Global support for reduction in govt control of web domain names

March 27, 2014 by Stefanus Ian
Participants take a break during the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Domain (ICANN) meeting in Singapore on March 24, 2014

A plan to give control of the Internet's technical operations to a diverse range of groups, including governments and businesses, instead allowing the state sole power, is gathering international support, participants at a Singapore meeting on the web's future said Thursday.

The meeting convened by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was the first since the US government announced on March 14 it would hand over control of the Internet domain name system to a group comprised of various stakeholders in order to preserve the web's freedom.

Some countries like China and Russia want oversight of the Internet's technical functions to come under a group of governments or an inter-governmental organisation.

Kuek Yu-Chuang, ICANN's vice president and managing director for the Asia Pacific, said "there is widespread agreement" on the multi-stakeholders' model.

However, "there have been some suggestions on the table that maybe the governments can have an enhanced role," he told AFP.

Revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden of massive snooping of Internet traffic by US intelligence had given fresh impetus to calls for control of the web to be pried out of American hands.

ICANN, a US-based non-profit group, controls domain names like .com and .org and Internet addresses under a contract with the US government that expires in September 2015.

ICANN has been tasked to lead talks on the transition, expected to be in place by the time its contract ends.

About 2,000 delegates from 150 countries attended the Singapore meeting, including those from governments, businesses, academe and Internet organisations.

Vast majority want a new model

"Some people will say that governments should have more control and some will say that the multi-stakeholders model needs to be completely preserved," said Paul Wilson, director general of the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), the region's Internet registry.

He told AFP that this is a "fundamental difference that could carry through" discussions in the next 18 months.

Wilson however said that a "vast majority" of governments support the multi-stakeholders' model.

"What we see is that the majority of governments, the vast majority, very clearly recognise the... benefits (of the model)," he said.

Wilson noted that debates at previous stakeholders' meetings were "much more polarised, much more black and white" and were marked with "muscle flexing" but this was no longer the case.

Critics say that having governments, especially those with authoritarian leaders, control the Internet's domain name system would allow states to clamp down on dissent and the freedom of expression.

At present, the US government approves top level domain names such as .com, .net and .org. However, it also has control over that involves countries like .ir for Iran, .ru for Russia and .cn for China, a situation that has sparked resentment from some governments.

Leaders of groups responsible for the Internet's technical infrastructure warned at a meeting in Montevideo, Uruguay last year, that the web risked fragmentation at the national level if allegations of "pervasive monitoring and surveillance" pushed governments to take control.

"If the Internet fragments, it's a big question mark on whether Singaporean users can use US services," Kuek of ICANN said.

"Do we need to have a free trade agreement in order for Singaporean users to access American platforms, websites and services? I don't know. This is a big question mark," he said, underscoring the need for a global governance of the web.

Discussions on the web's future shift to a broader meeting of stakeholders in Sao Paolo, Brazil next month called NetMundial, in which both technical and non-technical aspects of the Internet will be tackled.

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3 / 5 (2) Mar 27, 2014
The meeting convened by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was the first since the US government announced on March 14 it would hand over control of the Internet domain name system to a group comprised of various stakeholders in order to preserve the web's freedom.

This is exactly the opposite of what should be done. This will result in total capitalisation of the internet, which will ultimately only hurt users.

This is also a violation of the constitution, since it violates the commerce clause. This power is not delegated to corporations, but belongs to the congress and the popular vote (meaning majority). Which means they do not have the power to delegate this without consent of the full senate and the popular vote.

You don't want some private company or corporation, like Facebook, a Bank, or an ISP, controlling internet access any more than they already do.

Gave article "5" so it would go to the top.
not rated yet Mar 28, 2014
The article is painfully confusing about what sort of "control" is at issue. It's just domain names, nothing more. The Internet is not going to fragment, to partition. The U.S. does not "control the web". Conflating Snowden clouds things yet more. Nothing ICANN can or can't do would have any effect on purported spying.

I've got to wonder that it's a thankless job that ICANN will be glad to hand over. If you think great things will come from handing control over to a committee comprised of dozens or more of mutually ambivalent if not antagonistic nations, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you.

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