All Your Internet Are Belong To Us
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Politics and Activism

All Your Internet Are Belong To Us

The U.S. government has given up regulatory control of the internet to ICANN. What does this mean for you?

All Your Internet Are Belong To Us

As of Saturday, October 1st the United States has given up its regulatory control over ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. This non-profit organization, which is based in Los Angeles, has overseen the Internet's address book, the Domain Name System (DNS), since 1998. At midnight this past Friday, the U.S. government’s Commerce Department contract with ICANN expired.

What does all that mean, exactly? First, there is no single government, business, organization or individual that controls all the computers and systems that make up the internet. But the network does rely on an address system called the Domain Name System, or DNS, which contains directories that help route data and internet traffic where it needs to go. This also regulates the domain name registry, such as .com, .org, and .gov, and someone needs to run this system.

For this hand off, the U.S. government insisted that ICANN be accountable to an international multi-stakeholder community, which will include members from the technical sector, businesses, telecommunications experts and governments. The U.S. agreed in June to relinquish control to ICANN after the organization agreed to its terms.

Some governments had sought to give control to a U.N agency, the International Telecommunication Union. Yet, critics of this proposal objected to letting authoritarian regimes such as Russia, Iran and China have equal votes on matters that could potentially affect free speech.

This hand over of U.S. regulatory control of the internet did not go off without a hitch. As Saturday approached, many Republicans in Congress moved to stall the transition, calling it a “giveaway” of the internet. Concerns were raised that countries like Russia and China would now have the ability to infringe upon U.S. citizens 1st Amendment rights. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was among Congressional Republicans who tried to block this transition through language inserted into a short-term spending bill that ultimately failed to pass.

In a last ditch effort, four attorney generals from Arizona, Nevada, Texas and Oklahoma, filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court to attempt to block the transition. The lawsuit, among other things, claimed that ICANN could potentially delegate management of the “.gov” domain suffix to others, or delete it entirely. Currently, that suffix is restricted to U.S. government agencies only. The federal judge who reviewed the plea rejected the request, allowing the transition to proceed.

What does this mean for me, you might be asking? Not much. The directories and domain names themselves aren’t changing. ICANN itself has nothing to do with internet content or regulation of it. In other words, it has nothing to do with what websites publish. All it does is ensure that your browser knows where to find those sites. In this era of Google, Facebook and mobile phones, most internet users rarely even deal with domain names anymore. In fact, it is likely that you hadn’t ever heard of any of this until reading this article.

Regardless of where you fall on the issue it is, nonetheless, a historic event in the history of the internet. Time will tell how much of an effect it will actually have.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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