Changing Who Controls ICANN Jeopardizes Our Presidential Election

It matters to all of us whether we live in the United States or not, if a hostile country can undermine our democratic process.

There is even more alarming evidence this is happening during this election cycle.

Theresa Payton reports: Changing who controls the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) so close to our presidential election will jeopardize the results of how you vote on Nov. 8 unless Congress stops this changeover. When the calendar hits Sept. 30, a mere 6 weeks before our election, the United States cannot be assured that if any web site is hacked, the responsible party will be held accountable. We cannot be sure if a web site is a valid. We cannot be sure if one country is being favored over another. These are all the things ICANN is responsible for and has worked perfectly since the Internet was created. Why change it now and so close to the election? Why does that matter to you as a voter?

Take a look at recent cyber activity as it relates to the election. The Democratic National Convention was breached comprising the entire party’s strategy, donor base, and indeed, national convention. Everything the DNC had done to prepare for a moment four years in the making (if not longer) was undermined by a hacker who had been in their system for some time but waited for the optimal moment to spring it on the DNC – opening day of the convention. The FBI and other U.S. agencies, as the headlines blare, suspect Russia is responsible for the hack. Recently, Vladimir Putin went so far as to say, “Does it matter who broke in? Surely what’s important is the content of what was released to the public.”

It matters to all of us whether we live in the United States or not, if a hostile country can undermine our democratic process. There is even more alarming evidence this is happening during this election cycle. Russian hackers are suspected of breaching voter registration systems in Illinois and Arizona. Arizona went so far as to shut down the state’s voter registration system for a week. No data was stolen but it was downloaded. As for Illinois, some voter data was stolen!

Read the rest of this entry »


Should the U.S. Keep Control of Group that Handles Internet Domain Names?

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‘Under the guardianship of the United States and the First Amendment the internet has become truly an oasis of freedom, but that could soon change.’

During an often-contentious hearing Wednesday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, took on the Obama administration for what has become his latest signature issue: internet oversight.

“It is not a democratic body.”

— Senator Ted Cruz

The Obama administration is due to relinquish U.S. control Oct. 1 over a private-sector, nonprofit organization that administers internet domain names and designations. Cruz warned that the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers will not on its own honor U.S. protections of free speech, and he is leading an effort to delay or stop the transfer.

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“A number of significant questions related to the transition remain unanswered, including whether the transition will yield an unconstitutional transfer of United States government property, how the transfer will affect human rights and free speech issues, if U.S.-controlled top-level domains such as .gov and .mil could be compromised or if ICANN will be subject to increased antitrust scrutiny.”

“Under the guardianship of the United States and the First Amendment the internet has become truly an oasis of freedom, but that could soon change,” Cruz said at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts, which he chairs.

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“It is not a democratic body,” Cruz said of the organization, which includes such internet stakeholders as Google and Facebook and is based in Los Angeles. And he warned that authoritarian countries such as China, Russia and Iran could exert control over the organization and censor internet use in their countries.

[Read the full story here, at McClatchy DC]

We are a nonpolitical technical entity. Göran Marby, CEO and president, Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers

The Obama administration maintains that the transfer involves technical matters that do not affect the substance of websites or the flow of information. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., the ranking member on the subcommittee, said the transition was really a “clerical process.” “The United States does not own the internet,” he said.

Internet addiction is worrying China. Boot camp-style correctional facilities hope to deprogram those who live in online worlds. Source: Supplied

Cruz is poised to add an amendment to a temporary government funding bill to block the transfer – the same tactic he used in 2013 to stop funding the federal health care law, which led to a partial federal government shutdown. However, this time, Cruz has mainstream support from powerful Republicans.

[Read the full text here, at McClatchy DC]

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, attended the subcommittee hearing and was supportive of putting off the transfer. Read the rest of this entry »


U.S. Surrender: Internet Giveaway to the U.N.?

If the U.S. abdicates internet stewardship, the United Nations might take control.

renocol_GordonCrovitzL. Gordon Crovitz writes: When the Obama administration announced its plan to give up U.S. protection of the internet, it promised the United Nations would never take control. But because of the administration’s naiveté or arrogance, U.N. control is the likely result if the U.S. gives up internet stewardship as planned at midnight on Sept. 30.

“It’s shocking the administration admits it has no plan for how Icann retains its antitrust exemption. The reason Icann can operate the entire World Wide Web root zone is that it has the status of a legal monopolist, stemming from its contract with the Commerce Department that makes Icann an ‘instrumentality’ of government.”

On Friday Americans for Limited Government received a response to its Freedom of Information Act request for “all records relating to legal and policy analysis . . . concerning antitrust issues for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers” if the U.S. gives up oversight. The administration replied it had “conducted a thorough search for responsive records within its possession and control and found no records responsive to your request.”

