Almost everyone using the internet daily, even if you do not, you know how it works. When typing in domain names like Facebook.com or Twitter.com, you are presented with a website. Have you ever wondered how that works? ICANN is the company that helps make it all possible. Recently, ICANN has been in the news quite a lot. The issue at hand is that President Obama is seeking to change that. We will look at both sides during this paper to determine which is the more substantiated side of this argument.
Taking a deeper look at ICANN and what it does may help those who are unsure about what it does. ICANN stands for the Internet Corporation for Names and Numbers. This can be very confusing when you aren't sure of how the internet works. To break it down further, ICANN makes sure that when someone buys a top-level domain name (.com, .net, .org, etc.), that it has not been purchased by another party and is available for purchase. They work closely with website hosting companies like GoDaddy, Endurance International, WIX, and many others.
The current controversy surrounding ICANN is that President Barack Obama is wanting to hand control of ICANN over to other countries. While most articles reporting the topic regarding ICANN and President Obama are traditionally right-wing websites like MSNBC, NPR and more. ICANN is currently working with the government on a set of necessary rules regarding regulation for registering and maintaining domains03+. The biggest question: What are President Obama's plans and agenda with ICANN? The argument at hand is that the transition ICANN is going through poses no threat to our First Amendment and will not be harmful to our nation.
While reviewing Breitbart.com, we find that they are listed as a conservative site and argues that ICANN cannot transition without our freedom of speech being at risk; an argument typical of a mostly conservative news website. While the article itself has an opinionated voice to it, the source has posted valid information about the topic. Specifically, they do not want President Obama to change the current regulations surrounding ICANN and the way domain names are handled. They have posted articles and videos backing up their opinion that are like Congress Has Three Days to Stop Obama's Internet Surrender. This video that they posted Congressman urges Obama administration not to turn over ICANN is of congressman Jim Sensenbrenner speaking of the changes that President Obama is hoping to make and how they would negatively affect the internet.
Within the article that Breitbart.com has posted, there is a video of Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner. In the video, he states:
Free speech is at stake here but also the national security of our country is at stake because the core functions of the internet, including the control over domain names should not be turned over to countries that do not have Americas best interest or values at heart, like China or Russia or Iran and they have no protections for free speech, they have no value for free speech and they will do what they want to, to put censorship on the internet, particularly as a way of control their own populations within their country. If we don't act, that is going to be something that happens and I think we can guarantee it.
Through calculated phrasing, Jim Sensenbrenner instills fear in the viewer that if any changes to the regulation surrounding ICANN do occur, we are going to have strict censorship enacted on our internet.
Another voice to consider here is Blackenterprise.com. They have posted an article that covers the facts of what is happening with the political effects of ICANN and why it shouldn't be looked at as a political issue at all. In retaliation to what Jim Sensenbrenner said, Blackenterprise.com states:
Repeat After Me, ICANN Does Not Handle Internet Content
With this simple statement, we can understand that even if President Obama does choose to "hand over" ICANN, there will be no censorship issues associated with the content of the domains that ICANN regulates. The content itself usually is regulated by the domain registrar or website hosting company (like GoDaddy, Wix or Endurance International). Those companies usually have very lax rules on what you can and cannot host on their servers. When one understands that ICANN is a government regulated company, one can find it easy to see why some are misinformed about what regulations that govern them. Blackenterprise.com uses a source from CNET that reported:
ICANN is a technical organization and does not have the remit or ability to regulate content on the internet,
ICANN only oversees the domains and its associated contact information, making sure that the domain and IP address are regulated properly and not duplicated across multiple directories.
Another great point that Blackenterprise.com makes is that it is has been a goal to transition ICANN from US control to the control of more than one nation for years.
This has been the goal for years-for ICANN to be managed by an independent body and not a single nation. The contract for the U.S. to oversee ICANN ended Sept. 30 at 11:59 PM.
That end begs the question: "What will be next for ICANN and who should regulate them?" This change is the reason that ICANN and policies surrounding it have been making headlines lately. Towards the end of the article, Blackenterprise.com asks their readers to just take an extra moment out of their day and do some additional research on the issue to see that it is not an issue with the first amendment as most other sites are stating.
