ICANN Giveaway Plan
In recent news, some waves have been made over the transfer of the internet's stewardship from the United States government, and shifted over to the private sector - i.e., to the international non-profit organization known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). This effectively means that the internet, as it exists now, will be governed by a private entity. So, will this giveaway plan have an effect on censorship? Will individuals need to be concerned about foreign influence? Could your online rights or experience change?
To start, it is prudent to review how the internet effectively works, and what exactly ICANN will have stewardship over. The internet itself is made up of interconnected computer networks. When an electronic device is connected to the internet, it has what's called an "Internet Protocol" address, which can tell other electronic devices how to find it. So, when downloading, uploading, or viewing online content, it helps a client computer to find the server computer and vice versa. Before this point, this process was controlled by the United States federal government, with the transition a result of a twenty-year plan. With ICANN's new stewardship, it will control the assignment of Internet Protocol addresses, as well as, the Domain Name System (DNS) which grants names to websites (e.g., atrizadeh.com) to make them easier to find.
This transfer has happened due to an expiration of the contract between the IANA and the United States federal government. As a result, the stewardship has been handed over to ICANN, a non-profit entity that contains multiple stakeholders, including, but not limited to, Google, as well as foreign governments, such as China and Russia. There have been objections to the transfer, with concerns that foreign governments will unduly influence ICANN's operations.
Yet, even with ICANN's opaque nature, as a private entity, it is still incorporated in California and subject to United States laws. In comparison, the representation that other countries have in ICANN comes through the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC). While this would seem to have some influence, as GAC can advise ICANN's board, however, ICANN is not legally bound to any of the advice. Ultimately, it does appear that the change in ownership may have no actual ramifications in the long run as to how DNS and IP addresses work, and instead allows what is effectively an owner to the internet that is not beholden to any one country's interests. It may be seen as a sign of progress, efficiency, expansion, and globalization, but the only immediate result seems to be political discourse and attempts to obtain injunctions.
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