Donald Trump Doubles Down On Ted Cruz's Blatantly Confused And Backwards Argument Over Internet Governance

from the let-that-transition-go dept

We've been explaining this since it was first proposed two years ago: but the IANA transfer away from the Commerce Dept. is a good thing on a variety of important levels. Earlier this year, we did a more thorough explaination on why it was a good thing, and then a further post earlier this month explained why Ted Cruz, who was leading the charge in blocking the transition, was basically wrong on every point about it. And not just wrong, dangerously so. Cruz keeps claiming that the transition makes it easier for Russia, China and the UN to "take control" over internet governance. The exact opposite is true. But we'll get there.

I was working on another post about some of the issues related to this... and while I was working on it Donald Trump decided to turn this into a Presidential campaign issue by releasing a statement more or less echoing Cruz's factually incoherent position:
"Donald J. Trump is committed to preserving Internet freedom for the American people and citizens all over the world. The U.S. should not turn control of the Internet over to the United Nations and the international community. President Obama intends to do so on his own authority – just 10 days from now, on October 1st, unless Congress acts quickly to stop him. The Republicans in Congress are admirably leading a fight to save the Internet this week, and need all the help the American people can give them to be successful. Hillary Clinton’s Democrats are refusing to protect the American people by not protecting the Internet.

The U.S. created, developed and expanded the Internet across the globe. U.S. oversight has kept the Internet free and open without government censorship – a fundamental American value rooted in our Constitution’s Free Speech clause. Internet freedom is now at risk with the President’s intent to cede control to international interests, including countries like China and Russia, which have a long track record of trying to impose online censorship. Congress needs to act, or Internet freedom will be lost for good, since there will be no way to make it great again once it is lost." - Stephen Miller, National Policy Director
First of all, here's Trump going on and on about "internet freedom" and "free speech." And yet... this is the very same candidate just a few months ago who talked about "shutting down parts of the internet" and mocking those who would say "oh freedom of speech" claiming anyone who fell back on that claim were "foolish people."
So, apparently it's okay to shut down parts of the internet, and those talking about free speech are "foolish people," but a symbolic effort over who controls the domain name system must be stopped because internet freedom and free speech are too important.

More importantly, almost everything the Trump campaign says in those two short paragraphs about the transition is wrong. And it's a really, really stupid and dangerous position to take for the internet. First off, as we've explained, the current link between the Commerce Department and ICANN and its IANA functions is more theoretical than real anyway. The US government really doesn't have any official control here. It's symbolic and that symbolism is doing a hell of a lot more to hurt the internet than to help it. Yes, Russia and China have, in the past, tried to take more control over internet governance via the UN/ITU, but that was stopped. But -- and this is the important part -- a big part of their rationale for trying to do so was the US's "control" over IANA via the Commerce Dept. That is, keeping this small bit of internet governance loosely connected to the US government adds fuel to the fire for authoritarian governments to seek more control over the internet. And that doesn't even get into the backlash that it will create if we go back on our word and refuse to complete the transfer of IANA away from the Commerce Dept (again, a largely symbolic move anyway).

But, don't trust me. Trust basically anyone and everyone with any actual knowledge on the situation. Here's Tim Berners-Lee, the guy who invented the web itself, explaining why the transition must go forward and why Cruz (and, by extension now, Trump) are totally wrong:
The global consensus at the heart of the Internet exists by virtue of trust built up over decades with people from all over the world collaborating on the technical design and operation of the network and the web. ICANN is a critical part of this global consensus. But if the United States were to reverse plans to allow the global Internet community to operate ICANN independently, as Sen. Cruz is now proposing, we risk undermining the global consensus that has enabled the Internet to function and flourish over the last 25 years.

Contrary to the senator’s view, ICANN is no “mini-United Nations.” ICANN is a vital part of the voluntary, global network of private organizations that provides Internet stability and the ability to innovate free from government interventions around the world.
Berners-Lee makes it clear that going back on the transfer will put the US gov't in the same kind of dangerous category that Cruz (and Trump) put Russia and China in:
But by forcibly undermining the global Internet community’s ability to make decisions about ICANN, the United States would stoop to the level of Russia, China and other authoritarian regimes that believe in the use of force to limit freedom online.
Tim Berners-Lee not good enough for you? How about Vint Cerf, recognized as one of the creators of the internet itself. He's in favor of the transition too and has explained why people should stop freaking out about it.

