The Conversation

House Republicans introduce bill to block ICANN handover

The Hill reports that House Republicans have introduced legislation to block the Obama Administration's move to hand Internet oversight over to an as-yet non-existent international entity:

"America shouldn’t surrender its leadership on the world stage to a ‘multistakeholder model’ that’s controlled by foreign governments," Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), one of six cosponsors of the Domain Openness Through Continued Oversight Matters, or DOTCOM, Act.

Other co-sponsors are Reps. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), Joe Barton (R-Texas), Bob Latta (R-Ohio) and Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.).

The bill from House Republicans comes after the Department of Commerce announced earlier this month it would begin a process to hand over its oversight role of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which manages the technical side of Internet's domain name system, to a hypothetical global, multistakeholder entity.

While some praised the move as a step toward a more globalized Internet, critics say it could open the door for influence by foreign governments looking to change the open nature of the Internet.

Shimkus pointed to recent attempts from Turkey, China and Russia to clamp down on free speech online.

“This isn’t a theoretical debate," he said in a statement. "There are real authoritarian governments in the world today who have no tolerance for the free flow of information and ideas."

The Commerce Department promises that it will proceed carefully and avoid any handover scheme that would put Internet domains under the thumb of authoritarian governments.  A plan for the new international agency is supposed to be presented for review by "businesses, civil society, and technical experts of the Internet" before the next step is taken.  The DOTCOM Act would require that plan to be forwarded to Congress for approval before the Commerce Department can take any further action.  Rep. Blackburn went as far as warning that "we can't let the Internet turn into another Russian land grab."

It seems like a good step to let Congress have a say in whatever happens next. especially since this is the Administration that couldn't be trusted to launch a website.  Nothing about the Obama years should fill anyone with confidence that these agencies can be trusted to conduct internal reviews and give themselves thumbs-up for what would be an irrevocable loss of American control and security.  

As I've been pointing out lately, some of the "businesses, civil society, and technical experts" drafting the plan for the new oversight body might be formal agents of authoritarian governments, but they still have deep ties to those regimes.  The Obama Administration would be much less likely to dwell on those connections than congressional Republicans.  


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