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Internet Freedom

Obama Should Not Put Free Speech on Internet at Risk by Giving Up US Oversight

internet-censorship-ICANN

by Senator Ted Cruz • The Daily Signal

The incredible ingenuity of the American people invented the internet—one of the most transformational technologies in human history. But even though we created and paid for the internet, we did not keep it for ourselves; we shared it for the benefit of all humanity. That spirit of freedom and generosity is the very essence of our great nation.

Since the internet’s inception, the United States government has played a critical role in supervising the core internet functions that allow websites to interface with the internet. If any other country had created the internet, this power could have been used to deny internet access to websites that were deemed politically undesirable, unpopular, threatening, or disfavored by the ruling elite.

But not here in the United States. The internet is an oasis of freedom today because of our First Amendment, which is unparalleled in the protection it affords free speech. So long as the U.S. government is involved in internet governance, it cannot deny any website internet access on account of the ideas it espouses. Continue reading


An Internet Giveaway to the U.N.

Internet Governance

By L. Gordon CrovitzWall Street Journal

When the Obama administration announced its plan to give up U.S. protection of the internet, it promised the United Nations would never take control. But because of the administration’s naiveté or arrogance, U.N. control is the likely result if the U.S. gives up internet stewardship as planned at midnight on Sept. 30.

On Friday Americans for Limited Government received a response to its Freedom of Information Act request for “all records relating to legal and policy analysis . . . concerning antitrust issues for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers” if the U.S. gives up oversight. The administration replied it had “conducted a thorough search for responsive records within its possession and control and found no records responsive to your request.”

It’s shocking the administration admits it has no plan for how Icann retains its antitrust exemption. The reason Icann can operate the entire World Wide Web root zone is that it has the status of a legal monopolist, stemming from its contract with the Commerce Department that makes Icann an “instrumentality” of government. Continue reading


Is online free speech under attack?

By Rudy Takala     •     Washington Examiner

Internet World Wide WebRegulators in Washington are showing increasing interest in tightening rules on political speech on the web, arguing that the dissonant voices enabled by “new media” have become too influential. If that effort is successful, experts wonder whether it could impact more traditional media as well, especially in how it relates to conservatives.

“The best example we can give is going back a few years to when the [Federal Communications Commission] was looking at trying to silence talk radio, which was obviously a realm of conservatism,” said Drew Johnson, executive director of the nonprofit group “Protect Internet Freedom.” He was referring to the agency’s “Fairness Doctrine,” which required broadcasters to grant equal time to opposing political candidates.

Democrats on the Federal Election Commission demonstrated a similar regulatory ambition in February, when they voted unsuccessfully to apply campaign finance laws, which are traditionally intended to govern paid political advertisements, to unpaid political accounts on Twitter. Continue reading


U.S. government reveals breadth of requests for Internet records

By Dustin Volz     •     Reuters

Internet World Wide WebThe Federal Bureau of Investigation has used a secretive authority to compel Internet and telecommunications firms to hand over customer data including an individual’s complete web browsing history and records of all online purchases, a court filing released Monday shows.

The documents are believed to be the first time the government has provided details of its so-called national security letters, which are used by the FBI to conduct electronic surveillance without the need for court approval.

The filing made public Monday was the result of an 11-year-old legal battle waged by Nicholas Merrill, founder of Calyx Internet Access, a hosted service provider, who refused to comply with a national security letter (NSL) he received in 2004. Continue reading


Russia ‘tried to cut off’ World Wide Web

A failed experiment to cut Russia from the World Wide Web stokes fears of Chinese-style online censorship

Internet1

The objective was to see whether the Runet – the informal name for the Russian internet – could continue to function in isolation from the global internet.

by Roland Oliphant     •     The Telegraph

Russia has run large scale experiments to test the feasibility of cutting the country off the World Wide Web, a senior industry executive has claimed.

The tests, which come amid mounting concern about a Kremlin campaign to clamp down on internet freedoms, have been described by experts as preparations for an information blackout in the event of a domestic political crisis.

