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US plan to end ICANN oversight could lead to 'Net censorship, lawmakers say

Grant Gross | April 3, 2014
A U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration plan to end its formal relationship with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers could open the door to Internet censorship by China, Russia or Iran, some U.S. lawmakers said.

"In the month of March alone we've seen Russia block opposition websites, Turkey ban Twitter, China place new restrictions on online video, and a top Malaysian politician pledge to censor the Internet if he's given the chance," Representative John Shimkus of Illinois, the chief sponsor, said then. "This isn't a theoretical debate. There are real authoritarian governments in the world today who have no tolerance for the free flow of information and ideas."

ICANN and the NTIA have no set deadline for the transition, Chehadé said. "It's more important to get it right than to rush it," he added.

Steve DelBianco, executive director of e-commerce trade group NetChoice, urged lawmakers and the ICANN community to consider a range of potential scenarios, including ICANN relocating its headquarters outside of the U.S. and ICANN becoming financially insolvent, after NTIA ends its oversight.

DelBianco also described a scenario in which a majority of ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee moves to suspend a top-level domain that refuses to remove websites critical of governments. The U.S. government now provides a critical backstop for ICANN to ensure against major problems, DelBianco said.

"It can be uncomfortable to imagine a scenario where a future ICANN fails dramatically or is confronted with a serious threat," he said. "But we should consider challenging scenarios and develop mechanisms that could resolve those challenges in a way that's at least as effective as the mechanism we have today."

 

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