Sparks fly over US plan to shift Internet role

It could be a difficult breakup between the US government and the Internet.

A plan unveiled last month would see the US relinquish its key oversight role for the Internet, handing that over to “the global multistakeholder community.”

US officials say the move is part of a longstanding effort to privatize the technical oversight of the Internet.

But it comes amid growing international pressure for Washington to step back from what some countries claim is a dominant role in the Internet.

Tensions have been exacerbated by the outcry over leaked documents showing the National Security Agency’s vast surveillance capabilities, feeding concern that the US manipulates the Internet for its own purposes.

Some critics argue, however, that Washington is “giving away” the Internet, posing long-term threats to online freedom and commerce.

Representative Marsha Blackburn contends that the US shift “will allow countries like China and Russia, that don’t place the same value in freedom of speech, to better define how the Internet looks and operates.”

A ‘controlled’ Internet?

“A lot of these governments are not looking for a free and open Internet,” Shatan told AFP. “They are looking for a moderated, controlled Internet.”

Robert McDowell, a Hudson Institute fellow and former US telecom regulator, worried the decision might create a void.

“The worst-case scenario would include foreign governments, either directly or through intergovernmental bodies, snatching the soon-to-be untethered technical functions for their own purposes,” McDowell said in a blog.

Information Technology & Innovation Foundation analyst Daniel Castro says in a report that without US overnight, “ICANN would not be accountable to anyone, and would be motivated only by the interests of those individuals who control the organization.”

The change sought by Washington would end the US role in what is on the surface, a dull, technical responsibility.

But these issues can become controversial, such as establishing new domains like .corruption, .amazon and the adult-oriented .xxx.

“In the month of March alone, we’ve seen Russia block opposition websites, Turkey ban Twitter, China place new restrictions on online video and a top Malaysian politician pledge to censor the Internet if he’s given the chance,” said Representative John Shimkus, one of the measure’s sponsors.

“There are real authoritarian governments in the world today who have no tolerance for the free flow of information and ideas.”

Full article: Sparks fly over US plan to shift Internet role (Phys Org)

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