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Congress could prevent Obama from giving “an international body” control of the Internet as he plans to do.

(Why has he the power to do this anyway?)

L. Gordon Crovitz writes at the Wall Street Journal:

Authoritarian governments led by Russia and China long ago found ways to block access to the Internet for their citizens.

Under the new Obama plan, these regimes could also block access to the Internet for Americans. 

There is recent precedent: Authoritarian governments tried to block new Internet top-level domains beyond the familiar .com and .org and .net. Saudi Arabia sought to veto the addition of .gay as being “offensive”. It also tried to block .bible, .islam and .wine. Under US control, the Saudis were denied their wishes. With some new post-US system of governance, will .gay websites be removed from the Internet?

The plan announced on March 14 would have the US give up control of the “root zone file” of the Internet and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN.  This root of the Internet stores all the names and addresses for websites world-wide, while ICANN controls Web addresses and domains. The US has used this control to ensure that websites operate without political interference from any country and that anyone can start a website, organize on Facebook … or post on Twitter … without asking permission.

It’s easy to imagine a new Internet oversight body operating like the United Nations, with repressive governments taking turns silencing critics. China could get its wish to remove FreeTibet.org from the Internet as an affront to its sovereignty. Russia could force Twitter to remove posts by Ukrainian-Americans criticizing Vladimir Putin. …

Contacted by this columnist last week, a spokesman for the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration said the agency reviewed this legal issue and concluded the administration can act without Congress but refused to share a copy of the legal analysis. Congress should ask for a copy and do its own analysis.

Congress also could tell the Commerce Department not to carry out its plan.

In 2012, both the Senate and House passed a unanimous resolution to keep the Internet “free from government control”. That happened as the Obama administration was being outfoxed by Russia and China, which hijacked the UN’s International Telecommunication Union to legitimize control over the Internet in their countries. Protecting the Internet may be the most bipartisan issue in Congress.

Will Congress act? Is it still alive?

  • Roger

    I would add, who builds and maintains these systems that run the internet? Hint: it’s not Saudi Arabia, Russia, or China! How about we keep our internet and block other countries. How about a .USA domain? I know, it’s my old libertarian isolationism showing. But, the rest of the world seems to be devolving even faster than we are. Isn’t it our borders, our money, our resources, our sovereignty that matter? Obama wants to hand all of that over to the internationalists. Is that what Americans want? I don’t think so.

    This is also another great example of how the Congress long ago abdicated it’s responsibilities to the Executive branch. No President should have this kind of power. But, if things go badly, Congress can just point the finger of blame at the President. And if things go well, they can take credit for supporting the “administration”. Convenient, huh?

    Will Congress act? No. Not on anything truly important.
    Is it still alive? Yes, and it’s doing much more harm than good!

  • liz

    This would be a disaster. Free speech on the internet would become a thing of the past. We’re already under enough dictatorship as it is.
    It’s ridiculous that they can do this so arbitrarily – wouldn’t doubt it’s part of some backroom deal Obama made with the UN, Muslims, Chinese or Russians, as “spoils” after his re-election.