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U.S. gives up control of the Internet; Russia, China could pounce

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Commerce,Russia,China,Ashe Schow,Technology,Social Media,Internet

R.I.P. Internet, we hardly knew ye.

The World Wide Web turned 25 on March 12, and two days later, the Obama administration decided that eh, it had a good run.

The Commerce Department announced Friday that it will relinquish control of the international non-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which controls much of the Internet architecture.

The administration said U.S. control over the Internet was supposed to be temporary and eventually turned over to a “global Internet community.”

“This is all about ... separating the Internet from government control,” former Commerce Secretary Cameron Kerry said. “And the United States is in the strongest position to argue against government control of the Internet if it relinquishes that last little bit of control that it has.”

Some, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, brought up the possibility that giving up control could lead to “foreign dictatorships defining the Internet.”

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., agreed, calling the move 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,” Blackburn told National Journal.

Experts chimed in as well. Daniel Castro, senior analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, said, “if the Obama administration gives away its oversight of the Internet, it will be gone forever.”

China and Russia both censor Internet use in their countries — primarily free speech. China has the added tyranny of social media censorship.

Consider the implications if one of these countries jumped in and seized control of the Internet. What would Facebook, Twitter and reddit become? Would they continue to be the bastions of free-flowing ideas (and conspiracy theories) they are currently?

ICANN will have to submit a new management proposal to the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

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