Trump And Putin Want To Control Internet Governance

ICANN 320Two of the most powerful men in the world want ICANN to disappear. ICANN and friends are in San Juan partying like it’s 1999, thinking Putin is impotent and Trump’s NTIA chief, David Redl, should be ignored when he promises to move on retaking control of ICANN.

The semi-official word from San Juan is the main focus of ICANN61 will be whether everyone will be able to hide their name on WHOIS. Currently, only those who pay a little extra for registration are able to hide their names when they register a website. Most of the pornographers and other miscreants have already chosen anonymity and I haven’t noticed the Internet collapsing since IANA last fall.

Putin personally ordered his government to “Develop an independent internet infrastructure for BRICS nations.” On the independence of ICANN, Trump’s Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, is looking for “any possible [mechanism] for reversing it.”any possible [mechanism] for reversing it.”

David Redl at NTIA is tasked with delivering on Trump’s campaign rhetoric, which opposed giving control of “the internet to foreigners.” His nomination was held up for months by Senator Cruz, until he promised, “to investigate options for unwinding the transition,”

I asked Redl to let me know any ways he or Trump had changed the ICANN policy. He didn’t offer any. “The survival of the internet as we know it is at risk, Its gravest peril originates in the White House, the current occupant of which has launched a campaign, both at home and internationally, to subjugate it to agents of government. [Obama] has unilaterally announced America’s abandonment of the international internet by surrendering US control of the root zone of web names and addresses. He threw the internet to the wolves, and they – Russia, China, Iran, and others – are ready to devour it. We salute the Congressional Republicans who have legislatively impeded his plans to turn over the Information Freedom Highway to regulators and tyrants. That fight must continue, for its outcome is in doubt.”

Redl is a smart,experienced operative. He almost certainly knows there is no practical way to take back ICANN but when I asked refused to say so. Who knows what he’ll have to do to honor his pledge to Senator Cruz. Cruz is in a tough reelection campaign this fall.

The Internet naming system – ICANN, RIR, NARALO … – is important to the day to day running of the Internet but has minimal impact beyond that. It is not essential to concerns like freedom of speech and the open Internet. The battle over ICANN is symbolic, a clash of national egos.

Putin believes ICANN is controlled by the U.S. and allies. It’s only slightly more complicated. The board of ICANN has long been dominated by the U.S. and allies. The last Chair was more U.S. oriented than the U.S. government overseer. These pro-U.S. board members have been choosing new members in their own image. That is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

Put another way: Before Larry Strickling gave official independence to ICANN, he knew the board members and their successors would not approve anything that caused significant harm to the United States. I don’t remember any ICANN board member seriously opposing the “DC  Consensus” for Internet rules, despite two-thirds of nations wanting change.

One-third of the world is systematically excluded from the board, although CEO Fadi Chehade promised China “a seat at the table” two years ago. This was inevitable while ICANN was under the authority of the U.S., according to Fadi. It hasn’t changed.

I was horrified when two more Americans were the board choices this year. There has never been an ICANN Board member from the People’s Republic. Avri Doria, whom I respect, would be a good choice except for being a U.S. policy advocate. She served on official U.S. delegations such as the Plenipot. I called Sarah Deutsch a “hero” for her work on privacy, but a former Verizon lobbyist is not likely to move the Board out of the American orbit.

They do not take orders from David Redl, although his speeches imply they will. For example, they are not shutting down debate on the WHOIS privacy issue despite Redl’s directive. I do not recall, nor do I expect, the ICANN board to take any action that severely affects American interests.

The cold war continues. 

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