The US administration recently declared its intention to relinquish its oversight over Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which assigns domain names and Internet addresses.
This move and ICANN’s head’s offer to kick-start a process of reform of global governance of the Internet under Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, who was outraged that her personal communications had been intercepted and commercial secrets of Brazil’s oil companies stolen, seem to be an apparent effort to mollify her and the global community that was shocked by Edward Snowden’s revelations about the extent of the US’ National Security Agency’s surveillance.
There are a few important caveats though.
One, the global outrage following Snowden’s revelations had little to do with ICANN oversight, and everything to do with other elements of the extreme dominance of the global Internet by the US — the US-based monopolistic Internet companies and de-facto global application of US laws.
The US should not be allowed to deflect attention from these important issues by offering some yet unclear concessions on ICANN oversight. Moreover, the fact still remains US laws, including those that are regularly used to further its various foreign policy objectives, apply to ICANN.
For instance, under the Foreign Assets Control Regulations, any US organisation, which includes ICANN, can be barred from having any relationship with any designated foreign country or entity.
Thus, ICANN must get incorporated as an international entity, under international law, with complete immunity from American laws.
A new globally representative oversight body is, therefore, needed to replace the US’ current oversight role. Decisions of this body can be made subject to appeal with the International Court of Justice. Such an oversight body, while not being an inter-governmental committee, can consist of, say, three members from each of the five geopolitical regions.
Parminderjit Singh is withBangalore-based IT for Change
The views expressed by the author are personal