Don’t Globalize ICANN   Leave a comment

Rarely do I ever agree with anything the geniuses over at National Review say on the issues of the day but on this one I’ll gladly stand alongside them and that’s on the issue of the Commerce Department’s recent decision to begin a process of globalizing the powers of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers.

This decision has bad intentions written all over it. At first, note NR’s editors, no one noticed the news item as it was issued in a ubiquitous Friday-news dump…but as the editors point out, over the past 2 weeks there’s been a growing chorus of voices criticizing the decision and they boil down to two essential questions:

  1. Why fix what ain’t broken?
  2. What does America get in turn for this supposed global governance of ICANN?

Now, to be fair, the editors over at NR did make a general jab at the Commerce Dept’s raison d’etre, but – and this is a big but – their jab was directed in this manner: Cui bono? Who benefits? For starters, look at all the countries who regularly censor the Internet, in particular for reasons of political power and national security; just on those grounds alone, there’s no ethical, moral or honest reason the United States should relinquish any substantive power over ICANN.

What’s especially galling is the Obama Adminstration’s perceived silence on the question; while it’s understandable that, given the various national security scandals the administration’s been involved in (the NSA scandals, Edward Snowden, etc.) there would be a need for the administration not to say anything…but as things go, the quieter someone is, the more there’s something there that they’re not saying. Instead, as NR points out, all that’s been said are questions regarding “globalism”, “stakeholders” and “transition”, hoping that these little tidbits will scare off critics. Well, I for one have this to say: not..on…your…life!

Indeed, this is one of the few occasions where Republicans could really – and I mean really – stick it to Democrats come election season. Quoting:

During the past decade, both houses of Congress have repeatedly rebuked the United Nations’ ambitious International Telecommunications Union, a longtime stalking horse of those who long for greater influence and easier censorship. In 2012, despite the fractious atmosphere in Washington, D.C., bipartisan bills committing the United States to a protective role passed the House and the Senate without a single dissenting voice. Has the entire American political class had a change of heart?

Presuming that it has not, it should act — and swiftly. Lawmakers should explicitly force the Department of Commerce to retain its current role, over a presidential veto if need be. The executive branch was reportedly unsure as to whether it was able to make this decision without Congress. As is its wont, it went ahead and did it anyway. But there is no such doubt as to whether Congress may reverse its decision. This is a clear-cut Commerce Clause power, and one that should be exercised.(National Review)

This is a point worth telling; both houses of Congress have come out in support of keeping ICANN in American hands, if not for any other reason than that America is probably one of the few nations that still has – within reasonable bounds – solid recognition of free speech in most all its’ forms. Just as Keystone could be a problem for certain incumbents, this could be another problem as well, though on different grounds.

For what it’s worth, here’s what they concluded with:

The Internet has been a runaway hit in large part because it combines the two ingredients necessary for success: the untrammeled energies and talents of a liberated civil society, and a light framework of governance that seeks not to inform behavior but to protect liberty. In providing content, the world can evidently look out for itself. On the question of protecting free expression, however, the United States remains an outlier even among other putatively free countries. “A lot of people,” former president Bill Clinton warned over the weekend, “have been trying to take this authority from the U.S. for the sole purpose of cracking down on Internet freedom.” Will America let them get away with it?(National Review)

Let us hope the answer to that concluding question is an emphatic no.

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