WSJ's Crovitz: Obama Endangers Internet Freedom

Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 04:13 PM

By Dan Weil

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President Barack Obama has put the freedom of the Internet at risk by dropping U.S. supervision of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), which assigns and maintains domain names and addresses for the Internet, writes Wall Street Journal columnist Gordon Crovitz.

"The Internet is often described as a miracle of self-regulation, which is almost true. The exception is that the United States government has had ultimate control from the beginning," Crovitz says.

"Washington has used this oversight only to ensure that the Internet runs efficiently and openly, without political pressure from any country."

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But that's all going to change with Obama's decision to drop our oversight of Icann, Crovitz says.

"Russia, China and other authoritarian governments have already been working to redesign the Internet more to their liking, and now they will no doubt leap to fill the power vacuum caused by America's unilateral retreat."

Until now, the United States could be counted on to prevent authoritarian governments like Russia and China from banning domains for dissident groups such as Ukrainian-independence supporters or Tibetan human-rights activists, Crovitz says.

"The Obama administration has now endangered that hallmark of Internet freedom."

Brendan Greeley of Bloomberg Businessweek also sees the Obama administration's decision as problematic.

"It’s a bad sign that the U.S. has chosen to give up this power," he writes. "It means that the administration doesn’t feel that it can get away with holding on to it diplomatically, which means that on this issue, we no longer enjoy the support of countries such as Germany."

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