The U.S. Commerce Department has always had its thumb on ICANN, the organization that controls Internet governance, regulates domain registrars, and has final say over top-level domains like
.org, and the didn’t-get-approved
.xxx. ICANN’s supervision by the Commerce Department theoretically ends in September, and Viviane Reding, the European commissioner for Internet and information technology issues, is calling for the Commerce department’s occasionally-heavy hand to be replaced a new multinational approach to Internet governance. Reding urges U.S. president Barack Obama to allow ICANN to become fully privatized, and therefore fully accountable to all nations, not just the United States.
“In the long run, it is not defendable that the government department of only one country has oversight of an Internet function which is used by hundreds of millions of people in countries all over the world,” said Reding, in a statement.
Reding suggests the Internet oversight body be managed by an independent judicial body as well as a so-called “G12 for Internet Governance,” which would include two representatives each from North America, South America, Europe, and Africa, three representatives from Asia and Australia, and have the ICANN chairman act as a non-voting member.
The Commerce Department has historically weighed in on matters of Internet governance on very few occasions…but those occasions have been memorable, such as when right-wing U.S. politicians scuttled the creation of a so-called Internet red-light district by blocking the creation of a
.xxx top-level domain for adult material. However, just the specter of U.S. control of Internet governance rubs many countries the wrong way, leading to serious efforts to set up alternative groups—and potentially separate, incompatible Internets.
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