Internet Freedom in 2015 – The Debate over Censorship Intensifies

Will the Internet be censored in 2015?  Or, will it continue to be free?  Will bloggers, news sites, and others continue to have and exercise Freedom of Speech over the Internet?  Or, will authoritative regimes take control of the Internet, shutting down websites that disagree with their political agenda, their political views, and their political repression?

In my blog post last week, I raised the question: “Will Censorship Replace Internet Freedom in 2015?”  Recall the facts.  First, the current administration has decided not to renew the contract the Federal government has with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (better known as ICANN) in September 2015.  Second, ICANN is the non-profit California organization the oversees and administers the Internet’s DNS or Domain Name System.  The Domain Name System is the naming system that permits communications of computers on the Internet.  Third, without the system, the Internet might degenerate into digital chaos.

Let’s look at the recent debate in more detail.  Some people argue that ”ICANN simply CAN NOT” censor the Internet.  That conservative analysts are worried unnecessarily and have exaggerated the threat.  However, those on the left are the ones who are wrong.  Concerns for Internet freedom are well-grounded.  Here’s why …

ICANN currently provides technical oversight and management of the Domain Name System that includes: (1) the Top Level Domains (TLD’s) such as .com, .org, .net, etc.; (2) the Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLD’s) such as .uk for Great Britain, .ca for Canada, etc.; (3) the corresponding registries (lists in each TLD); and (4) the assigned addresses for each of 13 root level servers.

The DNS functions to associate names for websites (for example, with their IP (Internet Protocol) address which is a 4 digit number separated by periods.  Humans seem to prefer using names, while computers rely on the IP addresses.  There is something called “Universal Resolvability” that is vital to the smooth functioning of the Internet.   It is the unique identification of any given server or website with its IP address.

So, how might censorship be introduced into the ICANN Domain Name System?  Without an unambiguous IP address, a server or website can’t communicate on the Internet.  ICANN under the heavy influence or control of authoritative regimes (free of American protection and run by a UN-like body) could directly or indirectly cause a website to be shut down with an IP address conflict.  Just creating the conflict would shut down the targeted website.  Even pretending to resolve the conflict (but acting slowly) will keep the website offline.

Note, too, IP conflict resolution is a function of ICANN, not any other players, group of players, or American or international courts.

ICANN can become an Internet censor under a UN-like international organization.

America should renew its contract with ICANN and continue to protect the world’s Internet freedom.

Another key point to remember.  ICANN’s current contract and its $300M of revenues for America is an asset belonging to the Federal government.  The administration does not have the Constitutional or legal authority to choose to not renew the contract.  Only Congress can dispose of the assets of the Federal government.

For more information on freedom, how America is losing freedom, and how America can get it back, please read my new book: Renewing America and Its Heritage of Freedom: What Freedom-Loving Americans Can Do to Help available in both print and Kindle editions.

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