ICANN takes control of internet naming as federal judge denies injunction request

Internet address
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The internet’s domain naming system (DNS) has officially been put into the hands of ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigning Names and Numbers), a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that is advised by a global committee. But even though the transition has been in the works for almost two decades, four states sued the Obama administration in a last-ditch effort to keep DNS under U.S. control.

A federal judge denied the states’ request for an injunction on Friday, allowing the transfer to continue as planned.

The attorneys general of Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona and Nevada filed a lawsuit in a Texas federal court last week arguing that transferring domain name control from the NTIA to ICANN is unconstitutional, because the move does not have congressional approval. They also claimed that allowing a private organization to handle DNS could hamper free speech on the internet.

Arizona’s attorney general told Politico that the lawsuit was a way of taking matters into their own hands in opposing the transfer because “essentially Congress went into its default mode, which is to do nothing.”

The NTIA refuted the claims made in the lawsuit, according to Politico. The Commerce Department agency pointed to a General Accountability Office study that concluded that the transition is not a turnover of government property and therefore doesn’t need congressional approval.

And ICANN published a statement noting that neither it, nor the U.S. government before it, has the power to prevent other countries from censoring or blocking content inside their borders.

"ICANN is a technical organization and does not have the remit or ability to regulate content on the internet. That is true under the current contract with the US Government and will remain true without the contract with the US Government,” the organization said. “The transition will not empower or prohibit sovereign states from censoring speech."

The transfer of control to ICANN has seen dissent from other quarters as the Oct. 1 date approached. In August a group of Republican senators and representatives sent a letter to the administration complaining that the transfer is essentially a “planned internet giveaway.”

However, other countries don’t see things the same way, and the transfer is the result of years of pressure from outside the U.S. to allow other countries to have input on how the internet is managed. In fact, such a transition began to be considered 18 years ago, according to ICANN’s Stephen Crocker, the group's board chair.

For more:
- see this ICANN post
- see this CBS San Francisco article
- see this Politico article
- see this ZDNet article

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