More than 113,000 people have signed a petition to oppose President Obama’s planned Internet giveaway, and at least two legislative proposals against it already are in the works in Washington.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held a hearing Wednesday on the White House proposal that would give up American control over the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.
ICANN provides vital oversight of domain names and Web addresses, but Obama’s Commerce Department has proposed turning those responsibilities over to a “multinational” body.
It took just days for more than 113,000 people to sign a petition by the American Center for Law and Justice opposing the plan.
Members of Congress confirmed that in just the past few weeks, some of the possible members of the multinational body — including Russia, Turkey, China and Malaysia — either have censored the Internet in their own nations or vowed to do it.
“This isn’t a theoretical debate,” warned Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., one of several lawmakers working on one of the legislative plans.
He’s joined by Reps. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.
“There are real authoritarian governments in the world today who have no tolerance for the free flow of information and ideas,” Shimkus said. “What possible benefit could come from giving the Vladimir Putins of the world a new venue to push their anti-freedom agendas?”
Their bill is dubbed DOTCOM, the Domain Openness Through Continued Oversight Matters Act.
The other plan, the Internet Stewardship Act of 2014, is sponsored by Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa.
“Whether the administration acknowledges it or not, America has strong interests in ensuring that freedom of speech and freedom of commerce are protected on the Internet, for the benefit of American citizens as well as for people worldwide,” Kelly said.
“The power and reach of the Internet are far too important to liberty to ever be surrendered to forces that could potentially use their power to limit the Internet’s reach and suppress the free flow of ideas,” he said.
Blackburn told Wednesday’s hearing: “The Internet has had a revolutionary impact on shaping commerce around the globe and has been a leading driver for jobs, innovation, economic freedom, and social change. The power of the Internet is derived from its bottom-up governance, an open ecosystem and decentralized nature.
She said, like many of her colleagues, supports a ‘free market multistakeholder model of Internet governance.”
“In a perfect world ICANN and IANA would be fully privatized and free from any government influence or control,” she said.
“However, realistically we know that China and Russia have a different view of perfection. Their end goal is to have ICANN and IANA functions migrate to the [United Nations]. That solution is one I will never stand for or allow to occur,” she said.
She also noted the double standard posed by the Obama administration’s “net neutrality” plan, which would be effectively shut down conservative talk radio.
“This decision represents another hostile step by the administration on the heels of net neutrality and the FCC’s CIN Study that threatens our freedom of speech. Giving up control of ICANN will allow countries like China and Russia that don’t place the same value in freedom of speech to better define how the Internet looks and operates,” she warned.
The American Center for Law and Justice, which organized the petition effort, said the Obama administration is pushing into dangerous territory.
“This move would put the online liberty of Americans at great risk,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ. “By turning over this key oversight to an international community – which is likely to include countries hostile to America – the world’s most powerful instrument of free speech would be subject to censorship, could be taxed, and would make it easier for cyber-fraud schemes to expand in countries around the globe.”
Sekulow said the “success and freedom of the Internet would be in grave jeopardy if the Obama administration is allowed to carry through with its plan to turn over control of the Internet to a ‘multinational’ body.”
“Free speech is at the core of our Constitution. We’re working with members of Congress on legislation to keep the Internet – and our free speech – free,” he said.
According to a report in the Hill, Blackburn said there is “such a low level of trust with this administration.”
Indiana’s Rokita said the Internet “is the single greatest economic machine created in the last 50 years and is a shining example of our American exceptionalism.”
“It is against our own national economic interest to relinquish control, especially without a clear path forward that will protect Internet freedom and American interests,” he said.
Businessweek reported that Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of the subcommittee, worried about “mischief” from foreign influences.