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“As the administration spent the past two years preparing to give up the contract with Icann, it also stopped actively overseeing the group. That allowed Icann to abuse its monopoly over internet domains, which earns it hundreds of millions of dollars a year.”

It’s shocking the administration admits it has no plan for how Icann retains its antitrust exemption. The reason Icann can operate the entire World Wide Web root zone is that it has the status of a legal monopolist, stemming from its contract with the Commerce Department that makes Icann an “instrumentality” of government.

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“Without the U.S. contract, Icann would seek to be overseen by another governmental group so as to keep its antitrust exemption. Authoritarian regimes have already proposed Icann become part of the U.N. to make it easier for them to censor the internet globally.”

Antitrust rules don’t apply to governments or organizations operating under government control. In a 1999 case, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the monopoly on internet domains because the Commerce Department had set “explicit terms” of the contract relating to the “government’s policies regarding the proper administration” of the domain system.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

Without the U.S. contract, Icann would seek to be overseen by another governmental group so as to keep its antitrust exemption. Authoritarian regimes have already proposed Icann become part of the U.N. to make it easier for them to censor the internet globally. So much for the Obama pledge that the U.S. would never be replaced by a “government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution.”

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Shutterstock

“So much for the Obama pledge that the U.S. would never be replaced by a ‘government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution’.”

Rick Manning, president of Americans for Limited Government, called it “simply stunning” that the “politically blinded Obama administration missed the obvious point that Icann loses its antitrust shield should the government relinquish control.” Read the rest of this entry »


Unconditional Surrender: US Agency Endorses Plan to Cede Internet Oversight

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The plan will not affect how users interact online, but will turn over the technical supervision of the online address system to ICANN itself, with a system of checks and balances so no single entity can exert control over the Internet, according to officials involved in the process.

San Francisco (AFP) – The US administration on Thursday endorsed a plan to cede its oversight of the gatekeeper of Internet addresses to the broader online community.

Commerce Department assistant secretary for communications and information Lawrence Strickling told AFP that the proposal from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) meets the criteria set by the US administration.

The plan aims to maintain Internet governance under a “multi-stakeholder” model which avoids control of the online ecosystem by any single governmental body.

“The Internet’s multi-stakeholder community has risen to the challenge we gave them to develop a transition proposal that would ensure the Internet’s domain name system will continue to operate as seamlessly as it currently does,” Strickling said.

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US oversight of ICANN had “irritated” some governments, which used what was Strickling depicted as a mainly clerical responsibility to vie for greater control of the Internet.

The plan comes in response to the US government’s March 2014 announcement that it would transition “stewardship” of online domain name system technical functions from the Commerce Department to a body that would fairly represent all parties with interests in a vibrant and healthy Internet.

Motivation behind the transition is to “preserve a free and open Internet,” according to Strickling. Read the rest of this entry »


Google Patents Customizable Robot Personalities

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patent that has just been awarded to Google suggests that either could be possible and that we could potentially download different personality types from the cloud.

In fact, if you can’t choose what kind of personality you want for your future robo-pal, it’s highly possible that it might be able to choose for you. It would do this by accessing your devices and learning about you, before configuring a tailored personality based on that information. In addition it could use speech and facial recognition to personalise its interactions with you.

“It’s possible that if you uploaded its personality to the cloud you might be able to transfer it to another robot.”

The original question posed still stands though — you could potentially always choose a specific personality type for your Google robot that represents the kind of person you enjoy interacting with. This personality could even be triggered by specific cues or circumstances that the robot could detect, says the patent, which was spotted by Quartz.

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“Unlike Newton and Stephanie from Short Circuit who were devastated when they believed their beloved Johnny Five had been destroyed, you never need get emotional over or be concerned about the physical destruction of your robot.”

“The robot personality may also be modifiable within a base personality construct (i.e., a default-persona) to provide states or moods representing transitory conditions of happiness, fear, surprise, perplexion (e.g., the Woody Allen robot), thoughtfulness, derision (e.g., the Rodney Dangerfield robot), and so forth,” states the patent.

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“A more concerning concept perhaps though is that a robot could be programmed to take on the personality of a real-world person — the patent suggests a deceased loved one or a celebrity — so that effectively you could get someone to live on after their death in robot form.”

It also suggests that should a cruel fate befall your robot, that might not spell the end of its days. It’s possible that if you uploaded its personality to the cloud you might be able to transfer it to another robot.

