Is there 'control' over the Internet?
Oct. 31, 2016
by Mark Ollig

“Does the USA ‘control’ the Internet?” was the title of a column I wrote in 2007.

Internet domain names are assigned and maintained by an organization called Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

ICANN, begun in 1998, is a not-for-profit organization consisting of people living in countries around the world.

Recently, the ICANN governing authority was given complete control over what many call the internet’s address book, or domain name system (DNS).

Efforts in the US were made in an attempt to block this; however, the contested transfer arguments were overruled by a US federal judge.

ICANN now has total governing authority; removing the last vestiges of any US authoritative influence.

The DNS translates a web address; such as “bitscolumn.blogspot.com,” into the numerical language internet-connected computers use to communicate with each other.

Some believe the ICANN authority controversy to be a recently contested issue – it was not.

In November 2007, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) held a meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

IGF criticized the US regarding its “influences” used to control the part of the internet where Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and domains are assigned within ICANN.

They discussed the imposing role Americans played over domain name policies, including how to assign internet suffixes in languages besides English.

Not so long ago (well, maybe for us baby boomers), before the Internet became popular, we got our news and information mostly from newspapers, magazines, radio, and television.

We also learned the latest news by talking to each other face-to-face – something we don’t do enough of anymore.

Today, when witnessing a news event, we can take out our smartphone to record and comment on the event, and then upload the video live, or save and send it to an Internet news website, blog, online social network, individual, or organization.

This technology is available to all of us. We have the ability to use the internet as the world’s bulletin board for instantly sharing information with thousands or millions of people.

We now live in what’s called a 24-hour news cycle.

The Internet is used as the venue for the constant deposit of 24-hours-a-day breaking news and events.

In nearly real-time, we are witnessing and commentating on news and events being reported from all over the world via online social media and independent journalists broadcasting live from the scene.

Years ago, I read how the airplane had made the world a much smaller place.

Today, the Internet has made the world a part of the local neighborhood.

Instant release of active events or newly discovered information – good or bad – to the masses may be, and sometimes is, seen as a threat to political or corporate entities, special interest groups, or even a government.

As we have learned, there are powerful influences; including various governments and organized saboteurs, who will intentionally disrupt Internet service to certain geographic locations – or limit websites a local population has access to.

Here in the US, we have the freedom to start our own website, blog, podcast, on more or less any topic we choose without having restrictions placed on its content.

We can join an Internet social media network and respond to and make known our views on politics, life-changing events, breaking news, societal concerns, government actions, world conflicts; the list is endless.

The power to communicate our voice and video messages to the world from anywhere is literally in our own hands when using our smartphone.

People are using their smartphones to broadcast live video content instantly seen by people around the world – an example is those using Facebook Live.

Indeed, we have an “always ready” TV camera in our pocket.

More of us are expressing our opinions and thoughts online – we see this daily over social and mainstream media networks, and in online chatrooms.

What makes these messages so powerful, is that our video and voices can be heard and seen by anyone on the planet having unrestricted internet access.

It would be naïve to think there are not world governments, organizations, and regimes who currently control, or want to suppress, local public opinion and individual citizen reporting currently being broadcast over the Internet.

Let’s not take our freedom of using the Internet for granted.

What will the internet be like 10 or 20 years from now? Will we still have the same equal opportunity to use it as a venue to publicly voice our opinions, thoughts, ideas, and concerns?

The recent Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks reminds us the internet is also a battlefield, where intrusive attacks are being actively waged by those wanting to disrupt its availability.

These cyber-attacks are aimed against online public social networks, private, corporate, and governmental websites in order to interrupt their access, cause mayhem, and/or obtain sensitive information.

We need to remain vigilant, and knowledgeable, and voice our opinions and concerns regarding any governing authorities involved with the internet’s operation, availability, and security.

ICANN offices are currently located in Los Angeles, CA;Istanbul, Turkey: Singapore, Brussels, Belgium, and Beijing, China.

Their website is https://www.icann.org.

Follow me on Twitter at @bitsandbytes.

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