Another argument on the topic comes from a more popular news source, Npr.org. They investigate the topic in-depth and break down what is already occurring within ICANN. They share a similar stance to Blackenterprise.com and show their readers that the issues most politicians are having with the transition are simply not valid. In one specific instance, they share a quote from Senator Ted Cruz:
"Russia, and China, and Iran don't have a First Amendment," Cruz says in one of the videos. "They don't protect free speech, and they actively censor the Internet. ICANN could do the same thing, putting foreign countries in charge of what you can say online, prohibiting speech that they disagree with."
Senator Ted Cruz seems to be at the center of most of the disagreements that credible sites have with the political views of the ICANN organization. Npr.org even goes as far with their argument to have the CEO join their show and speak with them about what is going on by better explaining the purpose of ICANN. They also cover the fact that if ICANN is managed globally by all the countries, we would all have to agree for a new regulations and changes effecting it to be put into place. Freedom of speech on the internet would be safe.
With a global board of representatives heading ICANN, there will be ways to ensure that nations are not intruding on each other. The board is made up of business leaders, nonprofit organizations and academic leaders. With the influence of individuals that are not just government officials, the US and the world can be sure that governments are not the only entities getting a say in how our internet is handled and that the people have a say as well.
Forbes.com takes the stance on ICANN that they are not going to transition to something that is good for our nation. They see the changes as reckless and a threat to national security. They break down the purpose of ICANN extremely well and go into depth about why the changes that President Obama is wanting to make, would be a bad decision. They state that if the government gives up ICANN, it could pose a threat to an important area of US military operations. It leaves the whole cyber portion of the United States vulnerable. While this may not entirely be true, it does show the potential that the changes can have.
The topic has had new developments and increased in complexity as time progressed. Slate.com posted a more recent article about the changes that have been put in place and the result of those changes. They give a very detailed example of what domains are and do and how ICANN plays a part in all of this. They touch on the fact Donald Trump made a statement like Ted Cruz's statement of the transition. They follow up with:
Trump's rhetoric is largely nonsensical, but it is a good example of the widespread confusion about what ICANN is and its role in internet governance.
This shows us that while they are aware of the other side's argument, they want to ensure their readers understand the faults in the opposing views. For those without a political background, the issues with ICANN can be confusing and it is easy to believe everything one reads about it. They proceed to provide a breakdown of what ICANN is and does for their readers and then start on the reasons that the opposing views are not correct. The unique point of their article is that it provides us with a little more history as to how ICANN and companies like became a reality.
By providing specific background information to their readers, Slate.com becomes a better source than most of the others. They are intent on engulfing their readers in all aspects of the issue and providing as must information as possible so their readers can formulate informed opinions without looking elsewhere. They also show us that the government has not been the only one calling the shots for ICANN throughout the years. The public has had a great opportunity to participate in ICANN's policies.
MSNBC.com has been covering this topic since the beginning of the controversy and have consistently posted about the events regarding ICANN and most other popular topics in the news. They consider themselves as a credible news organization and thus try to post about controversial topics while keeping a neutral tone. MSNBC tries to relay facts surrounding current events instead of opinions formulated on them that other news organizations report. They use quotes to solidify their credibility on at least this topic, which helps their readers to understand that they truly just want to bring forth knowledge for their readers that aren't fully aware of the issues at hand. The quote that they included in the article clearly states why we should not be worried about Russia or China taking over the internet. They quote White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest:
Internet experts, scientists, business leaders, technology experts all agree that this is the most effective approach and the right thing for the long-term security and well-being of the Internet. So, that's the approach that we're intending to pursue. We'll see what kind of tricks Senator Cruz has up his sleeve.
MSNBC.com covered this topic a few years back in 2014 when the first conversations about "giving the internet away" to foreign countries started to circulate. They have not strayed from their opinion of the changes being a good thing rather than bad.
Politico.com mostly uses quotation as their way to enforce their opinion on the ICANN changes. They quote Ted Cruz and other Republican voices throughout their website and on various articles like Cruz slams Obama for 'internet giveaway', which shows that they are a right-wing firm and do not agree with the changes that President Obama is attempting to make to ICANN. They are another news agency that brings up concerns regarding Russia and China regulating the internet and causing our freedom of speech to be threatened. While they are not entirely against the transition, they want to ensure that all the questions regarding the issue have been answered. They quote Sen. Jerry Moran on this topic and hope that President Obama can ensure that things will turn out right for our country.
The transition should not move forward until our many concerns have been addressed. There won't be a second chance to get this right.
