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Donald Trump says US is about to lose control of the internet to the UN

Published 22/09/2016

Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally (AP)
Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally (AP)

The Republican nominee has been attacked for his approach to the internet in the past. Earlier this year he said that he wanted to “close up” the internet, and that he would speak to powerful people including Bill Gates about doing so.

But his newest statement is perhaps his strongest statement yet of his views on the web, and how it needs to be protected. Mr Trump claimed that the US is about to “turn control of the Internet over to the United Nations and the international community”, and that while Republican politicians were working hard to “save the internet”, it couldn’t be done without the help of the American people.

Mr Trump’s statement appears to refer to a specific and highly technical part of the infrastructure that runs the internet.

At the end of this month, the US Department of Commerce will hand over control of ICANN, which looks after who owns specific domain names, to the global community. That transition has been long planned and it is an attempt to move the control of one of the central parts of the internet into the global community.

But Mr Trump has said that the move is actually a way of turning “control of the Internet over to the United Nations and the international community”. Internet freedom is at risk from the move, he wrote, and giving control of ICANN up to the international community might mean letting China and Russia impose more censorship.

Mr Trump didn’t say exactly how that censorship will work. Countries including China and Russia already censor large parts of the internet, and people including web inventor Tim Berners-Lee have made clear that there is no clear way of using ICANN to stop others doing so or censor the internet any more easily.

“The misguided call for the United States to exert unilateral control over ICANN does nothing to advance free speech because ICANN, in fact, has no power whatsoever over individual speech online,” wrote Mr Berners-Lee and former White House technology chief Daniel Weitzner in an editorial in the Washington Post this week. “ICANN — the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers — supervises domain names on the Internet. The actual flow of traffic, and therefore speech, is up to individual network and platform operators.”

But Mr Trump says that the the American people need to give “all the help” they can to the Republicans in Congress who are working to “save the internet”. Hillary Clinton’s Democrats are “refusing to protect the American people by not protecting the Internet”, said Stephen Miller, Mr Trump’s national policy director.

“The US created, developed and expanded the Internet across the globe,” wrote Mr Miller. “US oversight has kept the Internet free and open without government censorship – a fundamental American value rooted in our Constitution’s Free Speech clause.

“Internet freedom is now at risk with the President’s intent to cede control to international interests, including countries like China and Russia, which have a long track record of trying to impose online censorship. Congress needs to act, or Internet freedom will be lost for good, since there will be no way to make it great again once it is lost.”

Independent News Service

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