Republicans are at it again as now they have resorted to blatant dishonesty and fear-mongering to undermine US government’s plans to abdicate supervision of key internet governance operations.
Bear in mind that if US government does indeed go forward with the plans, successfully, it would be a historic transfer of authority according to most internet policy professionals.
And of course, almost all of the Republican efforts have been led by Senator Ted Cruz (who bowed out of the US presidential race a bit earlier than expected) of Texas.
Several reports have indicated that Republicans are deliberately engaging to subvert the US government’s long-promised plan to transfer the management of critical internet technical operations, such as administration of Domain Name System (DNS), to a nonprofit organization of stakeholders from around the globe.
Cruz and his Republican friends have alleged that if the transfer does go through on October 1, then that would sabotage rights such as global internet freedom.
The Republican Party also said that the transfer would compromise US national security and breached federal law. They have also pledged to utilize the federal budget process in an attempt to thwart the move.
Senator Cruz has, in fact, taken it up a notch by threatening federal employees who are due to work on the planned US government’s transition with persecution and forcible detention if not imprisonment.
Ted Cruz said last week that if Congress failed to act, the Obama administration intended to give away control on the internet to an international body that was similar to the United Nations.
He also asserted, on the Senate floor, that if the aforementioned proposal went through then it would authorize countries like Russia, China, and Iran to be able to ban freedom of speech on the internet and even “your” speech.
Some internet policy specialists believe that Senator Cruz’s efforts to delay the transfer of stewardship (the transfer primarily involves a lot of documentative and administrative tasks, so isn’t likely to be even perceived by the majority of the world’s 3.2 billion internet users ), might actually have a negative effective on global internet governance.
Other experts say that Cruz’s attempts might even invigorate authoritative regimes around the globe to blunt freedoms of the internet and as a result, these same repressive regimes might demand greater control over the internet through government or intergovernmental efforts.
Ted Cruz also warned that the Obama administration’s proposal to give away control on the internal posed a serious threat to the nation’s freedom. He further added that the significant irreparable damage that proposed internet deal could wreak havoc not only on the country but also on the freedom of speech across the world.
And just as before, internet policy professionals are of the opinion that the claims put forward by Senator Cruz and his other Republican Party aids are brazenly erroneous.
These experts also believe that the amount of effort Cruz and his GOP supporters have put in to seek applause or favorable attention from the media and other government officials clearly indicates the lack of fundamental knowledge about how the internet works.
They said that the warnings given by Ted Cruz with regards to countries such as Russia, China, and Iran (about how transferring control to an organization with global stakeholders could empower these countries to curtail United States’ speech on the internet) were facetious, to say the least.
Milton Mueller, who is a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Public Policy and is considered as a leading authority on matters related to global internet control, in an interview with PolitiFact said that there was no legitimate way for Cruz to get to that absurd conclusion.
Perhaps it should also be mentioned that PolitiFact ranked Cruz’s statements as FALSE.
Mueller also said that what Cruz was doing was simply fear-mongering as he tried to create a bogeyman in the form of the United Nations.
Moreover, Cruz’s politically motivated campaign against the transfer of internet governance to a global nonprofit organization clearly indicates that he is trying to take advantage of another crucial universal tech policy issue.
That issue, which is a preposterous one to begin with, is the now-familiar conspiracy theory from the conservatives that the president of the United States of America, President Barack Obama, is actually not a faithful (dependable) American citizen but was, in fact, a traitorous intruder whose only aim is to relinquish the United States supreme power and authority to the United Nations.
Or worse, and perhaps even more perilously, to the enemies of the United States of America.
A Little Bit of History?
The IANA performs more like a “phone book” for the online world and essentially intreprets and deciphers easy-to-recognize-and-remember names such as cnn.com into numeral-based internal protocol addresses that perform the function of connecting internet users to the countless websites around the globe.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) which is a non-profit group that is based in Los Angeles (United States) has governed/handled the activities related to IANA operations in respect of a contract with the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for a little longer than a decade.
However the US government in recent times, as far back as in 1998, has consistently maintained that it expected to transfer important internet functions from public to private ownership and control so that it encourages international participation in its management.
And in order to accomplish that objective, the NTIA looks determined to allow the organization’s contract with ICANN to expire, which it will on September 30, 2016.
After the contract’s expiration date, ICANN will be able to take over the role of the sole guardianship over some of the internet’s most critical technical services.
Additionally, most internet policy specialists have backed up the transfer of internet governance function to a global nonprofit organization for the simple reason that such a move would somewhat cripple claims made by repressive regimes around the world to campaign for great control over internet governance or even cut off from the worldwide internet completely.
