A coalition of technology groups and conservatives wants Congress to sue to stop the Obama administration from handing over control of Internet domain names to an international board, charging it could give authoritarian regimes power over the web.
Since 1998, an arm of the U.S. Commerce Department called the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) has handled domain names. However, in September, the Obama administration plans to allow the U.S. government’s contract to lapse so the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) will be run by a global board of directors with the domain-naming responsibility. Many fear this will allow governments such as Russia, China and Iran to have a stake in Internet governance and the “de facto” power to tax domain names and stifle free speech.
Congress twice included riders in appropriations bills to expressly prohibit tax dollars from being used for the transition, which President Obama signed into law. So, if the Obama administration allows the contract to lapse in September it could mark yet another questionable executive action by the administration.
“Congress twice told the White House to pause the transition, yet the Commerce Department is blatantly ignoring the law,” Szóka said in a statement. “Congress cannot just let this slide. It must defend the Constitution’s separation of powers, which gives the ‘power of the purse’ to the House. That means making clear to the administration that the House will sue if NTIA does not extend the contract.”
However, the Obama administration contends it isn’t bound by the appropriation bills.