Politico.com does provide information about potential lawsuits that could surface as decisions are being made about ICANN and the transition. If the best interests of the people of America are not considered, then the lawsuits would move forward to a court of law. A quote from those that attended a private meeting on the topic:
"In the event that Representatives prove unable to provide the requisite authority required to defend these interests," the group said in a statement, "then we will explore all remaining options, including legal action brought by the people that Congress represents."
Multiple companies did attend this private meeting to show public support. Among those were Verizon and 21st Century Fox, two well-known companies. The fact that large companies are showing support for this transition proves to us that the government is not the only one who is involved in ICANN and the decisions behind the transition.
Politico.com also touches on the popular topic of Russia and China trying to insert their authority over the ICANN administration. They do touch on the importance that NTIA's (National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a company in the Department of Commerce that is responsible for advising the President) agency chief informed them of in a quote from Larry Stickling. He states that if we were to postpone the transition:
it would hurt America's reputation in the eyes of the rest of the world.
The Washington Times (washingtontimes.com) takes the stance of the transition being a bad idea. They state that because the internet and ICANN corporation were founded in the United States, they are the property of the United States and should not be freely given to other countries. The say that the internet and ICANN should be held onto within the United States with no access granted to management to other countries by stating:
So, under what authority, exactly, does President Obama claim the authority to make a decision on the disposition of a U.S. property - to wit, the Internet - without explicit permission from Congress?
With this quote in mind, it is good to consider what Congress and the American people say about the transition. With a vote or agreement made, the government and the people of America can all comes to terms that would benefit everyone.
Redstate.com gives another perspective to the situation by bringing up other lawsuits that have been filed. The lawsuit was filed because of the security risks that Ted Cruz and other senators have with the legal passing of the transition. Redstate.com stated with the following:
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and Nevada Attorney General Paul Laxalt filed a lawsuit on Wednesday night to stop the White House's proposed transition of ICANN functions.
Though the lawsuits were filed, the judge that oversaw the case denied their efforts and therefore the ICANN transition legislation was passed and has since completed. Further on Redstate.com goes over the reasons that everyone should be concerned that the transition is taking place, their main argument centering on security risks:
The complaint that was filed listed concerns with the potential security risks posed to domain names for the military (.mil) and the government (.gov).
The domain itself infers that the site is going to be right-wing and that is confirmed when they go over the fact that they do not agree with the lawsuits being shut down and the passing of the ICANN transition. They later add to the article:
*Update* For those who have asked, the judge who pushed through the takeover is George C. Hanks, Jr., an Obama appointee, who assumed the seat in April of 2015.
Arstechnica.com is a site that has information that can help people understand both sides of the argument. We see that Donald Trump has taken the side of Ted Cruz and does not want ICANN to transition to be a more global company. Trump and Cruz state,
The Republicans in Congress are admirably leading a fight to save the Internet this week, and need all the help the American people can give them to be successful. Congress needs to act, or Internet freedom will be lost for good, since there will be no way to make it great again once it is lost.
Cruz and Trump go on to gives us facts about what America has and has not been able to do for delegation of laws on the internet. They quote ICANN in saying,
The US government has never, and has never had the ability to, set the direction of the (ICANN) community's policy development work based on First Amendment ideas," ICANN said in a statement. "Yet that is exactly what Senator Cruz is suggesting. The US government has no decreased role. Other governments have no increased role. There is simply no change to governmental involvement in policy development work in ICANN.
This tells us that while Ted Cruz is stating that we have given anyone who interacts with ICANN the luxury of the First Amendment and the transition would strip the United States of that right. Arstechnica.com continue to say that is simply false and the role that America plays would not differ in any way.
When working in the internet industry, people must understand how the internet works and why it is important to have regulations behind it. If we do not regulate the names that people register, we could end up with duplicates of names and confusion on how to get to certain sites. ICANN has regulated the internet registration and made it easier for us to not have to worry about remembering an IP address and instead we can type in a simple phrase or string of words to get to a website. They do not regulate any content and therefor the transition of ICANN would not pose a threat to the First Amendment. Without ICANN regulating things, we could have a real mess on our hands. Regardless of who is regulating ICANN, whether a global community or the United States itself, having one domain per IP address is extremely important and that is ICANN's purpose. It is important to ensure that ICANN is regulated properly and not limiting Americans and their freedom of speech as well though. With the transition of ICANN, there are plenty of opportunities that have been opened for registering new TLD's and ccTLD's. With new opportunities come new greatness.
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