“The bill trades a right for a promise that is guaranteed to be broken.”
Dec. 4, 2014, Fairfax, Va.—Americans for Limited Government President Nathan Mehrens today issued the following statement urging opposition to H.R. 5737 by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), which authorizes the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to give away the Internet to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) upon “written certification that the Assistant Secretary has received a proposal for relinquishing the responsibilities of the NTIA with respect to Internet domain name functions that ensures… ICANN appl[ies] a standard that is at least as protective of such freedoms as is the First Amendment to the Constitution”:
“We shouldn’t even be having this conversation, when nobody has even made the case for the necessity of the Internet transition. Why is creating a global, unaccountable monopoly for Internet governance so important? It is not up to Congress to make that case for the President. It is up to Congress to stop him, because once the Internet is gone, we won’t get it back.
“To support this legislation under the guise of ‘prohibiting’ the Internet transition, when the bill authorizes the giveaway, is disingenuous. The so-called ‘Defending Internet Freedom Act of 2014’ provides the very Congressional authorization for the Internet giveaway that the President desperately needs in return for empty promises from unaccountable multinational stakeholders and a bogus ‘freedom’ certification by NTIA that cannot possibly be enforced.
“On its face, it is not possible for ICANN to apply a standard ‘at least as protective as the First Amendment,’ since once Internet governance is relinquished there will be zero recourse in federal court for any claims of censorship. There is no First Amendment cause of action that can be taken against a private institution. Yet, NTIA will have little trouble certifying it had received those assurances. Under the current arrangement as a U.S. government contractor, every user of the Internet already has full First Amendment protections should anything go awry. In essence, the bill trades a right for a promise that is guaranteed to be broken.
“In the future, there will be no requirement for ICANN to apply the highest level scrutiny for First Amendment claims against itself like a court would. Regardless of the bill, turning the Internet names and numbers functions over to ICANN effectively makes them the prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner over all speech on the information superhighway with no recourse.
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