If not them, how about Kathryn Brown, who runs the Internet Society. She also argues that delaying the transition is what helps the case for Russia and China, rather than the other way around:
Some warn that if the plan to transition authority on Oct. 1 is delayed, countries like Russia and China could try to shift domain name responsibilities to the United Nations, giving those nations more influence over global internet policy.

"Any delay would add a degree of instability and make the prospect of government control of the internet more likely, not less," said Kathryn Brown, president of the Internet Society, a nonprofit organization that advocates open internet policies.
Or, how about Milton Mueller? The guy who literally wrote the book on internet governance. He's now being quite vocal about how ridiculous the latest plan to block the transition via Congress is:
It vaguely suggests that the transition might create “an opportunity for an enhanced role for authoritarian nation-states in Internet governance,” but provides no evidence as to how or why it does. In fact, if the U.S. is forced to abort the transition now it would play right into the hands of authoritarian states. Killing ICANN’s reforms through impulsive and arbitrary American action would fatally undermine the global Internet governance model rooted in nonstate actors. It would strengthen the case for national sovereignty-based Internet models favored by authoritarian states. “Look,” they will say, “the U.S. wants to control the Internet, why can’t we?” ICANN’s independence from unilateral U.S. government control is a logically and politically necessary consequence of its independence from all governments. By getting in the way of that, it is the Congressmen, not the Commerce Department, who are creating an opportunity for authoritarian states to enhance their influence in Internet governance.

The Congressmen suggest that “this irreversible decision could result in a less transparent and accountable Internet governance regime.” But how? No reference is made to the actual reform plans. In fact, the transition brings with it major corporate governance changes that would significantly improve ICANN’s accountability and transparency. The transition brings with it a new set of bylaws that gives the public enhanced rights to inspect ICANN’s books, the right to remove board members, and the power to prevent the board from unilaterally modifying its bylaws. Under U.S. government supervision for the past 18 years, ICANN has been almost completely unaccountable – yet this is the status quo they want to retain. By opposing the transition, the Congressmen are getting in the way of reforms that address the very things ICANN critics have been complaining about.

The congressmen claim that “Questions have been raised about ICANN’s antitrust status.” Well, what questions, and what are their implications for the future of Internet governance? No answer. This is a phony issue. ICANN is not, and never has been, exempt from antitrust liability.
And so forth and so on. Part of the attempt to throw a wrench into the transition was Cruz claiming that Congress needs to approve the transition, as it has the power to determine if the government can "dispose of... property." But the Government Accountability Office (GAO) just released a report basically saying that doesn't apply here and the Commerce Dept is free to move ahead with the transition. Specifically, the GAO finds it to be ridiculous that the entire domain name system should be considered "property of the US government" because it's not.
It is unlikely that either the authoritative root zone file—the public “address book” for the top level of the Internet domain name system—or the Internet domain name system as a whole, is U.S. Government property under Article IV. We did not identify any Government-held copyrights, patents, licenses, or other traditional intellectual property interests in either the root zone file or the domain name system. It also is doubtful that either would be considered property under common law principles, because no entity appears to have a right to their exclusive possession or use.
In short, there's a legitimate concern that Russia and China would like more control over the internet. But that's the only point that Trump and Cruz get right. What's astounding is that their preferred course of action -- delaying or even blocking the IANA transition away from the Commerce Dept actually supports Russia and China in their efforts to gain control over the internet. So if you care about the future of the internet and how it is governed, could someone please educate Cruz and Trump that they're doing exactly the kind of damage they claim to be trying to stop?

Reader Comments

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  • icon
    rw (profile), 22 Sep 2016 @ 6:42am

    Sounds like damage to me. We should probably start to route around governments and corporations.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 22 Sep 2016 @ 6:46am

    U.S. oversight has kept the Internet free and open without government censorship – a fundamental American value rooted in our Constitution’s Free Speech clause.

    But corporate censorship via DMCA takedowns and net neutrality violations is just peachy keen. Got it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2016 @ 8:37am

    Here we go again!

    Once this leaves the hands of the Americans guess what happens?

    More control by the Globalist elite. Do you know what they like to do? Think Facebook and its very willing attitude to censor and block things it does not like.

    I am dying to know how is it that you think any other government will become any more or less corrupt with the change in oversight? Maybe you have checked the fuck out of reality, but Americans already KNOW how fucking corrupt the system has become and still REFUSE to address it. I am not sure a bunch of weak shit heads in the UN will be any better. They are more corrupt than the bastards in the US.

    Show me any accountability anywhere! There fucking is none!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2016 @ 8:49am

      Re: Here we go again!

      It makes you look foolish when you try to comment on topics you don't understand

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2016 @ 1:25pm

        Re: Re: Here we go again!