Lauren Weinstein, who is a seasoned internet policy and technology specialist and has participated in the development of ARPANET, which was considered to be the harbinger of the, eventual, global internet, recently said that the process of transition had not been a perfect one but the status quo had long been illogical because it threatened to shatter the internet into pieces.
He also said that the rest of the world wasn’t going to stay along the same path and if some entities went in their own directions then “we’ll” have a fragmented internet where people won’t be able to dependably talk to each other globally anymore and that would result in a critical component on the internet being lost.
Moreover, other internet policy experts along with Weinstein also believe that Senator Ted Cruz’s contention which suggests that the transition process will result in the formation of some United Nations like the intergovernmental occupation of the internet is entirely false.
It has now be established that the effect of the transition process would be the opposite of what some Republicans want people to believe.
Because by appropriating the guardianship of the global internet’s central function to a wider, international association of public and private shareholders, it will be easier to ensure that no one nation can undercut the key functions of the internet for everyone else.
Kathryn C. Brown, who is the President and CEO of the Internet Society which is a prominent internet policy organization, not long ago said that the relative power held by the US government within ICANN would actually diminish as the role of private sector, civil society, the technical and security communities and the end users would be intensified.
In a letter written to the Congress , she said that the governments would be but one single stakeholder among many others with no more or less power than any of their counterparts.
It is expected that after the transition process is completed, ICANN will be managed by a 20-member international board of directors which will constitute many of the most preeminent internet policy experts in the world.
Not only that, but the international board will also make sure that none of the board’s representatives that are involved with the governments are able to serve as members with voting privileges.
Additionally, the internal board of directors will be aided by representatives from over 170 countries.
The list of countries will include the likes of the United States of America and most of its major allies. The international board of directors will possess veto power over recommendations and any other form of advice given to the board by the advisory board.
Larry Strickling, who is the Assistant US Commerce Secretary and NTIA Chief, recently gave a testimony before Congress earlier this week and said that there was no possibility of governments being able to take control of ICANN and that was made possible by the provisions that had now been put in the by-laws.
Larry will also be inspecting the transition process for the United States government.
A single entity not being able to control the internet is part of the reason why some of the most prominent civil society and public interest organizations approve the transition plan of global internet governance.
Organizations such as Access Now, Publick Knowledge, Center for Democracy & Technology along with other notable ones like New America Foundation Open Technology Institute have all voiced their support for the transition plan.
This group of organizations in addition to some other ones as well contend that the whole point of global internet governance is to establish a multi-stakeholder council that is able to impede one country from dominating governmental control over the internet.
Publick Knowledge said in a statement, that they believed the best defense against foreign government wielding control over the internet is to complete the transformation process as soon as possible if not on time.
Publick Knowledge, which is a civil society group, also said that the transition of these critical functions away from the United States government would remove the justification for repressive regimes in different countries to request more supervision and regulation over the internet and other internet related issues.
Other mega US-based technology companies have also joined the movement and have supported the transition in strong terms.
Google, that started out as a search engine, along with Amazon, Facebook and Twitter said in a letter written to US legislators that they believed that the transition phase was an important proposal as it would assure the continuing security, stability, and resiliency of the internet system.
The letter further stated that in addition to the previous statement, crucial security measures were in place to protect against any human rights violations such as freedom of speech.
So one has to wonder why haven’t these endorsements from some of the most powerful organizations in the world haven’t yet halted Senator Ted Cruz’s and his aids’ ignorant propaganda campaign that is strictly aimed to persuade the public that the United States government was, in some way, abandoning its control over the internet to an organization like the United Nations.
In other words, an international body of stakeholders. As mentioned before, this allegation holds no weight (apart from not making any logical sense) because the internet doesn’t work the way Republicans think it does.
The internet is essentially decentralized and distributed global network of networks that cannot be controlled by a single entity, government or non-government.
Assistant US Commerce Secretary Larry also attested that just to be crystal clear, the United States of America did not control the internet. He further explained that no one country or entity controlled the internet because the internet was a network or networks that operated with the cooperation of many stakeholders around the globe.
Strickling also spoke about how failing to follow through on the transition process or unilaterally extending the IANA functions contract would only revitalize oppressive regimes to escalate their demand for a government led of intergovernmental management of the internet via the United Nations.
He also, thankfully, noted that NTIA has always maintained that it would not put up with a recommendation or a proposal where a government-led or intergovernmental organization replaces the NTIA role with its own solutions.
Let’s just hope Ted Cruz doesn’t get his way and saner minds prevail.