Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What Ted Cruz Doesn't Understand About 'Controlling the Internet'...

Senator Ted Cruz is once again threatening a shutdown of the United States government - this time for the reason that the U.S. shouldn't "give foreign governments greater control over the Internet".

What is he talking about?

On October 1st, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), is scheduled to be turned over to an international consortium group for management. Cruz has made bold statements about how this is a national security issue that will lead to widespread censorship and enable countries like Russia and China to make decisions about what can and cannot be posted online.

This is completely ridiculous, and here's why. ICANN doesn't manage the Internet. All ICANN does is manage the Internet's domain name system. When you want to buy a domain name like "", they simply keep track of the fact that now you are the owner of that domain name. They have no effect whatsoever on how the Internet functions beyond maintaining a list linking IP addresses to domain names.

Cruz has Internet experts and computer scientists scratching their heads in bewilderment as to how little he understands the technical dimensions of this issue. Even Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web itself, wrote an op-ed today stating, in no uncertain terms, just how wrong he is.

Here's the bottom line - ICANN and the domain name system play no role in Internet censorship. When the Internet is censored, it is accomplished by national firewalls (See Russia, China, etc.), through ISPs, and, as Cory Doctorow points out, massive armies of trolls for hire and other astroturfers, as well as copyright abuse.

So where is Cruz even getting these ideas? My guess is that he's reading headlines about how "Internet Governance" is about to shift out of U.S. control. What he doesn't realize is that the phrase "Internet Governance" has a special meaning in academia, referring solely to governance of the domain name system. It appears nobody informed him of this, and he made a common assumption based on the phrasing, which happens to be completely wrong.



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