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Americans for Limited Government on ICANN: Cannot surrender the First Amendment!

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An article by Robert Romano, senior editor of Americans for Limited Government points out the dangers of transferring control of key Internet functions from the US government, to a yet unspecified international body.

Romano indicates that the US government is bound to the First Amendment, which protects the freedom of speech:

“All ICANN is, is a government contractor, per NTIA’s website: “The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) currently performs the IANA functions, on behalf of the United States Government, through a contract with NTIA. “If an issue of censorship were to ever arise under the federal government’s administration of DNS, even via government contractors like ICANN there would be a clear recourse via the First Amendment protections of freedom of speech and of the press via federal courts. 

Whereas, under the current transition plan, no such constitutional protections will be afforded — to anyone. Why? Because authority of DNS is being transferred from the one entity bound by the First Amendment, the federal government, to — who exactly?

Is it a group of private foundations, including the Internet Society, ICANN, the Internet Architecture Board, the Internet Engineering Task Force, the World Wide Web Consortium and the Number Resource Organization? None of those are bound by the First Amendment.”

The article wonders why ICANN ‘jumped the gun’ and announced its plans of ending the stewardship of the US government, a full two months before the Commerce Department had even issued its press statement.

Romano covers in detail the upcoming “Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance,” in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on April 23rd, which will convene to craft “Internet governance principles and propose a roadmap for the further evolution of the Internet governance ecosystem.”

He then points out the following three key objections:

  1. First, an international organization, however constituted, whether via the United Nations or a consortium of private foundations, to handle DNS, will offer zero First Amendment protection to anybody in the event of censorship. Where can free speech violations be taken to? The World Trade Organization? The United Nations? Who? Certainly, not federal court. This is extraordinarily dangerous, akin to selling the U.S. nuclear arsenal to a third party.
  2. Second, DNS being handled by a dozen governments, the UN, and a handful of foundations is not what the 1997 presidential directive authorized the Department of Commerce to do in “support[ing] efforts to make the governance of the domain names system private and competitive” and not what ICANN’s memorandum of understanding with NTIA states that the purpose is “to foster the development of a private sector management system” for DNS.
  3. Finally, the Obama Administration cannot give away the IANA and control over DNS to anybody, it can only contract that service out, and then only under very limited circumstances per the U.S. code.

The article emphasizes that ICANN’s contract with the federal government expires in 2015, and that the Commerce Department still retains the right to terminate ICANN’s contract, and to replace ICANN if necessary.

For the full article, click here.


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