Anna Conkey, Oct. 5, 2016
A potentially world-changing event happened over the weekend, but you won’t hear a peep about it from the mainstream media. They chose to cover the robbery of Kim Kardashian instead. Surprised? I’m not.
President Obama relinquished control of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to the United Nations on Oct. 1.
ICANN is a nonprofit organization that controls and regulates all IP addresses and domain names on the internet. It essentially is the internet, since we cannot access websites without those two components.
Why should this concern us?
First of all, handing over the most widely used medium in the world to foreign entities jeopardizes our freedom of speech. While property of the U.S., the internet fell under the rules and regulations of our Constitution, and we are one of the few countries in the world to guarantee freedom of speech and expression. Now that the internet essentially belongs to the U.N., those rights are no longer so certain.
The supposed goal of ICANN’s new stewardship is to ensure all governments gain equal opportunity to monitor and regulate the global web of networks we know as the internet, since most members of the U.N. do not trust the U.S.’s National Security Agency—understandable, given most U.S. citizens don’t trust it either.
However, some of those governments, for example China and Iran, actively work to suppress the access of the internet to their people, and if they were to somehow gain control of ICANN, who is to say they wouldn’t try to suppress internet access to all users?
And the incentive for another country to gain control over ICANN is very strong, considering the company rakes in “hundreds of millions of dollars a year” from selling domain names, according to “An Internet Giveaway to the U.N.,” from the Wall Street Journal.
At least while under the U.S., ICANN could ensure that the users were not being unfairly spied upon or repressed, except as specified by a website, such as YouTube or Facebook, or a country’s government, such as China.
Another important issue to consider is cyber security. In a Fox News broadcast made two days before the U.N. takeover, cyber security expert Morgan Wright questions whether the U.N. will actually be able to manage our security, given its history of disagreement and disorganization.
“Will we be able to protect our interests—more importantly our .gov, or .mil addresses, and our space in cyberspace?” said Wright. “The five domains we use now are air, land, sea, space—and cyberspace will be where we fight the next war.”
In order to track or trace enemies over the internet, our national security relies on ICANN’s records of domain and IP addresses. Now we cannot fully trust that the records typically relied on are not tampered with, or that typing in a domain name—like Google—will actually direct us to the Google website, and not one infested by malware.
Considering the potential risks to our rights and national security, one must wonder what could have motivated Obama to give up possession of this coveted organization.
Proponents of the ICANN transfer say that those who question the motives of Obama and the U.N. are simply fear-mongers, and that it is impossible for ICANN to censure what people see, do or say on the internet because it simply manages the database of global websites.
They say even if ICANN were to delete a domain from its database, the website would still be there, and people could still find it by typing in the site’s IP address into their browser.
Realistically, however, who is going to remember the digit code of numbers to take them to a specific site?
If ICANN were to delete a domain name like Google, then whenever people type “Google” into their browser and are repeatedly taken to a gray screen saying, “error: website not found,” they are going to assume Google no longer exists. They are not going to think to type in an IP address.
While U.N. supporters say that ICANN cannot block a website, isn’t making people think a site is nonexistent the same thing? No one likes to go out of their way to find something these days. We’ve been conditioned into expecting things quickly and easily, and that isn’t likely to change.
Additionally, this poses the threat of censuring. If people think their domain will be deleted if they say something that could be found disagreeable by someone at ICANN, then people will start monitoring themselves, and that in turn limits the availability of knowledge on the internet.
And finally, how will we know whether other things aren’t being monitored—like our every action as we do our daily web browsing?
As a writer, I need the internet to stay up to date with the news and to disseminate my findings. I research sensitive topics, and just three days after the U.N. takeover, my computer—which is not even a year old—has been running extremely slow every time I type something into my browser.
It started when I Googled the words “U.N. invasion of U.S. and militarization of police.” My internet suddenly shut down, and I received a screen saying my system was not connected to the internet, yet I was at home, and my Wi-Fi signal was at full strength. I had never had the issue before, and since then, every time I type something into my browser it takes at least 10-15 seconds to be directed to the page I am requesting.
Are we already being monitored? Based on my experience, I say yes. I wonder how many other people who have to research sensitive topics for a living are suffering these same issues. Regardless, I am convinced that things will just get progressively worse.