular, we have heard from witnesses testifying to concerns that important accountability measures have yet to be fully fleshed out, tested, or proven, because they will not have been implemented prior to September 30, 2016,” Thune et al said.

There are many important questions, on the laws and policies regarding the transition, which are still left unquestioned for the committee members.

“There is a broad range of important questions on both law and policy that remain outstanding with respect to the proposed transfer of the IANA functions to ICANN and the global multi-stakeholder community,” Thune et al said.

Currently, ICANN is under contract for an agency within the Department of Commerce, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

Cruz also stressed how this transition will pose a threat to the U.S.’s national security.

“Congress has received no insurance from the government to keep dot-gov or dot-mil [domain urls] that could enable foreign phishing scams,” Cruz said.