Andrei Semerikov, general director of a Russian service provider called Er Telecom, said Russia’s ministry of communications and Roskomnadzor, the national internet regulator, ordered communications hubs run by the main Russian internet providers to block traffic to foreign communications channels by using a traffic control system called DPI. Continue reading


Voluntary initiative to stop ad-supported piracy

The winners:  consumers, content providers, and advertisersIntellectual Propery Piracy

The losers:  pirates, malware, viruses, and thieves

The internet has been a huge engine for commerce. You can go online to by just about anything and have it delivered to your home. You can also legitimately buy and download music, movies, and television shows from a incredible array of legal services. But where there are legitimate businesses, there are also pirates trying to make a quick buck selling that which they do not own. The truth is they make more than a quick buck — they steal billions every year pirating content belonging to others.

GroupM, a leading global media investment management company, recently announced that they will require all their partners to become certified by the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), a voluntary initiative by the advertising industry to fight internet piracy of copyrighted material — typically movies, music, and television programing. Many piracy sites make their money from advertisements on their websites. Indeed, the Digital Citizens Alliance conducted a report concluding that piracy sites made over $209 million selling ads in 2014. So the initiative is aimed at stopping advertisements from legitimate companies running on illegitimate pirate sites. By stopping the flow of advertising dollars to the pirate sites, piracy itself will be reduced, thereby incentivizing creativity, innovation, investment, and jobs. Continue reading


Ted Cruz’s Fight to Protect the Open Internet

The Texas senator blocks legislation that could lead to world-wide censorship of the Web.

by L. Gordon Crovitz      •     Wall Street Journal

Sen. Ted Cruz wants to safeguard the open Internet from authoritarian regimes. You’d think that would be an easy position to take, but it’s not. The Texas senator and presidential candidate is bucking the leadership of his Republican Party to push hard against the Obama administration plan to abandon America’s protection of the Internet from political interference.

This became an issue in March 2014, when the Commerce Department announced it would give up its Internet oversight by September 2015. Commerce exercises oversight through its contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or Icann, which keeps the engineers and network operators who manage the Internet free from political interference. China, Russia and other authoritarian regimes can censor websites only within their own countries, not globally as they have long desired.

Congress used its budget power to block Commerce from giving up the Icann contract during 2015, which should mean a two-year renewal into the next presidency. The Obama administration ignored that timetable and set the new date of July 2016 to give up control. Meanwhile, no alternative has emerged to protect the open Internet. Continue reading


ICANN submits plan for US to cede control of ICANN

Proposal recommends role played by government be replaced by ICANN itself, an oversight committee and a review process involving many interested parties

The Guardian

icannAn international group of internet experts has released a proposal for how the US can cede oversight of the non-profit that manages the internet’s names and addresses.

The 199-page document follows the US commerce department’s controversial announcement last year that it would transfer its stewardship of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to a global network of interested parties.

The details of how ICANN would run on its own have been eagerly awaited around the world and especially in the US, where some Republican lawmakers have raised concerns that the transition may allow other countries to take control of the internet.

Since 1998, ICANN has held the contract to manage the master database for top-level domain names such as .com and .net and their corresponding numeric addresses. The functions are collectively known as Internet Assigned Names Authority (IANA). Continue reading


ICANN needs to return to its Root(s)

by John Kneuer     •     Washington Times

internet-censorship-ICANNIn a little-noticed corner at the intersection of technology and policy, big changes are underway that could have a profound impact on the Internet as we know it.

Unless government policy makers are careful, the role of the Internet as a global engine of innovation and free expression could be at risk.

As is widely acknowledged—but perhaps not fully appreciated—the Internet began in the 1970s as a U.S. government-funded project to establish an efficient and survivable network of networks that could operate outside of the public-switched telephone network. While today the Internet represents trillions of dollars of infrastructure investments made by global public and private network operators, its functioning still relies on the coordination and execution of four discrete technical functions collectively referred to as the IANA functions. For an admittedly gross over-simplification, think of the IANA functions as a “yellow pages” of sorts, which allows computers to know where and how to direct traffic to its final destination, and to allow human beings to understand these directions by converting computer language (e.g. a series of numbers 123.4.5.67) into recognizable words and letters (e.g. www.icann.org). Continue reading


ICANN posts proposal to end US oversight of Internet

Yahoo

icannThe overseers of the Internet on Monday published a keenly anticipated proposal to step out from under US oversight.
Under the plan, nonprofit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) would create a separate legal entity that would be contracted to handle key technical functions of the online address system.

