Donald Trump, Ted Cruz oppose tech-backed internet-domain oversight plan

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have bad blood but actually agree on something: They both think the plan to transfer U.S. oversight of Internet domain names to an international body is a bad idea.

They oppose the transfer because they say it threatens the internet — and free speech.

“Congress needs to act, or Internet freedom will be lost for good, since there will be no way to make it great again once it is lost,” said Stephen Miller, national policy director for Trump’s presidential campaign, in a statement Wednesday.

But tech experts including Tim Berners-Lee — the creator of the world wide web — say the transition won’t affect free speech because the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) doesn’t have anything to do with the flow of content online. Los Angeles-based ICANN, a nonprofit that has been overseen by the Commerce Department, is in charge only of domain names and IP addresses.

The plan that the Republican senator from Texas and now Trump are opposing has been in the works for years, has already been delayed a year and is scheduled to go into effect Oct. 1. It has been met with skepticism by Republicans since the beginning, but has the tech industry’s backing. Last week, tech companies including Google and Facebook wrote a letter urging Congress to support the handover in the spirit of a global community.

Cruz and Trump also say it’s important to “protect” the internet because of the United States’ role in its creation and expansion. Cruz has called the ICANN transition plan an “internet giveaway” by the Obama administration, and Republicans could hold up the federal budget over the issue.

But Berners-Lee, who’s British and was working in Switzerland when he invented the web in 1989, begs to differ that the internet is something the U.S. can give away.

“Indeed, the U.S. government did play the leading role in creating the Internet and the World Wide Web,” he wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post this week. “But from the very beginning, its design and deployment was a truly global project, with contributions from all around the world.”

The op-ed was co-written by Daniel Weitzner, director of the MIT Internet Policy Research Initiative and former White House deputy chief technology officer.

Some proponents of the handover warn that Cruz and Trump’s fears of other government control over the internet could be realized if the ICANN plan does not go through.

From the New York Times:

Some warn that if the plan to transition authority on Oct. 1 is delayed, countries like Russia and China could try to shift domain name responsibilities to the United Nations, giving those nations more influence over global internet policy.

“Any delay would add a degree of instability and make the prospect of government control of the internet more likely, not less,” said Kathryn Brown, president of the Internet Society, a nonprofit organization that advocates open internet policies.

“By forcibly undermining the global Internet community’s ability to make decisions about ICANN, the United States would stoop to the level of Russia, China and other authoritarian regimes that believe in the use of force to limit freedom online,” Weitzner and Berners-Lee wrote in their op-ed.

 

Photo: ICANN President and Chief Executive Rod Beckstrom, left, and Kurt Pritz, senior vice president, talk about expanding the number of domain name suffixes during a press conference in London on June 13, 2012. (Tim Hales/AP)

 

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