Global Politics, US, VR World

ICANN Transitioning Away From Being US-Run

The head of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has said that his organization — responsible for managing the world’s Top-Level Domains, root servers, and IP numbering —  will transition away from being under the purview and oversight of the United States next year.

Fadi Chehade, the boss of the organization, is quoted as saying in an interview with Agence France-Presse that both his organization and the US government are ready for the transition. As the internet plays a vital role in the communication and economic backbone of many countries, in a post-Edward Snowden world a number of nations were uneasy with a quasi-US Governmental organization effectively controlling the internet.

While many countries around the world — such as authoritarian states — would like to have more control of the Internet, the US, though it is giving up control of ICANN, has pledged to ensure that the Internet is not co-opted by any single state or entity.

“The United States will not allow the global Internet to be co-opted by any person, entity or nation seeking to substitute their parochial world view for the collective wisdom of this community,” US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker is quoted as saying on Monday.

A new role for America

When ICANN transitions away from being under the oversight of the US, one is highly unlikely to notice any change. Largely this is a political move by the US — a gesture of good will to calm countries concerned about electronic espionage by American intelligence services.

But in many ways the US isn’t entirely giving up control of the Internet if Pritzker’s comments are to be read into. Effectively, the US is positioning itself not as a caretaker of the Internet but rather as a security guarantor. Cyberwarfare is powerful tool, not just for Stuxnet style attacks on military facilities and infrastructure but also as a weapon to impair the ability of a state’s corporations to conduct commerce.

If an aggressor state such as China or Russia co-opts too much control of the Internet from the global stakeholder community, it could use this newfound power to exert the whims its foreign policy on countries they may have hostilities with. That’s why it’s important that ICANN — and the Internet — remain under the purview and control of a global group of stakeholders — with the US as its security guarantor.