Fox News falsely claimed that a plan in place since 1998 to govern control of Internet domain names means President Obama is giving away the Internet.
U.S. Announces Intent To Transition Internet Domain Name Functions
Commerce Department Announces Intent To Transition Key Internet Domain Name Functions. 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 multistakeholder 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 multistakeholder 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.” [NTIA.gov, 3/14/14]
Fox News Accuses Obama Administration Of Giving Away The Internet
Fox's Gregg Jarrett: “Why Should One President Make A Decision To Give Away Something That Has Been Probably One Of The Greatest World Inventions Ever By Americans.” On the March 15 edition of America's News HQ, host Gregg Jarrett moderated a discussion about the possible implications of the U.S. relinquishing control of the internet to international bodies. Jarrett claimed that this step could be the “first ten steps to a takeover by something that could potentially harm openness and freedom,” and asked why “one president” should be allowed to “make a decision to give away something that has been probably one of the greatest invention by Americans.” [Fox News, America's News HQ, 3/15/14]
Fox's Tucker Carlson: “It's Only Because The Obama Administration Has Really Alienated The Rest Of The World,” That We Are “Under All This Pressure” To Give Up The Internet. During the March 15 edition of Fox & Friends Saturday, Fox co-host Tucker Carlson blamed the Obama administration for causing the pressure to give up control of the internet. In his discussion with Fox host Mike Huckabee, Carlson claimed “it is only because the Obama administration has really alienated the rest of the world, the opposite of what they promised to do, that we are under all this pressure to give it up.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends Saturday, 3/15/14]
Fox Guest Pat Buchanan: You Don't Transfer Authority Of The Internet Out Of “Guilt.” On the March 15 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ conservative columnist Pat Buchanan claimed President Obama is transferring authority of the internet to the world “out of guilt” due to revelations about the National Security Administration.
BUCHANAN: It's very negative. I think you're transferring the custody of this immensely important function from the United States to an international community which is susceptible to and could cave in to pressures--from places like China and others in terms of what they do. I think, far better that the United States do it themselves. I agree with Mike Huckabee. They made mistakes with NSA but you don't do it because of that out of guilt. [Fox News, America's News HQ, 3/15/14]
Fox Chyron: “Super Power Surrender.” Fox News posted on air graphics describing the Commerce Department's decision to turn over ICANN responsibilities to an international agency as a “Super Power Surrender” on the March 15 edition of Fox & Friends Saturday. Co-host Tucker Carlson added, “Yes indeed, we actually did build that, and now we're giving it away to the rest of the world, China included. The Obama administration about to hand over control of the internet.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends Saturday, 3/15/14]
Fox Nation: “Obama Relinquishes US Control Of Internet.” A March 15 Fox Nation post titled “Obama Relinquishes US Control Of Internet,” linked to a NPR article, “U.S To Relinquish Remaining Control Of The Internet.”
[Fox Nation, 3/15/14]
In Fact, ICANN's Transition To International Control Has Been Planned Since 1998
ICANN: “The Transition Of The US Government Stewardship Has Been Envisaged Since The Early Days Of IANA Functions Contract.” ICANN, the organization currently responsible for assigning the numbers that form internet addresses announced that leaders of the Internet technical organizations “welcome the US Government's announcement of the suggested changes related to the IANA functions contract,” and explained the transition had been envisioned since “the early days of IANA functions contract”:
The transition of the US Government stewardship has been envisaged since the early days of IANA functions contract. This transition is now feasible due to the maturity of the Internet technical organizations involved in performing their respective roles related to the IANA functions, and ICANN will facilitate a global, multi-stakeholder process to plan for the transition. [ICANN.org, 3/14/14]
U.S. Official: “There Had Been Plans Since ICANN's Creation In 1998 To Eventually Migrate It To International Control.” A March 14 Washington Post report explained that U.S. officials planned on transitioning the authority for domain names "since ICANN's creation in 1998. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for communications and information Lawrence E. Strickling explained (emphasis added):
U.S. officials said their decision had nothing to do with the NSA spying revelations and the worldwide controversy they sparked, saying there had been plans since ICANN's creation in 1998 to eventually migrate it to international control.
“The timing is now right to start this transition both because ICANN as an organization has matured, and international support continues to grow for the multistakeholder model of Internet governance,” Strickling said in a statement. [The Washington Post, 3/14/14]
NY Times: The U.S. Subcontracted Responsibility To ICANN With “Expectation That The United States Would Eventually Step Back From Its Role.” On March 14, The New York Times reported that the U.S. subcontracted domain management responsibilities to ICANN “with the expectation that the United States would eventually step back from its role.”
Since the dawn of the Internet, the United States has been responsible for assigning the numbers that form Internet addresses, the .com, .gov and .org labels that correspond to those numbers, and for the vast database that links the two and makes sure Internet traffic goes to the right place.
The function has been subcontracted since 1998 to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or Icann, an international nonprofit organization, with the expectation that the United States would eventually step back from its role. [The New York Times, 3/14/14]