In mid-March, the United States Department of Commerce (DoC) dropped a bombshell: it would be relinquishing control over the administration of the Internet, handing over responsibility to some yet-to-be-defined global entity. Immediately political leaders and commentators began talking about the serious ramifications of such a move.
To understand what is at stake, it is important to know something about the history of Internet. Developed nearly 50 years ago, the Internet is generally considered an American invention. It started out in the 1960s as a U.S. Department of Defense network to link scientists and university professors. During the 1980s, civilian agencies such as the National Science Foundation started using the same computer networking technology. By the mid-1990s the Internet had grown to be a global data communications system, linking millions of private, public, business and academic computers to one another.
From its inception, the Internet has always been managed by the United States. At first, the U.S. government was directly responsible. In 1998, a nonprofit corporation called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was established, for the purpose of administering the Internet’s Domain Name and Addressing System (DNS), under the supervision of the DoC. The DNS is a global database which translates domain names to Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, allowing computers around the world to connect to each other. Since 1998, ICANN has been contracted by the DoC to administer the DNS.
In March’s announcement, the DoC stated that when its contract with ICANN expires in September 2015, it would not be renewed. This will allow ICANN to be able to run the Internet addressing system without any U.S. interference, and transition to “globalized” Internet supervision.
“Transferring oversight of ICANN to the ‘global community’ will almost certainly involve the participation of the United Nations, which has long clamored for increased authority over the Internet, wrote Erik Telford, Senior Vice President of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity (www.foxnews.com, April 9, 2014).
Concerns that have been expressed relate to freedom of speech, human rights, online commerce and even international security.
Internet Freedom at Stake
National Journal published an article that explains what some of the biggest concerns are related to freedom of speech and human rights: “Some fear that the Obama administration is opening the door to an Internet takeover by Russia, China, or other countries that are eager to censor speech and limit the flow of ideas…..
“Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, called the announcement a ‘hostile step’ against free speech. ‘Giving up control of ICANN will allow countries like China and Russia that don’t place the same value in freedom of speech to better define how the Internet looks and operates,’ she said in a statement. Critics warn that U.S. control of the domain system has been a check against the influence of authoritarian regimes over ICANN, and in turn the Internet. China, Russia, Iran, and dozens of other countries are already pushing for more control over the Internet through the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations agency.
“Having the ultimate authority over the domain name system was the most important leverage the United States had in debates over the operation of the Internet. It was a trump card the U.S. could play if it wanted to veto an ICANN decision or fend off an international attack on Internet freedom (www.nationaljournal, March 17, 2014).”
Already, reported the Washington Times, “In advance of a meeting in 2012 to consider changes to the ITU’s international communications regulations, Russia’s Vladimir Putin explicitly stated that he wanted to achieve ‘international control of the Internet using the monitoring and supervisory capability’ of the United Nations” (www.washingtontimes.com, March 26, 2014). Putin or another authoritarian leader could pressure ICANN to shut down websites that host critical content.
L. Gordon Crovitz, a former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, summed up the situation this way: “The alternative to control over the Internet by the U.S. is not the elimination of any government involvement. It is, rather, the involvement of many other governments, some authoritarian, at the expense of the U.S. Unless the White House plan is reversed, Washington will hand the future of the Web to the majority of countries in the world already on record hoping to close the open Internet” (www.online.wsj.com, March 18, 2014).
Monetary and Security Concerns
If the United Nations gains control of the Internet, there are other ramifications. An article in The Daily Caller warned: “The U.S. government’s plan to give away authority over the Internet’s core architecture to the ‘global Internet community’ could endanger the security of both the Internet and the U.S. — and open the door to a global tax on Web use” (www.thedailycaller.com, March 15, 2014).
“U.S. management of the Internet has been exemplary and there is no reason to give this away — especially in return for nothing,” former U.S. State Department senior advisor Christian Whiton told The Daily Caller. “This is the Obama equivalent of Carter’s decision to give away the Panama Canal — only with possibly much worse consequences” (ibid).
“While the Obama administration says it is merely removing federal oversight of a non-profit, we should assume ICANN would end up as part of the United Nations,” Whiton said. “If the U.N. gains control what amounts to the directory and traffic signals of the Internet, it can impose whatever taxes it likes. It likely would start with a tax on registering domains and expand from there” (ibid).
The same article went on to explain that greater danger posed by the “giveaway” lies with the security of the Internet itself: “While the U.S. has never used ICANN in a war or crisis situation, the potential exists for it to obstruct Internet commerce or deter foreign cyber attacks – powerful tools in the globalized information age. After numerous recent widespread and successful cyber attacks against the U.S. have already been linked to emerging world powers like China, it isn’t difficult to image a future scenario in which management of ICANN could help ensure intellectual property, economic, national and international security” (ibid).
“Under invariably incompetent U.N. control, it could mean a hostile foreign power disabling the Internet for us,” Whiton said (ibid).
A Message of Weakness
Last but not least, surrender of the Internet feeds the perception to the rest of the world that the United States is not as strong as it used to be.
An insightful article in Businessweek observed: “The Commerce Department has ensured the growth of a lively, commercial, obstreperous Internet in the same way the European Union thrived, in part, under the protective umbrella of all those American tanks waiting to roll into the Fulda Gap. It’s a bad sign that the U.S. has chosen to give up this power. It means that the administration doesn’t feel that it can get away with holding on to it, diplomatically, which means that on this issue, we no longer enjoy the support of countries such as Germany” (www.businessweek.com, March 17, 2014).
The Pride of American Power Broken
For many years now America has enjoyed a position of global strength and power. It has often used this position to benefit the needs of other nations, although this has not always been appreciated. An objective look at recent history shows us that through two World Wars and beyond, much of the stability of the world can be attributed to American influence.
This position of strength was promised as a birthright to the two sons of Joseph, the grandsons of Jacob – Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48:16). As a result, these two sons were to grow into a multitude of nations and a single great nation respectively. The birthright promises included physical, material and national greatness. Fulfillments of these promises can clearly be seen in the British and American people (For a more complete history of these people from a biblical perspective see: http://www.ucg.org/booklet/united-states-and-britain-bible-prophecy/).
Along with the promises of greatness came warnings of punishment if these covenant peoples turned away from the One who brought about the blessings. Specifically, God forewarned that He would “break the pride of your power” (Leviticus 26:19). If disobedient, these peoples would lose their global influence and power they once enjoyed. America can no longer look upon herself as “the world’s policeman”—even in terms of what’s happening on the Internet. The U.S. is a tired giant that lacks will and clarity.
This trend was prophesied to happen as a precursor to events that would see the dawn of a new world age – the time when the kingdom of God would be restored to the earth.
(For more information see: http://pabco7.com/~pabco/jwdymkg.htm).
By Becky Sweat with Brian Orchard