Judge rules in favour of US handover of critical Internet functions to ICANN, after an eleventh hour legal challenge to block the move.

A new FIFA is born

Having worked for ICANN, our very own Kieren McCarthy tells us why this is such a troubling move.

After jumping through more hoops than a circus seal on a hot plate, the US government handed control of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) contract, which encompasses the Domain Naming System (DNS) to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). For the uninitiated, DNS is a naming system that is used to resolve a web address to its hosting server. Without it, the only way you could find a web page would be to use its IP address.

The goal of this handover is for ICANN to act as an impartial, global and non-profit organisation, thereby defusing the political tension of the USA being the only country to have access to critical Internet functions. Despite this, the handover has been criticised by some US politicians – including Ted Cruz – as opening the door to the likes of China and Russia to meddle with a system that has always been “protected” by the US. In fact, The Register was quoted in a Congressional letter protesting the IANA handover.

Donald Trump also weighed in on the issue, espousing that the handover would undermine freedom of speech on the Internet and would be handing over power to Russia and China. These claims are, thankfully, ridiculous. For one thing, foreign governments have no difficulty censoring the Internet within their own borders, and the entire purpose of the handover was to remove the Internet’s key functions from political interference, not increase it.

Unfortunately, the vitriolic (and tech illiterate) political wrangling has distracted from the real issue that Internet users should be most concerned about. Recently, ICANN has been accused of using its position to amass huge amounts of money despite being a non-profit organisation. The ICANN Board Governance Committee has come under fire for repeatedly failing to carry out its duties.

Perhaps most significantly, ICANN has been hit with a preliminary injunction from DotConnectAfrica over refusing to register the .africa domain name. This came after ICANN’s legal team wrote the language used to disqualify the application, and then attempted to pass it off as the view of an “independent” evaluator.

The concern of some is that this final transition will result in the creation of a new FIFA, but one running the Internet rather than the World Cup. Despite ICANN implementing several reforms earlier this year, its ongoing internal and external troubles should be a cause for concern, if not alarm, for Internet users everywhere.

With misinformation being bandied around in all corners of the Internet, it is now important more than ever that publications such as The Register continue to engage and reach out to our readers. With our influence as it is, especially in the realms of government and policy, we must use that power for good.

Find out more, read the coverage of ICANN on The Register here


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