• Could the Obama administration cede oversight of the U.S. Internet to an amorphous global cabal?
By Victor Thorn —
Could political officials from countries without the First Amendment like China, Nigeria, France or Israel decide what information can be published on the Internet by United States citizens? Will UN bureaucrats be capable of imposing global Internet taxes on American companies while at the same time censoring anything internationalists deem to be in poor taste? All of these scenarios may become actualities next year if the Obama administration’s plans to relinquish control of the World Wide Web come to fruition.
As it currently stands, a nonprofit Los Angeles-based firm named the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) works in conjunction with the Department of Commerce to assign Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and domain names, kind of like virtual parking spaces where people can place their content.
To illustrate the importance of this situation, if an organization such as this newspaper were not able to secure an IP address, they would be hindered in their ability to publish material on the Internet. Yet under pressure from internationalists like the European Commission, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information at the Department of Commerce Lawrence E. Strickling and ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade want to let lapse American control of this invaluable asset.
Ominously, “Holocaust” denial laws currently bar individuals in many European countries from selling, publishing or even questioning whether six million Jews died during WWII. If countries that do not value the First Amendment were influential in defining who can publish Internet content, it’s conceivable that news outlets investigating the September 11 attacks, Anti-Defamation League criminality, the OKC bombing, Benghazi or the “Holocaust,” for example, may be censored by being prevented from purchasing IP addresses.
On the surface, proponents of this shift cite red herrings like protecting children or eliminating pornography. Their real motive, though, unabashedly involves censoring topics that groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) have long tried to quash.
During a March 19 interview with this reporter, Robert Romano, a senior editor with the group Americans for Limited Government, voiced his alarm.
“Right now, under Commerce Department control, Americans still enjoy First Amendment protection when it comes to the Internet,” he said. “If censorship did occur, they could take their fight to federal court. But if the Obama administration cedes this right to an amorphous international body that engages in censorship, how do Americans fight back? They can’t. Where would they go, to the United Nations?”
Romano added some more details. “In April, the people behind this takeover of ICANN are meeting in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Although their motives are highly dubious and ill-defined, those promoting global Internet governance want to establish a panel consisting of 12 members from foreign governments, two from the UN and only three from the private sector. There would also be various representatives from academia.”
A ‘VIRTUAL PANAMA CANAL’
When asked why team Obama would agree to such a deal, Romano said: “It’s like giving away a virtual Panama Canal, especially when we get nothing in return. The Brazilian conferees offer no First Amendment protections. In terms of the billions in new fees, who will collect the money? It sounds like the beginning of a backdoor global Internet tax.”
Jacquie Kubin, president of Communities Digital News, also raised concerns during a March 19 interview.
“Once control leaves the U.S.,” Ms. Kubin stressed, “it will be impossible to get it back. It makes no sense that the U.S. would give up control of any aspect of how Americans do business online.”
Turning her attention to what’s in the so-called best interest of the global Internet community, Ms. Kubin stated, “It’s not so much what they would do that worries me, but what they could do.”
Victor Thorn was a hard-hitting researcher, journalist and author of over 50 books.