The Great Betrayal: Obama’s Plan to Forfeit America’s Control of the Internet
“Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.” –Mark Twain
A Rogue President Makes a Plan
President Obama, on March14, 2014, announced his plan to give away the internet, which will have the likely effect of silencing many voices of freedom throughout the world. This action betrays freedom-lovers everywhere.
President Obama, in a rogue act, without consulting Congress (which passed the High Performance Computing Act, or the Gore Bill, that created the internet on December 9, 1991), has announced plans to turn over administration of the internet to an international body of decision-makers.
According to a press release issued by the US Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the NTIA says it wants to “transition key Internet domain name functions to the global multi-stakeholder community . . . [and] is asking the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to convene global stakeholders to develop a proposal to transition the current role played by NTIA in the coordination of the Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS).”
Betraying the World
President Obama does not believe that the American values of free speech and free press should govern an internet that has become a worldwide web. What Obama envisions is a “multi-stakeholder model” wherein the censorship concerns of other countries might be respected. Once the Russians, the Chinese, and other “stakeholders” have their input, the filtering they enforce in their own countries has potential to become international in scope.
But we must remember what President Obama has said concerning American values in the past. At the NATO Summit in Strasbourg, France, in 2009, President Obama said the following: “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” So, everyone, in Obama’s view, is exceptional, which means in reality that nobody is. This president does not champion the American values of free speech and free press as exceptional values. They are, to Obama, no better than the values of any other country.
When a US president does not value the First Amendment, he not only betrays America, he betrays the entire world—a world that craves more freedom, not less, a world that has looked up to America as that shining city on a hill first described by John Winthrop and later appropriated by President Ronald Reagan. President Reagan knew America was exceptional, and he never would have conceived a plan to squander America’s ability to promote peace and freedom on a scale as grand as the one provided by the internet.
An Outlaw President’s Plan to Muzzle Dissidents
Turning over the internet would allow President Obama’s critics—many of whom focus on limited government—to be muzzled, potentially leaving only the more statist, liberal-leaning press to continue on message, unabated. But, even to liberals, is total abandonment of free speech on the internet really a desirable situation? Do Americans really benefit more by having access only to the voices of those universally approved by a council of governments—many of which are despotic and far from freedom-loving? This is exactly the kind of thing that will diminish freedom worldwide, including our own. This new Obama policy will come to the aid of the Putins of the world, making the world less stable and less safe in the end.
The internet has been a tremendous force for freedom. It has aided dissidents internationally in their attempts to organize against oppression. In America, where political dissent is a strong cultural value, it has helped to keep government accountable and has helped Americans to communicate easily and inexpensively with one another. It aids commerce and allows educational institutions to coordinate rapidly and accurately with students and with each other.
The Most Valuable American Intellectual Property Is Relinquished
What the Obama Internet Forfeiture Plan means, specifically, is that, effective September 2015, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority will turn over their responsibilities to some entity of international “stakeholders” to run things. By the way, no other country has actually been a stakeholder when it comes to the creation of the internet. The internet was entirely developed by American efforts to make a computer superhighway, beginning with the development of the ARPANET in the 1960s and the funding of the National Science Foundation Network in the 1980s. The US has allowed free access to the internet since the Gore Bill was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush.
Lawrence Strickling, Obama’s man at the NTIA, spoke for the president, saying that this move was designed to “maintain the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet Domain Name System.” But this security of which he speaks is something that already exists! And no one has ever seriously complained about more than minor issues with the system, and these have always been easily addressed and quickly resolved.
So now, this most valuable of US intellectual properties is about to be turned over to countries who have an overweening interest in censoring content, which runs counter to the original internet concept of promoting the free flow of information, ideas, and commerce. Does anyone really believe we shall benefit from America’s relinquishing its stewardship of the internet?
America’s Crown Jewel Tarnished
Despotic regimes will insist on compromises to net neutrality rules now in place that promote free speech. The controlling idea will ultimately become a freedom-for-none, overbearing regulation of what was once an easy-to-use medium, largely free of worry.
Once the US gives up its role as maintainer of the internet back-end, how can the US continue to assure that the desirable outcomes of “security, stability, and resiliency” in the system actually continue? The internet is America’s crown jewel of free expression. It is perhaps the greatest force for freedom ever created by Americans. In the hands of the UN, however, it will have to cease in its mission as a conveyance for freedom of expression. No two nations will ever agree on just how much freedom should be allowed, and thus a greatest-common-denominator approach will end up prevailing, whereby only those policies agreed upon by all will tend to hold sway. For the internet to remain truly free, it must be left in American hands.
Americans might recall that the UN has, in its history, passed many resolutions that have been unpopular with Americans. Many member countries have coveted America’s invention of the internet for some time, and many have actually claimed it is unfair for America to maintain control of it in today’s global world. These complainers have demanded that America relinquish management of it. Luckily for them, there is now a reprobate American president in office who cares more about the goals of the UN than what is in the best interest of his country.
Among the governments who have railed against American stewardship of the net are the following: Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. All of them long to have a voice in how the internet runs and the ability to make regulations that might hamstring American-style freedom. And, thanks to President Obama, they may soon be getting their chance to do just that.
Here is what is almost certain to happen under Obama’s plan: 1) censorship by governments who consider free speech a threat to their power; 2) severe restrictions on technological innovations, if they are even allowed; 3) UN taxation of domain name registrations and other internet-based purchases or financial transactions; 4) excommunication of states such as Israel, if the new stewards of the internet decide not to allow access, for whatever reasons; and 5) uses of the internet, now unforeseen, that would harm the US, directly or indirectly, including war-related uses.
America has managed the net for the good of the world throughout its existence, according to America’s exceptional values of freedom and openness. Certainly, it could not be better managed than it is now. But it could easily be worse managed, if it is given over to the control of those whose goals are less than pure.
A World Less Safe
Most Americans take for granted that the internet is so free and easy in its uses and applications. But with President Obama as Chief Executive, Americans cannot afford to take for granted the internet, its responsible management, or the freedom it bestows.
President Carter gave away the Panama Canal, but that was not as devastating to America as the giving away of the internet back-end will prove to be. Americans need to do all they can to thwart the president’s plan, for it is nothing less than a violation of American national security and a breaking of President Obama’s Oath of Office. The world will be less free and less safe, if President Obama has his way.