A “Customer Standing Committee” would monitor performance of what would essentially be an ICANN subsidiary, and a review process involving stake-holders would be put in place.

ICANN would remain based in Southern California, and any major structural or operational changes to the foundation of the Internet’s addressing system would require approval of the nonprofit organization’s board of directors. Continue reading


China Pushes to Rewrite Rules of Global Internet

Officials aim to control online discourse and reduce U.S. influence

by James T. Areddy     •     Wall Street Journal

Internet World Wide WebAs social media helped topple regimes in the Middle East and northern Africa, a senior colonel in the People’s Liberation Army publicly warned that an Internet dominated by the U.S. threatened to overthrow China’s Communist Party.

Ye Zheng and a Chinese researcher, writing in the state-run China Youth Daily, said the Internet represented a new form of global control, and the U.S. was a “shadow” present during some of those popular uprisings. Beijing had better pay attention.

Four years after they sounded that alarm, China is paying a lot of attention. Its government is pushing to rewrite the rules of the global Internet, aiming to draw the world’s largest group of Internet users away from an interconnected global commons and to increasingly run parts of the Internet on China’s terms. Continue reading


Don’t Go Soft on the ICANN Handoff

Congress is wrong to take itself out of the game.internet-censorship-ICANN

by Peter Roff     •    US News & World Report

If, as CQ.com reported Thursday, GOP congressional leaders are suddenly going soft on the issue of the Obama administration’s intention to hand off the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, then someone has gone soft in the head.

The pending transfer, something the administration last year said it would like to see concluded by the end of this year, involves not just the critical operations of the Internet’s technical infrastructure but the values that govern its operations down to the level of the individual user. There is too much at stake to rush the transfer through.

For some time now, the plan has been to turn the responsibility for the Internet over to the world. American ingenuity developed it, American capital resources built it up and out, and American generosity made it possible for every country on Earth to take part in the revolution it spawned, even those countries that have sworn vengeance, jihad, destruction and similar ill-wishes on this, the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”  Continue reading


Intellectual Property Rights are Important to Everyone

Intellectual Property - BrainOr, at least, they SHOULD be! 

Frontiers of Freedom has long been a leader in protecting property rights. Our Constitution provided for property rights for physical property and for intellectual property.  And with good reason. America became the world’s most innovative and economically powerful nation because our Founders grasped the importance of property rights and created a system that incentivized creativity, innovation and the productive use of such property.

Sadly, some foolishly think that property rights are old fashioned or that everything should be free. But these folks miss the point that if new innovations were free, we would see far fewer innovations. That would mean fewer new life sustaining medications, fewer new movies, less new music, and fewer new electronic devices and gadgets.  Imagine if someone argued that food is so important that everyone should be able to get it free and simply walk into grocery stores and restaurants and grab whatever food they want. How long would food be available? How long before grocers and restaurants close down? That’s the point. We need to incentivize the production of the things we want and need and we need to encourage innovation.

For this reason, Frontiers of Freedom was part of a group that sent the following letter to Capitol Hill hoping to highlight the importance of intellectual property rights. Continue reading


Why Is ICANN Hiding The Solution To Its Accountability Problem?

icann

By Peter Roff     •     The Daily Caller

icannThe Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – once an obscure nonprofit that was ostensibly important just to a handful of tech heads – is now mired in controversy as a result of the Obama administration’s announced intention to put an end to the last vestiges of America’s supervision of the Internet.

This formerly innocuous California corporation, created in the late 1990s by the Clinton administration as part of its efforts to transition the Internet toward commercialization, could suddenly become the only body with the authority to prevent countries like China and Russia from gaining control of the Internet. Given the past inconsistencies of its CEO Fadi Chehade, that’s a risky bet at best. Continue reading


Halfway to Wrecking Internet Freedom

internet-censorship

To forestall censorship by authoritarian governments, the White House must renew the Icann contract.

By L. Gordon Crovitz     •     The Wall Street Journal

internet-censorshipWe’re at the midpoint between the Obama administration’s March announcement that it would end U.S. protection of the open Internet and September 2015, when the change is supposed to happen. During this time, there has been no progress finding an alternative for protecting the Internet from authoritarian governments.

That’s no surprise—except to Obama administration officials who apparently never considered how hard it would be to replace U.S. stewardship. Continue reading