Is the U.S. About to Lose Control of the Internet?
Need to Know
On Saturday, the United States government is going to flip a (figurative) switch on the internet that could literally, and fundamentally, change the way the internet works.
That’s when the Commerce Department will relinquish control of ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the Playa Vista-based nonprofit that administers the way internet traffic is directed.
Founded in 1998, ICANN is “dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable [and] promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet’s unique identifiers.”
Most fundamentally, the organization coordinates the assignment of internet addresses, matching domain names with IP addresses. Essentially ICANN guarantees that when you type, ” https://uncubed.com/daily/” into your browser, you’re going to hit Uncubed Daily. Without their oversight, the existence of a truly global internet would be under threat.
As The Associated Press points out, the roadmap for this turnover has been in place since the organization’s founding, and in the intervening years, “[t]he U.S. government’s role has diminished… and day-to-day management long ago was ceded to ICANN”.
It’s more than likely the turnover would be relegated to internet arcana were it not for a few very public, very loud voices declaring, “Internet freedom is now at risk with the President’s intent to cede control to international interests, including countries like China and Russia, which have a long track record of trying to impose online censorship.”
Those fears, however, appear to be largely unfounded.
As New York magazine points out, “In reality, the internet is administered (not edited, not filtered) by a small number of people in organizations like ICANN and the Internet Engineering Task Force. To give you a sense of just how loosely the IETF operates, it’s [sic] semi-annual meetings are open and decisions are made by rough consensus – members literally hum to signal preference. If a government really wanted to infiltrate these groups, the opportunities are already there.”
The Guardian, too, is having none of it, pointing out that “if the US blocks the transfer of ICANN then that would be an excuse for authoritarian regimes to attempt to exert more control over the internet.”
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