Paranoid conspiracy-theory types in the States are freaking out again. This time they’re scared they won’t be able to “control the internet” anymore – specifically the domain name system.
Not that they’ve had a huge amount of success doing it in recent years anyway. The internet has become too great a beast for any one man to control, so some of the fear-mongering horse crap put out there by certain Republicans during the perpetually ongoing and seemingly never-ending race-to-the-White-House appears to have little foundation in reality.
Central to the debate over US administration of internet domains is the US-based non-profit organisation ICANN – or the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Put simply, Obama negotiated the sole US ownership of ICANN away, and a lot of people in America have been getting panicky that he’s just given the entire internet to Russia and China, the sworn enemies.
That fear has been superbly exploited by Presidential candidate and alleged computer owner Donald Trump, who did an expert job of suggesting he’s never used the internet.
This is an intrinsically technical, convoluted and intricate matter, so our expert source with a penchant for fantastic metaphors, Bernard, is here to enlighten us. Bernard is an industry vet with nearly 15 years’ experience working down in the network trenches on the front line across a range of technology sectors, so we trust him.
Here’s his full comment for your delectation dear reader.
Alright, Bernard here.
So you asked me about ICANN and the reactions.
Firstly, it makes complete sense that the base management of the internet is becoming independent from US governing. Granted, the Americans invented it and then allowed it to be rolled out to the world but the beast has become too large for them to claim ownership over it. Brits invented the phone and train, Germans invented the car, and more relevantly Europeans invented the electric telegraph – German and Spanish efforts if I recall correctly. These were all handed to the world but not governed by their creators.
The internet is now a world tool and should be managed as such. Even technical minded Americans agree.
The controversy is, sadly, that the small-minded, flag waving Yankees (like Mr Trump and co) are behaving like a two-year-old snatching his toys and shouting “mine!”. The problem is they don’t actually know what they are trying to snatch back. While they think they are trying to snatch their toy car the reality is that they are trying to snatch the floor on which the toy car drives!
Don’t get me wrong, most… uh, many… uh, some Americans are highly intelligent, globally aware and sensitive but when you see some hick accessing a UK website, in the .uk domain and physically hosted in the UK on a UK IP arguing nonsense and stating their First Amendment right to free speech, you realise they have no idea how the internet works and they see all of it as a virtual extension of the physical America.
I’d almost pay the airfare for one of these gobshites to fly to North Korea if it meant they would shout about Kim Jong Un’s nuclear programme in the middle of Pyongyang. Let’s see how their First Amendment works for them there!
The content and censorship (or lack thereof) of the internet isn’t at question or risk here.
ICANN has nothing to do with it and certainly has no control over it. This is the layer that the websites and other internet services run on. ICANN, as the acronym suggests, regulates DNS and IP address management. With IPv6 to take over for the foreseeable future containing 3.4×1038 internet addresses to manage (that’s 6.5 billion addresses for every living person!) it requires a global collective of governments, businesses, NGOs, creeds, technical experts and stakeholders.
As the internet is basically a whole load of private networks around the world that the telecom owners allow transfer of data between and public access to, ICANN can’t control how they operate at that level. They couldn’t have stopped Egypt’s shut down of internet services during the Arab Spring, they can’t do anything about the infamous Great Firewall of China and they can’t stop or, conversely, enforce Middle Eastern countries’ blocking of gambling and porn sites.
So that womble of a presidential candidate is just trying to use it as a stick with which to hit democrats. Despite the fact that the stick doesn’t exist, there are far too many less informed people that believe it does, so it might still hit the democrats to a certain extent.
Although, that said, Trump could probably say that Hillary stamps on baby angels for fun and his supporters would believe him.
Nice rant Bernard and a helpful bit of clarification on this technical but nonetheless controversial matter. In Trump-era America the Internet is starting to be used as a political football and conflated with a bunch of other emotive topics including immigration, terrorism and freedom-of-speech. Populism is making a comeback in Western politics and it thrives on fear and paranoia, but as is so often the case with this kind of thinking it seems like the wrong target has been chosen.