Critics fear censorship as Obama hands control of the internet to multi-national body
WASHINGTON, D.C., October 3, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – A Texas federal judge quashed conservative efforts on Friday to stand between preserving the Internet as it was, free and open, and the Obama administration surrendering control to a multi-national body.
Southern District of Texas Judge George C. Hanks Jr. denied the request for an injunction in the lawsuit filed last Wednesday by Republican attorneys general in Arizona, Oklahoma, Nevada, and Texas, the Washington Examiner reports.
The ruling by Hanks, a 2015 Obama appointee, gave Obama’s Department of Commerce the green light to hand over a fundamental function of the Internet to the international Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
As of the October 1 oversight surrender, for the first time ever in its existence, the Internet was pulled from American legal jurisdiction, raising free speech and national security alarms.
Instead of U.S. oversight, the Internet is now subject to an international body of some 160-plus entities, including those unfriendly to the United States.
Countries such as China, Russia and Iran, which have shown hostility to the open Internet by blocking websites and restricting Web access from their own citizens, now have the power to block particular websites from users worldwide, and the U.S. will have no greater voice than any other country in the “multi-stakeholder process.”
The Internet was launched by the U.S. Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) in the 1960s, and according to a Washington Times report, expanded in the 1980s by U.S. taxpayer-funded grants through the National Science Foundation, meaning ultimately that U.S. taxpayers paid for the creation, development, and maintenance of the Internet.
ICANN, in operation since 1998 and overseen by the U.S. government, coordinates the maintenance and procedures of several databases related to the Internet’s domain name system and IP addressing, which is necessary for safeguarding the network's stable and secure operation.
The Obama plan to end the U.S. government contract with ICANN has been in the works for years, and Internet security experts expect that the harm to the Internet will be irrevocable and open the door to censorship now in effect only outside the U.S. to reach the States.
The four AG’s lawsuit contended that the transfer of control violates numerous components of the administration's statutory authority.
“This is the latest Obama administration scandal, one that threatens the integrity of the Internet,” Accuracy in Media (AIM) Editor Roger Aronoff wrote in his column last Thursday. “President Obama is seeking to cede oversight of Internet protocols to a multinational body, effectively ending unilateral American control over these functions.”
Aronoff said a group of leading national security professionals had sent a September 26 letter to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford Jr. opposing the transfer of the Internet from U.S. control.
“Of … immediate concern to us … is the prospect that the United States might be transferring to future adversaries a capability that could facilitate, particularly in time of conflict, cyberwarfare against us,” the security experts wrote. “In the absence of [the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s] stewardship, we would be unable to be certain about the legitimacy of all IP addresses or whether they have been, in some form or fashion, manipulated, or compromised.”
The lawsuit probably was the one remaining chance to preserve the Internet, Aronoff told LifeSiteNews.
“Congress blew it,” Aronoff said. “As far as I can tell, this lawsuit was the only avenue left.”
Last Wednesday, the Senate had passed a $1.1 trillion continuing resolution (CR) that funds the government through December 9. In it, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, who in addition to stripping out language to deprive Planned Parenthood of taxpayer dollars, also removed a motion from Texas Senator and former presidential candidate Ted Cruz preventing Obama from surrendering control of the Internet.
The deal “includes a provision that will give Planned Parenthood a raise, but contains nothing to delay President Obama’s reckless plan to give countries like China, Russia, and Iran more control over the Internet,” Utah Senator Mike Lee said.
With the lawsuit’s failure, it is expected that ICANN will ultimately become part of the UN, albeit in the next year or two.
While the Obama administration and its supporters have denied that the UN will have authority over ICANN, the Wall Street Journal‘s L. Gordon Crovitz pointed out that ICANN will need to be operated by a state agency so as to keep its antitrust exemption, Breitbart reports, meaning an almost certainty that the UN will step in to take control.
“It’s shocking the administration admits it has no plan for how ICANN retains its antitrust exemption,” Crovitz wrote. “Authoritarian regimes have already proposed ICANN become part of the UN to make it easier for them to censor the Internet globally. So much for the Obama pledge that the U.S. would never be replaced by a “government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution.”
“The idea is that they need to be part of a governmental agency, otherwise they cannot have a monopoly,” Aronoff told LifeSiteNews. “In other words, a nightmare.”
Aronoff also pointed to the two lawmakers clarifying in a September 21 Daily Signal piece the crucial nature of the U.S. retaining Internet oversight to preserve free speech.
“As a private organization, ICANN is not bound by the First Amendment, which ICANN’s CEO and President Göran Marby admitted in a recent Senate hearing,” they wrote. “The First Amendment applies only to the [American] government. So if the government is out of the picture, the First Amendment is too. And that means that ICANN would be free to regulate internet speech by restricting which websites can gain access to the Internet based on their speech.”
“It’s important to remember that the devil is always in the details, and what the administration attempts to spin as a ‘clerical’ function can easily be used to bludgeon free speech,” they said.
Cruz’s efforts to fight Obama’s surrender of Internet oversight have caused him to take heat in the mainstream media, Aronoff reports. The media incidentally also insisted the Internet handover will have only minor repercussions.
But Cruz’s fight to preserve U.S. control of the Internet has also led to an unlikely alliance between the Texas senator and former presidential rival GOP nominee Donald Trump after a bitter rivalry between the two during primary season.
“Clinton supports Obama’s plan to hand over control of the Internet to an international community of stakeholders, including Russia, China, and Iran,” stated Cruz, who also included Internet freedom in his list of “six vital issues. “Just this week, Trump came out strongly against that plan, and in support of free speech online.”
Cruz is far from being alone in sounding the alarm on the Obama push to cede control of the Internet.
Former UN Ambassador John Bolton stated last Thursday on The Laura Ingraham Show, “This is the concrete manifestation of the loss of sovereignty.”
“Once we cede control to the international system, we will never get it back and the Internet as we know it will disappear forever,” Bolton continued. “It will give the regimes like Russia, China, Iran, North Korea — you name it — control over something that they neither deserve nor will benefit the rest of the world.”
Aronoff also listed numerous individuals in his column who are critical of Obama’s submission over the Internet, among them The American Thinker’s Rick Moran, who wrote, “This is a radical change.”
“I suspect we will see almost immediately that it was a mistake,” Moran said. “But once the transfer is made, it will be too late to get it back, leaving us pretty much at the mercy of anti-freedom governments.”
"I have tremendous concern about other countries having the ability to weigh in on priorities, values and access to all content," Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn stated Friday in the Washington Examiner report. "These are people who, many times, will not wish us well, and may not appreciate free speech as we do. I have misgivings, and I have deep, deep concern over what this transition will represent."
"This, to me, is an incredibly bad day," Blackburn said.