The US announced last week that it will soon relinquish its control over the Internet—specifically its oversight of ICANN, the agency that assigns domain names and Web addresses. Dumb move or one long overdue? Take your pick:
- Bad move: The US oversaw ICANN to ensure a free Internet. With America stepping back, Russia, China, and other authoritarian regimes will fill the void and try to censor opposition websites, writes L Gordon Crovitz in the Wall Street Journal. "Unless the White House plan is reversed, Washington will hand the future of the Web to the majority of countries in the world already on record hoping to close the open Internet."
- Everyone calm down: Those predicting doomsday don't have a clear understanding of what ICANN does, writes Samara Lynn at PC Magazine. Its duties are largely technical in nature, "yet somehow, the intellectually dimmest reaches of the Internet have equated this rather innocuous and uber-technical announcement (which was agreed upon years and years ago) into a full-scale assault on our Internet freedom," writes Lynn. "That assumption is dead wrong."
- Goodbye porn: No matter what backers say, this move is going to give governments—think Saudi Arabia, for example—more say in regulating content, writes John C. Dvorak, also at PC Magazine. "Porn, of course, will be the first thing to go," he writes. "We all know there is too much on the net and it is too freely available. But this is not the job for ICANN. Will it become the job of the next group to come along? You can count on it. Forget net neutrality; Content neutrality is over. "
- This could improve things: Yes, this is a "risky step," write the editors at the LA Times, but "if the transition is handled the right way, it may actually reduce the risk that governments will impose rules that Balkanize the Net." The US has said it won't turn things over to a government-led organization and instead wants academics, engineers, businesses, and consumers to lead the way. Let's see how the transition unfolds—the first meeting is later this month, notes Slate—before anyone panics.
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