Fox News Distorts Bill Clinton's Comments On Internet Oversight Authority To Attack Obama

Blog ››› ››› THOMAS BISHOP

Fox News cherry-picked comments made by former President Bill Clinton on his questions regarding the Commerce Department's plan to transition internet domain name management to an international body. But the plan is based on principles that echo Clinton's remarks.

In a March 14 press release, the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), an Executive Branch agency that advises the President on telecommunications and information policy issues, announced the administration's plan to transition internet domain name functions:

To support and enhance the multi-stakeholder model of Internet policymaking and governance, the U.S. Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today announces its intent to transition key Internet domain name functions to the global multi-stakeholder community. 

[...]

From the inception of ICANN, the U.S. Government and Internet stakeholders envisioned that the U.S. role in the IANA functions would be temporary.  The Commerce Department's June 10, 1998 Statement of Policy stated that the U.S. Government "is committed to a transition that will allow the private sector to take leadership for DNS management." 

On the March 24 edition of America's News HQ, co-host Bill Hemmer claimed that during a Clinton Global Initiative summit, Clinton spoke "out against U.S. plans to hand over control of the internet" to countries like Russia and China:

CLINTON: The United States has been by far the country most committed to keeping the internet free and open and uninterrupted. And a lot of these people who say they want multi-stakeholder control over domain names and internet access, what they really do is want the ability to shut down inconvenient exchanges within their own countries.

Clinton went on to ask Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales whether he is worried "that if we give up this domain jurisdiction that we've had for all these years that we'll lose internet freedom."

But Fox left out a key portion of Clinton's comments where he explained the he favors the multi-stakeholder process in general:

CLINTON: Whatever you believe about what the NSA has done, what the proposals the president's made to change it, whatever, the Internet has flourished in freedom. And people have had access to it. And whether it was trying to keep access open in Iran after their disputed election with the Green Revolution, whether it's trying to make sure you could use it and people could follow your struggles in driving. We've been there on that. Whatever you think is wrong. And all I'm saying is, I understand in theory why we would like to have a multi-stakeholder process, I favor that, I just know that a lot of these so-called multi-stakeholders are really governments that want to gag people and restrict access to the Internet. 

In fact, the NTIA agreed. In their March 14 press release, the NTIA stressed that the new model must include safeguards to ensure an open internet based on four key principles,including the dismissal of any proposal "that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution" (emphasis added): 

NTIA has communicated to ICANN that the transition proposal must have broad community support and address the following four principles:

  • Support and enhance the multistakeholder model;
  • Maintain the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet DNS;
  • Meet the needs and expectation of the global customers and partners of the IANA services; and,
  • Maintain the openness of the Internet.

Consistent with the clear policy expressed in bipartisan resolutions of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives (S.Con.Res.50 and H.Con.Res.127), which affirmed the United States support for the multistakeholder model of Internet governance, NTIA will not accept a proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution.   

Fox News continues to distort the Commerce Department's 16-year-old plan to transition the remaining control over internet domain names to a new international body.

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