As of October 1st, the boy king wannabe relinquished US control of the internet, raising some questions over continued internet freedom throughout the world. The concern centered around censorship of the internet, the trampling of freedom of speech cherished by western nations and guaranteed by the US Constitution, as well as businesses and news organizations that use the internet for commercial purposes. That concern is not without grounds since China is pushing for leverage when it comes to controlling the internet.
According to The Daily Caller:
Powerful countries that don’t cherish or respect freedom of speech seem to be jockeying for influence over Internet governance after President Barack Obama’s administration allowed a contract with the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), an American corporation, to expire Oct. 1.
Under Obama’s leadership, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) transitioned stewardship of the Internet’s domain name system (DNS) to a global entity. DNS is the technical network that converts website address names into numbers, in essence, the “yellow pages” of web addresses.
Now Chinese President Xi Jinping appears to be pushing for leverage.
Chinese President Xi Jinping stated in a letter to the 1st World Internet Conference in 2014, “The development of the Internet has posed new challenges to national sovereignty, security and development interests.”
Just a week ago, at the 3rd World Internet Conference, Xi stated, “The development of the Internet knows no international boundaries. The sound use, development and governance of the Internet thus calls for closer cooperation.”
The Chinese president spoke in general about different states “respecting one another’s ‘cyber sovereignty’.” China’s propaganda chief and member of the Communist Party’s leading Politburo Standing Committee, Liu Yunshan, stressed that different countries needed to focus on “congruence.”
Speaking to Reuters, Liu stated, “There can’t be national security for one country while there is insecurity in another. (Countries) can’t seek their own so-called ‘absolute security’ while sacrificing the security of another country.”
Doesn’t sound as though China wants an internet free of censorship.
In fact, China has a dismal history when it comes to censorship, freedom of speech, and human rights. The large Communist nation has little regard or respect for freedom of speech and inherent rights, which means it becomes unsettling to consider China having some type of control over the internet.
For China, freedom of speech does not even register on the scale while the united States places freedom of speech, recognized and guaranteed by the Constitution, first on the list. According to President Xi Jinping’s statement at the 2nd World Internet Conference, China places national sovereignty, social order and national security first, when it comes to the internet governance.
Freedom House, a nonprofit research institute, analyzed 65 countries according to internet freedom. In 2016, China was identified as the worst abuser of internet freedom. The official assessment by Freedom House reads, “The Chinese government’s crackdown on free expression under President Xi Jinping’s “information security” policy is taking its toll on the digital activists who have traditionally fought back against censorship and surveillance. Dozens of prosecutions related to online expression have increased self-censorship, as have legal restrictions introduced in 2015. A criminal law amendment added seven-year prison terms for spreading rumors on social media (a charge often used against those who criticize the authorities), while some users belonging to minority religious groups were imprisoned simply for watching religious videos on their mobile phones.”
In a “multi-stakeholder” process organized by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organization that parses out contracts for DNS control, China is expected to have a large seat. However, China is not the only nation sporting a poor track record regarding internet freedom to have an influence. Russia, who recently blocked LinkedIn, a social networking website for refusal to release private data of users within that nation, could exert influence as well. Freedom House ranked Russia as 52nd in worst abusers of internet freedom.
As noted by The Daily Caller:
Andrey Bubeyev, a mechanical engineer, was sentenced to two years in prison in May for publishing content that depicted the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula as part of Ukraine on a social network site, according to the Freedom House report, which lists a number of other state-imposed punishments that are disproportionate relative to other nations.
“Trade sanctions against countries that censor websites, like Russia, could be a useful tool,” Shane Tews, visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute’s Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy, told The Daily Caller News Foundation (TheDCNF).
Tews, though, highlighted the importance of trying to keep politics and technical functions separate.
“Only by committing to the separation of architecture and politics can we shield the Domain Name System (DNS) from being a proxy fight for other political games,” Tews explained in TechPolicyDaily.