        I also said... More control by the Globalist elite
        I also said... I am dying to know how is it that you think any "other government" will become any more or less corrupt with the change in oversight?

        Does this mean that I am directly saying the UN just because I mentioned that they are more corrupt than the US? Nope.

        However the UN is relevant because it too is a coalition of governments as well and serves as a spec-fucking-tacular model to reference in this case.

        Sure I might not have phrased it in a way you "nut fundies" could understand but the point has been made. Excuse me for not talking down to your levels.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Jeremy2020 (profile), 22 Sep 2016 @ 8:54am

      Re: Here we go again!

      The UN is not getting control of ICANN...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 22 Sep 2016 @ 8:57am

      Re: Here we go again!

      Show me what you think IANA or ICANN are or should be accountable for. It's probably hilarious.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      sorrykb (profile), 22 Sep 2016 @ 9:34am

      Re: Here we go again!

      Might I suggest taking a break from Infowars? You'd be amazed at the benefits.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Agonistes (profile), 22 Sep 2016 @ 9:51am

        Re: Re: Here we go again!

        Considering most other sources of mainstream news other than Infowars are left-wing agitprop machines, this jibe hilariously rich.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2016 @ 11:06am

          Re: Re: Re: Here we go again!

          Yeah - right, like Conservative News Network?

          Or how about Fox News ...
          yeah, that is a lefty news outfit there fer shur.
          Fair and balanced they are - lol

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Roger Strong (profile), 22 Sep 2016 @ 11:36am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Here we go again!

            Or even CNN. You *might* remember when news broke that Halliburton had lost entire cargo pallets full of money being sent to Iraq, to the tune of $Billions. You know, former CEO and still shareholder Dick Cheney's company. It was the same week that a Playboy Playmate had died of a drug overdose.

            Comedy show The Daily Show covered the Halliburton executives appearing before Congress to give their blank stares and nothing else.

            CNN avoided the story by switching to a 24/7 Dead Playmate format for the week.

            One can only laugh bitterly when the nutjobs declare them left-wing.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 22 Sep 2016 @ 9:40am

      Re: Here we go again!

      I am not sure a bunch of weak shit heads in the UN will be any better. They are more corrupt than the bastards in the US.

      Um. Once again, this transition helps keep things *away* from UN control.

      Please stop spewing from ignorance.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Agonistes (profile), 22 Sep 2016 @ 10:39am

        Re: Re: Here we go again!

        Without the US to ensure our version of "free speech" as defined by the 1A (even as imperfect as it is and as imperfectly as it is ensured) is order of the day, its a given that other extremely more questionable organizations such as the ITU will be gunning for, and will receive, the power to ensure "free speech" as defined by most of the rest of the world. And that's at minimum, more likely it will be much worse considering that's just the baseline: other international organizations' "free speech" definition will inevitably devolve it further.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Mike Masnick (profile), 22 Sep 2016 @ 3:45pm

          Re: Re: Re: Here we go again!

          Without the US to ensure our version of "free speech" as defined by the 1A (even as imperfect as it is and as imperfectly as it is ensured) is order of the day, its a given that other extremely more questionable organizations such as the ITU will be gunning for, and will receive, the power to ensure "free speech" as defined by most of the rest of the world. And that's at minimum, more likely it will be much worse considering that's just the baseline: other international organizations' "free speech" definition will inevitably devolve it further.

          1. Nothing about the Commerce Dept/NIST role over ICANN now "ensures free speech" on the internet. So, this is meaningless garbage.

          2. ITU has been using US contractual relationship over IANA as THE KEY REASON it seeks control. Ditching that connection works to PREVENT ITU from gaining power over internet governance.

          3. The multistakeholder process built into ICANN/IANA means less ability for ITU and/or governments (any governments) to exert control by making sure that others, such as actual techies, have the ability to block such things.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2016 @ 1:46pm

        Re: Re: Here we go again!

        Um. Once again, this transition helps keep things *away* from UN control.

        UN = a coalition of governments.
        NewICANN = a coalition of something, what else, something, and RICH FUCKERS WITH POWER and a LONG list of agendas!

        This is so going to fucking work out? Where is your mind? Once again the plebs will get no seat at the table while all the globalist talk this up like its going to be some fucking utopia!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Mike Masnick (profile), 22 Sep 2016 @ 3:42pm

          Re: Re: Re: Here we go again!

          UN = a coalition of governments.
          NewICANN = a coalition of something, what else, something, and RICH FUCKERS WITH POWER and a LONG list of agendas!


