August 12, 2022

By the way, Obama’s waving the surrender flag on control of the Internet too

Citizen of the world

Al Gore did not invent the Internet, nor did he “take the initiative in creating the Internet,” which is what he actually claimed in that notorious but often misquoted interview on CNN.

But the Internet was invented in the United States, by techno-types at American universities wanting to establish a way for computers at different schools to be able to talk to each other. Ever since the Internet was in its infancy in the 1960s (not that anyone called it that back then), it has essentially been under U.S. control.

And since the modern-day system of domain names was developed in more recent years, that too has been under the control of the United States – much to the consternation of “net neutrality” activists and others who just don’t like when the U.S. controls anything, but much to good effect in the service of free speech and the free flow of information around the world.

Until now. One thing you can count on with Barack Obama is that, if the United States is taking the lead in promoting freedom, Obama will put a stop to that. So it’s no surprise that the White House has sided with leftists around the world by surrending control of the domain name system. By fall 2015, the system will be totally controlled by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Administratively this is not a dramatic change because ICANN currently manages the system via a contract with the U.S. Department of Commerce.

But it’s one thing to be a contractor. It’s another thing to be in control. The U.S. no longer is willing to maintain control. What could go wrong? Plenty, writes Daniel Castro of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation:

While the ultimate goal was to transition the technical coordination of the Domain Name System to the private sector over time, the U.S. government wisely retained supervisory contractual control over ICANN, IANA, and the root servers to ensure the security and stability of the Internet and to make sure that ICANN was indeed fulfilling its responsibilities in an accountable and transparent manner. These arrangements have been extended and amended multiple times, most recently in 2013.

ITIF has argued before that U.S. government oversight has played an essential role in maintaining the security, stability, and openness of the Internet and in ensuring that ICANN satisfies its responsibilities in effectively managing the Internet’s Domain Name and Addressing System. This supervision has provided the necessary assurance to the millions of companies around the world that invest in and use the Internet for business that it will continue to be governed in a fair, open, and transparent manner. And under this supervision, we have witnessed an incredible amount of innovation and social benefits for consumers. Given the continued importance of the Internet to the global economy, it is important that the U.S. government continue to support an Internet governance structure that protects the economic and social benefits of the global networked economy.

Without the U.S. government providing an effective backstop to ICANN’s original operating principles, there would be no mechanism in place to stop foreign governments from interfering with ICANN’s operations. For example, Internet users and businesses worry that countries such as Russia or China may manipulate ICANN to censor online content that is outside their borders. Currently, the U.S. government acts as a deterrent since it has publicly committed to ensuring that ICANN operates openly and transparently. It is unreasonable, however, to expect all foreign governments to continue to respect ICANN’s operating principles in the absence of the U.S. government’s oversight and protection of core values.

Obama doesn’t like to acknowledge this, but the United States provides a much stronger defense of freedom, and a much stronger check against tyranny, than the “international community.” Or at least, the United States did before Obama was president. It is in the interest of freedom-loving people all over the world if the U.S. maintains control of the Internet’s Domain Name and Addressing System.

And as Castro warns darkly, once we give it up, we can never get it back. So why give it up at all?

The only plausible answer is that Obama doesn’t really believe the U.S. has the moral or legal right to control the Internet, and he doesn’t agree that the U.S. is the best protector of freedom (or he doesn’t think it’s important, a theory his performance as president would tend to bear out). So if you’re horrified at the thought of how Russia, China or other freedom-unfriendly nations could manipulate the Internet once the U.S. is no longer exercising control over it, just know that Barack Obama didn’t think this was a serious enough problem to do anything about.

Then again, we’re used to Obama mocking the idea that Russia is a threat.