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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

  It's an idea that should make Internet inventor Al Gore shake in his Ugg boots. U.S. officials recently announced that there is talk of giving up control over administration of the Internet. It is a move that brings up plenty of speculation as to why. The story being floated about is that jumpiness abroad over last year's NSA security scandal is the major reason for the push to give up any final pieces of U.S. authority of the World Wide Web.
  This major change would end a long held contract between the Commerce Department and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN. So is this latest step taken by the Obama administration an attempt to strive to be better global citizens than American? Is it a decision that, like so many others, is entirely politically driven?
  No one will deny that there is an infinite amount of money to be had and to be made in and off of the Internet. But far more sinister activities than just plain old capitalism could be at the heart of this. Many, including former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga), question just exactly what sort of global village the web could be turned over to. Exactly who would be put in charge? Cuba? China? North Korea? There are plenty of these sorts of candidates that are no doubt at the top of the Obama Internet Turnover list. Maybe Syrian president Bashir al Assad will like us just a little bit more if we let him control ITunes. It will give him and Diane Sawyer so much more to talk about.
  The biggest and most frightening aspect of this is the global threat of censorship. No other nation on Earth was founded on the concept of free speech in quite the way that America was and still is. Oh, there are western European countries where free speech is alive and well, but that was not always the case. And how will the Saudis react to female bloggers who are not afraid to say what they think? In places like Iran, the Internet is already heavily censored. How much more will be enough? And then there are the fees and regulations that are sure to follow such a move. Small businesses rely heavily on the web for advertising. It is a free and easy way to get their products and services out there in front of the public. How much more can American small business take?
  The reactions are mixed. Critics say this decision is "hasty and politically tinged". They also doubt whether ICANN can operate within the bounds of U.S. law. Fadi Chehade, president of ICANN, promises an open and inclusive transition. Gene Kimmelman, president of Public Knowledge, a group that promotes open Internet access, says "it is a step in the right direction".
  Then, there is of course, the Obama administration's track record on the issue of free speech. One need only utter three words, or to be more specific, letters, to make that argument stick, I. R. S. Barack Obama and his supporters, be it in the media or otherwise, have been trying for years to find ways to shut tight the mouths of Conservatives. First it was the Fairness Doctrine, and then there was all the talk of Net Neutrality. Could Liberals have finally found the path to Conservative censorship that they think they can slip under the radar?
  An international meeting to discuss the possible transition of Internet control is to take place in Singapore on March 23. Let's hope that Kim Jong Un and Raoul Castro will not be unveiling their Facebook pages at this extravaganza.       

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