          Man. You really have set your mind with an ignorant and wrong understanding of what's happening and WILL NOT CHANGE IT, huh? Incredible.

          No, ICANN -- both before and after the transition -- will be managed by a *multistakeholder process* that involves lots of people, including technology experts. It actually STOPS a "coalition of governments" from controlling the internet governance issue, because it actually includes lots and lots of non-gov't people. And a lot of those people are NOT "rich fuckers."

          But, you, who have demonstrated an inability to understand what ICANN actually does, still insist on things that are simply factually incorrect.

          Incredible.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2016 @ 11:24am

      Re: Here we go again!

      So your advice for avoiding corrupt parties interfering is to leave it in the hands of a party known for corporate corruption?

      Genius!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    twistdhood (profile), 22 Sep 2016 @ 8:43am

    Not gonna happen

    ...could someone please educate Cruz and Trump...

    Just in case you haven't been paying attention to the last few months...there's absolutely no way to educate these two.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2016 @ 9:01am

    "please educate Cruz and Trump that they're doing exactly the kind of damage they claim to be trying to stop"

    Cunning but ignorant peasants are dangerous when handed pitchforks. When did the Republican party forget this basic fact of life? The rest of us are looking on in horror.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 22 Sep 2016 @ 9:16am

    I'm amazed on how much bullshit comes out of his mouth...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    crade (profile), 22 Sep 2016 @ 9:23am

    We will build a great, great Cyberwall! It will be the best Cyberwall you ever saw! And we will make the U.N. pay for it! It'll keep the internet in the U.S. where it belongs! And we will have a big shiny gate so we can still let the good ones in.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2016 @ 9:54am

    and the ability to innovate free from government interventions around the world

    And that is what Ted Cruz and Donald Trump really really dislike, an organization that they cannot claim to control.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Del Anderson, 22 Sep 2016 @ 10:07am

    Not convinced

    Really -- if we don't complete the transfer China might feel entitled to build a great firewall? Oh wait, I thought they already had??

    Authoritarian regimes will do what they want with or without our approval. Frankly, they don't really give a damn (see North Korea). What matters is who holds the keys of money & power. Always.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 22 Sep 2016 @ 3:46pm

      Re: Not convinced

      Really -- if we don't complete the transfer China might feel entitled to build a great firewall? Oh wait, I thought they already had??

      This is a red herring. This has nothing to do with what China does with its local internet. It's about what might happen if China has more say over the global internet. And making this transition PREVENTS that from happening.

      Authoritarian regimes will do what they want with or without our approval.

      Yes, on the parts they control. That's why this transition is important. To make sure that they don't get control over the wider internet.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2016 @ 10:58am

    The Republicans in Congress are admirably leading a fight to save the Internet...

    Ha.

    Haha.

    HahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

    Ha.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Wondering, 22 Sep 2016 @ 11:27am

    While this thread flirted with substantive debate, it degenerated too quickly into mockery and insults. But among those acquainted with the relevant facts, both the supporters and the skeptics, what are the real implications of such a transition?

    The ability of ICANN to approve and reject TLDs and grant authority in domain name disputes is a major responsibility. But where does the rubber hit the road, with an office that actually performs the revision that seeds the worldwide DNS with these changes?

    Just taking the assumption that both Russia and China are totalitarian regimes, bent on expansionism, how could this change grant either of them any unilateral powers over Internet domains?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    SteveMB (profile), 22 Sep 2016 @ 11:31am

    Even if the IANA transfer did have the effects Trump is babbling about, since when does he object to giving more power to his BFF Putin?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2016 @ 12:20pm

    Yeah, nerds bla-bla, whatever. But what does _Albert Gore_ say?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 22 Sep 2016 @ 2:25pm

    This is all part of Trump's plan to make nice with Russia

    Mike, although your arguments are well-thought out, I have 2 rebuttals:
    1) We live an age of anti-intellectualism. Most Trump and Cruz supporters, and by extension, many Republicans, don't trust scientists or other experts. Instead, they feel things "from the gut", so if Trump is for it, and Obama is against it, then everyone should be with Trump.

    2) If we take the assumption that Trump is in league with Putin, then giving the US more control of the Internet will logically lead to more control by Russia and China, which is probably Trump's goal. Then Putin can ask for more power from there. But for now, this is the easiest way for Russia to get a toehold.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    OC, 23 Sep 2016 @ 2:23am

    It's irrelevant whether they understand the topic or not. Both of them would happily see the country burn as long as they got more influence and power (true for a lot of politicians on both sides of the fence) Good or bad is not the issue. Gain is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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