NEW YORK — Americans’ right to free speech online might be threatened by the Obama administration’s decision to transfer U.S. authority over Internet addresses to an organization called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), critics say.
ICANN was set up by the Clinton Administration in 1998 to oversee the assignment of names and addresses on the World Wide Web. ICANN replaced the U.S. Defense Department, which created the Internet in the 1960s.
Until October 1 of this year, ICANN reported to the U.S. Commerce Department. But now it is only answerable to its stakeholders, according to The Washington Post. Those stakeholders consist of representatives of 164 national governments around the world in a set-up critics say is similar to the United Nations, with representatives from free countries but also from repressive regimes like China and Iran.
Under that arrangement, the repressive countries have the same amount of sway as does the United States.
“Our country faces a threat to the Internet as we know it,” U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said last month, days prior to the transfer. “… If Congress fails to act, the Obama administration intends to give away the Internet to an international body akin to the United Nations.”