Critics of the Obama administration’s naive and baffling decision to relinquish control of the Internet’s basic functions got a real boost over the weekend, with former president Bill Clinton joining the fray. Per Re/code:
Count former President Bill Clinton among those who are skeptical of the new Obama administration plan to give up Internet oversight authority.
Clinton talked in some detail about why the U.S. should retain oversight over Internet domain names and addresses during a panel at a weekend meeting sponsored by the Clinton Global Initiative.
Noting that the Edward Snowden revelations of National Security Agency data collections has given “new energy” to the belief internationally that the U.S. should not even be in “nominal control of domain names,” Clinton argued that the U.S. has still done a pretty good job of keeping the Internet open and free.
“A lot of people … have been trying to take this authority from the U.S. for the sole purpose of cracking down on Internet freedom and limiting it and having governments protect their backsides instead of empowering their people,” Clinton said during a panel discussion Friday night.
As Re/code’s Amy Schatz notes,
Opponents of the Obama administration’s plan — mostly Republicans, so far — are likely to cheer the former president’s remarks, since they too have some concerns about giving up what little control the U.S. has over the Internet. Clinton’s remarks may make it that much harder for the Obama administration to say their plan has widespread support.
Strictly speaking, it is true that “opponents of the Obama administration’s plan” are “mostly Republicans, so far.” As a principle, however, the issue has attracted bipartisan support in the past, and seems likely to again. In 2012, the House unanimously warned the UN’s International Telecommunications Union — which has long desired to take control away from the United States — to back off. A similar bill of censure, introduced into the upper house by Senators Rubio and McCaskill, also passed unanimously.
This is a midterm year. A host of Democratic senators are up for reelection, and many of them are fighting for their political lives. It should not be too difficult for those who recognize the mistake that the administration is making to peel off a few vulnerable senators and to put a bill on the president’s desk. (If you were Mary Landrieu or Mark Pryor, would you want to vote for America to “give up the Internet”?) Indeed, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Republicans could garner enough support to overturn a presidential veto.
Time to get on it, guys.