Bill Clinton Opposes Internationalizing Internet Control

Sunday, 23 Mar 2014 04:58 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Former President Bill Clinton objects to the Obama administration's plan to give up the United States' control over online domain names and addresses, saying that the country's agencies have done a good job keeping the Internet free and open.

"A lot of people who have been trying to take this authority from the U.S. for the sole purpose of cracking down on Internet freedom and limiting it and having governments protect their backsides instead of empowering the people," Clinton said during a panel discussion sponsored by the Clinton Global Initiative, reports ReCode.net.

And although National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden's revelations gave "new energy" to an international opinion that the United States should not be in control of domain names, Clinton disagrees, saying that he does not believe the control should be spread out among other nations.

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The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has been in charge of managing Internet addresses since 1998, and U.S. officials even then proposed giving up U.S. oversight.

ICANN favors the Obama plan, with President and CEO Fadi Chehade saying that the organization is "inviting governments, the private sector, civil society, and other Internet organizations from the whole world to join us in developing this transition process. All stakeholders deserve a voice in the management and governance of this global resource as equal partners."

ICANN insists its role as the Internet's identifier system will remain unchanged, as it play a "critical role in maintaining a working Internet."

"Even though ICANN will continue to perform these vital technical functions, the U.S. has long envisioned the day when stewardship over them would be transitioned to the global community," said Dr. Stephen D. Crocker, ICANN's board chairman. "In other words, we have all long known the destination. Now it is up to our global stakeholder community to determine the best route to get us there."

Obama's plan is meeting with other wide opposition, particularly among Republicans, but U.S. officials say that critics misunderstand the plan.

“Some critics have claimed that this move opens the door for certain authoritarian states to somehow seize control of the Internet, blocking free speech and inhibiting a multitude of legitimate activity,” two administration officials, Daniel Sepulveda with the State Department and Lawrence E. Stickling, from the U.S. Department of Commerce, wrote in a Bloomberg BNA opinion piece on Friday. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

ICANN's contract with the U.S. government will expire in 2015, and the Obama administration wants to turn oversight to the "global multistakeholder community."

But opponents say the plan opens the door for totalitarian governments such as Russia and China to gain more control over the Internet, even though the Obama administration says it won't cede control to a government or inter-government led organization.

“I understand in theory why we would like to have a multi-stakeholder process," said Clinton. "I favor that. I just know that a lot of these so-called multi-stakeholders are really governments that want to gag people and restrict access to the Internet.”

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