Former US President Bill Clinton believes that the Obama administration’s decision to relinquish control over online domain names and addresses may be a poor one.
He said that many of the governments hoping to step in just wanted to use the position in order to stifle debate and to silent dissent.
During a weekend debate sponsored by his charitable Clinton Global Initiative foundation he said:
“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 their people.”
Clinton believes that the US has been a good steward of the internet, helping to keep it open and accessible by all.
He did, however, recognise how the ongoing revelations from Edward Snowden about the NSA had played their part in raising demands for the US to relinquish its role in its traditional role of looking after the net.
That said, he doesn’t believe that the solution is for control to be spread out amongst other nations, saying:
“I understand in theory why we would like to have a multi-stakeholder process. I favour 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.”
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has been tasked with managing Internet addresses since 1998, though US officials have often proposed giving up US oversight in the intermediate period.
ICANN’s favoured approach is the one put forward by the Obama administration. On 14 March the organisations President and CEO, Fadi Chehade said:
“We are 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 says its role as administrator of the Internet’s unique identifier system will remain unchanged as those functions “play a critical role in maintaining a single, global, unified and interoperable internet.”
According to an opinion piece in Bloomberg last week, some critics of Obama’s plan “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,” but, “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Clinton himself said:
“I understand in theory why we would like to have a multi-stakeholder process. 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.”
Whilst I can understand the apprehension behind some certain nations having “control” over the internet, I believe that it is no more right that the US should have total control either.
There has been a lot of talk lately about net neutrality and how ISPs, companies and governments should treat all internet content equally, but surely in this age of privacy invasions, we should also be looking for an internet that is ‘governed’ by more than one nation and its own thoughts on how it should work?
What do you think?