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Obama Announces The U.S. Commerce Department will end Internet Agreement with ICANN

Updated on March 28, 2014

President Barack Obama

Barack Obama standing behind "Road to Change" podium
Barack Obama standing behind "Road to Change" podium | Source

What is ICANN?

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a nonprofit group that controls and oversees Internet-related databases, since 1998. It was formed "for charitable and public purposes."

The number one objective of ICANN is to preserve and keep the Internet going, with a pro-competition focus, and to represent the global internet community.

Before ICANN existed, the U.S. government controlled the domain name system on the internet.

President Obama's recent announcement marks the end of the U.S. Commerce Department's contractual agreement with ICANN. Business leaders are concerned about the future of the internet as far as its stability, and many people are concerned that free speech will be hindered by this move.

Why U.S. control of ICANN is so Important for Free Speech

Whoever runs ICANN will have complete control over the core technical functions of the world wide web. To date, the United States has been in control. If the current administration ends the U.S. agreement with ICANN, countries such as China, Russia, and Iran could get control over the internet and its management. If these countries were to have control of the Internet, you can be sure that censorship will take place.

ICANN has been Lobbying to end U.S. Oversight

Since the Edward Snowden incident with the NSA leaks, the Chief Executive of ICANN, Fadi Chehade, has been pushing to end U.S. oversight, strongly agreeing with those publicly denouncing U.S. spying, particularly Brazil's President, Dilma Rousseff.

Bill Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton
Former President Bill Clinton | Source

Bill Clinton Does Not Support Obama's Internet Decision

Former President Bill Clinton speaks candidly about the United States role in keeping the Internet:

"The United States has been by far the country most committed to keeping the Internet free and open and uninterrupted and a lot of these people who say they want multi-stakeholder control over the domain names and Internet access, what they really do is they want the ability to shut down inconvenient exchanges within their own countries."

You can listen to him say this at the beginning of this podcast on 03-28-14.

Storm Troopers at ICANN Event

Stormtroopers take ICANN by force.
Stormtroopers take ICANN by force. | Source

Both Political Parties Agree this is a Bad Idea

Both Democrats and Republicans alike are in agreement this transferring ownership of the Internet over to China and Russia is a bad idea.

Possible results from the transfer of the Internet to other countries:

  1. Global tax imposed on internet use
  2. Free speech websites could be censored
  3. *Could affect the U.S. ability to create websites

If a multinational corporation (or the U.N.) were to control ICANN, it could affect the U.S. ability to create websites.

The U.S. Protects Free Speech and an Open Internet

The U.S. is the most protective country in the world of free speech. Washington has used its control of the Internet only to make sure that it has not been pressured by political motives from other countries.

If an international organization like the U.N. adopted rules as given by foreign countries, then free speech could be at risk.

For example, if a country was to say that certain religions cannot publish freely on the Internet, because it is considered "hate speech" to another country, then if ICANN adopted these guidelines for the Internet, censorship would then take place on the Internet.

According to this Wall Street Journal article, Russia, China, and other authoritarian governments have been pushing hard for the internet to be more in line with their political motives. Russia and China have even used the International Telecommunications Union - a U.N. agency - to challenge the very essence of having an open internet. They want to control what information is available, and want to outright outlaw anonymity on the Internet. This is so anyone speaking out against their governments or corrupt policies can be punished, or permanently silenced.

Why is Obama Doing this Now?

There is some speculation that President Obama is giving the Internet over to international control because of the recent NSA spying scandal. Some think that this is a move to appease international critics of the NSA and the U.S.

Bill Clinton is very clear that this is not a good move.

Internet Poll

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© 2014 zeke2100


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      sheilamyers 3 years ago

      All I can say is if the only way to maintain the level of freedom we now have on the internet is for the US to control it than our government must maintain that control. Of course there's the argument that our own government may decide in the future to do exactly what they're so worried about those other countries doing.