Unlike Newton and Stephanie from Short Circuit who were devastated when they believed their beloved Johnny Five had been destroyed, you never need get emotional over or be concerned about the physical destruction of your robot. Read the rest of this entry »


Andy Greenberg: Inside Popcorn Time, the Piracy Party Hollywood Can’t Stop

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Popcorn Time’s BitTorrent-for-dummies approach has become the virtually undisputed future of video piracy

 reports: Popcorn Time was an instant hit when it launched just over a year ago: The video streaming service made BitTorrent piracy as easy as Netflix, but with far more content and none of those pesky monthly payments. Hollywood quickly intervened, pressuring Popcorn Time’s Argentinian developers to walk away from their creation. But anonymous coders soon relaunched the copyright-flouting software. Today, Popcorn Time is growing at a rate that has likely surpassed the original, and the people behind it say they’re working on changes designed to make the service virtually impervious to law enforcement.

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 “We’re like Google. scraping for new content all over the internet.”

— Popcorn Time’s anonymous developer, known here by the popcorn-box mascot name “Pochoclin”

As Popcorn Time celebrated the first anniversary of its rebirth, WIRED chatted via email and instant message with a software developer from Popcorn-Time.se, one of the most popular of several reincarnations of Popcorn Time. (The anonymous developer asked us to use Popcorn Time’s smiling popcorn-box mascot “Pochoclin” as his or her pseudonym.) Popcorn Time’s masked spokesperson says the streaming movie and TV app is flourishing—in defiance of many of the world’s most powerful copyright holders and EURid, the domain registrar that seized the original site’s web domain last year.

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“After everything we went through, this will be our sweetest revenge.”

— Anonymous Popcorn Time spokesperson

Popcorn-Time.se, Pochoclin says, has millions of users and is growing at the mind-bending rate of 100,000 downloads per day. He or she also hinted that a forthcoming switch to a peer-to-peer architecture will make the service far harder for copyright cops to attack. “We’re at the threshold of one of the most exciting times since we started this project,” Pochoclin writes. “Making all our data available via p2p will mean that Popcorn Time will no longer rely on domains and centralized servers but only on its user base.”

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“After everything we went through,” Pochoclin said, “this will be our sweetest revenge and our biggest victory.”

When Popcorn-Time.se started responding to WIRED’s questions in November, Pochoclin said the reborn project already had 4 million users. But it had taken a serious hit a few months earlier, when Brussels-based domain registrar EURid revoked its website domain, Time4Popcorn.eu. At its new Swedish domain, it’s only recently returned to that earlier adoption rate. (Pochoclin wouldn’t reveal the size of its current user base for fear of drawing more attention from law enforcement or copyright holders.) “[EURid’s domain seizure] was just a small setback … a small but painful kick to the balls,” the spokesperson says. “We’ve grown this project tremendously since we picked it up … The numbers just keep rising.”

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A chart of Google searches for Popcorn Time over the last year, showing its quick growth since the shutdown of the original site in March of last year. (Source: Google Trends, which shows only relative search trends rather than absolute numbers of searches.)

For any other year-old startup, those numbers would seem ludicrous. But Popcorn Time is giving away Hollywood’s most valuable content for free, and making that piracy easier than ever. Download Popcorn Time’s app and in seconds you’re offered a slick menu of streaming TV shows and movies at least as easy to navigate as Netflix or Hulu—but with higher-quality video and hundreds of recent movies and TV shows paid services don’t offer. Read the rest of this entry »


America’s Internet Surrender

By unilaterally retreating from online oversight, the White House pleased regimes that want to control the Web

usa-internetL. Gordon Crovitz writes: The Internet is often described as a miracle of self-regulation, which is almost true. The exception is that the United States government has had ultimate control from the beginning. Washington has used this oversight only to ensure that the Internet runs efficiently and openly, without political pressure from any country.

This was the happy state of affairs until last Friday, when the Obama administration made the surprise announcement it will relinquish its oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or Icann, which assigns and maintains domain names and Web addresses for the Internet. Russia, China and other authoritarian governments have already been working to redesign the Internet more to their liking, and now they will no doubt leap to fill the power vacuum caused by America’s unilateral retreat.

“The Obama administration has now endangered that hallmark of Internet freedom.”

Why would the U.S. put the open Internet at risk by ceding control over Icann? Administration officials deny that the move is a sop to critics of the National Security Agency’s global surveillance. But many foreign leaders have invoked the Edward Snowden leaks as reason to remove U.S. control—even though surveillance is an entirely separate topic from Internet governance.

“This treaty, which goes into effect next year, legitimizes censorship of the Web and the blocking of social media.”

Read the rest of this entry »


U.S. Government Gives Up Control of the Internet

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For The Daily CallerGiuseppe Macri reports: The United States Department of Commerce gave up control of the organization charged with managing the Internet’s core infrastructure Friday as a result of mounting global pressure born out of the backlash over global National Security Agency surveillance. Read the rest of this entry »