- - Monday, March 17, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Open communication on the Internet has allowed free men and women to paint the globe with the liberating message of democracy. Tyrants, despots and charlatans, large and small, understand they can no longer get away with concealing the truth as they once did. The Net spreads Western values, culture and language throughout the world. This gives the internationalists, such as President Obama, severe heartburn.

The Commerce Department announced late on Friday, the usual time the government agencies release news that it doesn’t want anybody to see, that it would relinquish control of the Internet domain name servers, essentially the Internet’s phone book, to a multinational body known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN.

“We look forward to ICANN convening stakeholders across the global Internet community to craft an appropriate transition plan,” says Assistant Secretary of Commerce Lawrence E. Strickling.

The U.S. government has until now retained control over this essential function because the Internet is a U.S. creation. Al Gore claimed paternity, but it was actually a combination of government researchers and academics who developed the concept in the 1960s, built it, and opened it to widespread public use in the 1990s.

Congress was very clear in establishing a “hands-off” policy from the very beginning, exempting the Internet from regulation by the Federal Communications Commission in 1996 and several times knocking down the idea of discriminatory Internet taxes.

Those protections are less effective if the United States no longer holds the keys to the Internet.

Although ICANN, the international body that is to take over, is a private organization, it is subject to enormous influence from other nations that had nothing to do developing the Internet and do not share or tolerate democratic values. ICANN has already displayed an ambition to undermine the Western character of the system.

Under the hood of the Internet, the instruction manuals are all in English. The programming language of the World Wide Web is English. This has greatly strengthened the position of English as the lingua franca of the digital age, but ICANN has been trying to undo this and Balkanize the online community.

Four years ago, it began moving toward allowing top-level Internet addresses to appear in Arabic script, unreadable to Western eyes. This is the change that divides, rather than unifies.

Some nations upset with National Security Agency (NSA) snooping applaud the Obama administration for relinquishing U.S. dominance over the Internet as if this will hinder Internet surveillance. It won’t.

The NSA has tapped into the network backbone and inserted its digital bugs into Facebook, Google, Twitter and every other popular online destination. The NSA doesn’t care about the Fourth Amendment, and it won’t stop eavesdropping just because U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon tells it to knock it off.

It’s rarely a good idea to put the federal government in charge of anything, but this is a rare case in which the feds have a track record as responsible stewards — for a reason.

As House speaker, Newt Gingrich set the tone for the hands-off-the-Internet approach in Congress. He has a new warning now. “Every American should worry about Obama giving up control of the Internet to an undefined group,” he says. “This is very, very dangerous.”

The United States owes nothing to “international stakeholders” who are determined to make the Internet look more like the United Nations.

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