The U.S. government is relinquishing its oversight of the organization that manages internet names and addresses, a move that will place control of the Web in international hands for the first time.
The Commerce Department announced Friday that it will give up its oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which has managed Web domain structures among other technical aspects of the internet since 1998, according to the Wall Street Journal. The current contract will run out in September 2015.
Amid an ever deepening controversy surrounding the spying practices of the National Security Agency, the move will bring relief to a world concerned with the U.S. government’s control of and influence over the internet.
Not everyone is happy with the move. The news has already triggered a backlash from some in the Republican party who fear that whatever international group comes to regulate the Web will censor the internet and limit freedom of speech online. Reacting on Friday to the news, former GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich tweeted:
Every American should worry about Obama giving up control of the internet to an undefined group. This is very, very dangerous.
Though it’s not yet clear exactly who will manage the architecture of the internet come next year, the Obama administration says it won’t be the United Nations or any other governmental organization. It insists that the transition will only take place with safeguards in place to protect free speech. Many in the tech community share this view, including Vint Cerf, a vice president at Google:
The Internet was built to be borderless and this move toward a more multistakeholder model of governance creates an opportunity to preserve its security, stability and openness.
ICANN and the Obama administration will be collecting input regarding the new oversight structure throughout the year. Anyone is invited to take part.
Photo by Kim Davies