Internet freedom in chains

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In his opening remarks for Wednesday’s Senate subcommittee hearing on protecting internet freedom, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas (A, 97%) gave a rousing defense of internet freedom, warning that transitioning oversight of the internet to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) could put the freedom at risk.

The danger, Sen. Cruz points out, is that by trading the United States government’s “historic guardianship” of the internet to ICANN, First Amendment protections afforded to the Web will be removed, potentially placing censorship power into the hands of a global, multi-national corporation with limited oversight.

For example, Cruz pointed to previous statements made by former ICANN President and CEO Fadi Chehadé, indicating that privacy concerns may subject some to pressure from foreign, authoritarian regimes to manipulate the internet according to those regimes’ will. Cruz quoted a previous statement from Chehadé, wherein he said “from ICANN’s standpoint, engagement with China is not an option. If we do not engage with China at every level of our community, we, frankly, lose a part of our global legitimacy.”

Cruz called that statement “striking.”

“It is striking that an organization we are being told we should trust with control of the internet believes that legitimacy depends upon engaging in a regime that is the world’s leading censor on the internet, silencing speech on the internet, and that imprisons democracy and human rights advocate and Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo.”

Cruz warned of an internet run according to the will of China, or other oppressive regimes, and an internet “run like one of our large, private universities today, with speech codes and safe zones,” in which “microaggressions” are censored and banned.

“Now, some will say none of that parade of horribles will happen — there’s nothing to fear here in handing control of the internet to this international group of stakeholders, this mini U.N. Well, that’s what this hearing is here to determine. Is there something to fear?

“And I will point out a question I think a lot of Americans are asking is: Why risk it? The internet right now works. It’s not broken. What is the problem that is trying to be solved here? That’s what this hearing is about as well.”

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Chris Pandolfo is a writer for the CR Wire. He holds a B.A. in Politics and Economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are Conservative Political Philosophy, the American Founding, and Progressive Rock. He needs to read more, tweet book recommendations @ChrisCPandolfo