Tews stressed that there was no way to get the contract between ICANN and IANA back, leaving little left for us to do but hope.
In what could possibly be termed an “intended consequence,” web pioneer Jeff Baron, who owned a “domain name registrar business accredited by ICANN,” had a judge basically allow ICANN to “give his registry to China without his consent or any financial compensation.” (Be sure and read the link since it details how this was done unconstitutionally and illegally) Baron was given responsibility of securing domain names registrations for businesses and consumers and he operated DNS servers for more than one million domain names garnering 50 million visitors each month.
Baron told The Daily Caller News Foundation why this has become overtly dangerous.
“Currently, a foreign government does not have the power to ubiquitously censor the Internet in the United States. That is because such censorship requires the cooperation of either the United States government or key United States companies,” Baron explained. “However, if a government or non-state actor were to obtain control of the Internet’s technical infrastructure, it would be able to engage in global censorship and mass propaganda, among other transgressions.”
Baron details the widespread impacts of the fast-developing international governance model on the Internet. “ICANN wields vast power and its policies and actions can have a dramatic impact on the exchange of information, the global economy and national security,” Baron said. “In the wrong hands, ICANN could be used as a weapon to dictate who has access to the Internet.”
Baron fears that if a hostile government were able to gain control of the DNS, it could disable “.gov” and “.mil” domain names, which are crucial for national security.
He also referenced the Internet’s direct influence on the news people receive, as well commercial Internet activities, which Baron says account for $5 trillion globally every year.
This poses a potential hazard for everyone on a global scale, especially when individuals might want to use the internet for banking, shopping, etc. And, Baron’s fears are well-founded since an internet attack was responsible for crippling the internet on the Northeast region of the united States back in October. Likewise, more vast DDoS attacks could occur that would result in a serious and constant problem for the US internet infrastructure. It is this “balkanization” of internet control that would be the culprit.
Baron is taking his concerns to president-elect Donald Trump through his “Internet Freedom Project (IFP). The IFP is advocating a ‘Make the Internet American again’ plank to be added to the already high-impact list of new foreign policy pledges.”
If collusion and corruption with foreign actors to destroy an American Internet business like Baron’s with over 1 million domain names and 50 million unique visitors per month can occur while the Internet is ‘American,’ imagine what is possible now, Baron cautions, observing that “putting the Internet into the hands of a foreign-controlled body could lead to the theft of American Internet real estate and to censorship.”
While others may not agree, the united States needs to maintain control of the internet to continue to exert Constitutionally recognized and guaranteed freedoms to exist on the internet. With the possibility of hard-core, freedom despising nations having a “hand in the cookie jar,” it would mean the beginning of increased restrictions of internet content, possible use of the internet as a coercion tool against nations, and hamper the exchange of information online. Users could see propaganda instead of news. Bloggers and alternative media sites could come to a screeching halt. Inherent rights to free speech could be curtailed. Those engaging in free speech activities could be arrested, prosecuted and/or fined.
Whoever gains the most control of the internet, controls the rules, use and content. Moreover, as Baron explained, the controller could shut down critical .gov and .mil internet DNS, jeopardizing national security. With China and Russia eyeing “big chairs” and ICANN and IANA contracts up for grabs, the crippling of US government and military DNS would render the US a sitting duck. After all, it will be a matter of who holds the biggest money that will probably end up in the driver’s seat.
With this move made by Hussein Soetoro, he basically gave the “large middle finger” to every nation on Earth as well as every internet user all around the world, not to mention the US government and military. While Tews may claim there is little that can be done to get control of the internet back under the united States, “where there is a will, there is a way.” If it means developing a secondary internet with secondary DNS servers; then, that may be what needs to happen to maintain a “free internet.” Should a nation that is an abuser of freedoms and human rights gain control, there would be little left of the first internet to even think about accessing it. Hopefully, it won’t come to that. But, we would be wise to keep every option open as a back-up plan.