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Donald Trump Doubles Down on Internet Ignorance

Published by Huffington Post on Fri, 23 Sep 2016

Donald Trump wants to make the internet great again. Problem is, the GOP nominee doesn't know enough about the internet to understand what, if anything, that means.On Wednesday, Trump's campaign came out against an Obama administration plan to relinquish U.S. control of one important aspect of the internet: The supervision of domain names. The plan is to transfer control of that function'--'now being administered by the the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN'--'to a global body.Trump's sometime nemesis Sen. Ted Cruz is threatening to hold the government spending bill hostage unless Congress decides to reject Obama's plan. Cruz wrongly states that the ICANN transition would "empower countries like Russia, China, and Iran to be able to censor speech on the internet, your speech."On this Trump seems to agree. "The Republicans in Congress are admirably leading a fight to save the internet this week, and need all the help the American people can give them to be successful," a Trump campaign spokesman said in a statement. "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."But Trump and Cruz are both wrong. In an Op-Ed published by the Washington Post, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Daniel Weitzner write, "ICANN, in fact, has no power whatsoever over individual speech online... The actual flow of traffic, and therefore speech, is up to individual network and platform operators.They should know. Berners-Lee is credited with creating the standard that opened the World Wide Web to everyone with an idea and a connection. Weitzner, as director of the MIT Internet Policy Research Initiative, has devoted his career to protecting the global free flow of information online.According to Berners-Lee and Weitzner:The global consensus at the heart of the Internet exists by virtue of trust built up over decades with people from all over the world collaborating on the technical design and operation of the network and the web.ICANN is a critical part of this global consensus. But if the United States were to reverse plans to allow the global Internet community to operate ICANN independently, as Sen. Cruz is now proposing, we risk undermining the global consensus that has enabled the Internet to function and flourish over the last 25 years.Neither Berners-Lee nor Weitzner is a politician. They see no advantage in scare-mongering about the internet. The opposite is true for Trump and Cruz, whose ignorance about internet policy is on par with their desire to gain political advantage by spreading fear about internet censorship.But it's Donald Trump who has repeatedly threatened to shut down the internet to keep Americans safe from terrorists. He offered few specifics about how this might be done.Cruz fashions himself as a champion of internet freedom, but then pushes initiatives that have an opposite effect. Earlier this year, he signed onto legislation that would take away Net Neutrality protections, which ensure that internet users can connect and communicate with everyone else online. His latest campaign against ICANN may succeed in grinding a divided Congress to a halt, but it's not remotely because his censorship concerns are valid.Despite these scare tactics, the transfer to ICANN will have no influence over the internet censorship decisions of countries like China, Iran, Russia and Turkey. That's a huge problem, but it's not tied in any way to the service that manages domain names.Trump and Cruz should know better. And so should any other politician who dabbles in internet policy. A little internet knowledge can go a long way toward keeping the network small "d" democratic, open and available to everyone. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
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