American hegemony in the Internet Governance: A Disputed Domain

By: manish1


The world of Internet is excruciatingly more complex than we can imagine. Net surfing, internet-aided messaging, and transactions appear very easy, but the rigors and complexities behind how the Internet runs are hidden and unknown to most of us.

In an attempt to systematize internet governance, former US President Bill Clinton established the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)in the 1990s. ICANN is a very technical body mandated with ensuring that the net function in a stable and secure manner by
managing the net's domain name system. It is the organization responsible for designating domain names like .com, .net, and. org.

In 2000, the ICANN approved the registering of seven more domain names like .biz and. info after receiving massive request and prodding for more domain names from the net community. Even up to this day, there is still much pressure for ICANN to approve the creation of additional domain name extensions. The pressure is high since the domain name registry business presents a very lucrative opportunity to collect annual registration fees for potentially millions of new domain names. Domain name registrar’s demand for more domains to accommodate the increasing influx of new products and service being sold through the Internet.

ICANN has been hard on this demand, fearing that the existence of new top-level domains and extensions will drastically affect the reliability of the Internet. And this reluctance has put ICANN in a lot of troubles with different parties.

The most recent controversy involving ICANN was the .xxx issue. In 2004, the ICM Registry (US-based) collaborated with the Canadian-based International Foundation for Online Responsibility to propose the creation of .xxx. The proposed new top-level domain is aimed at better classifying websites and web contents for millions of internet user around the world. The proponents said that a .xxx domain extension will give a clear message to net surfers that sites with that domain extension contain adult materials of sexual nature.

Further, the move initiated by the ICM is for consenting legal-age patrons of adult entertainment to have greater online experience, for adult entertainment providers to be able to identify themselves as legal for greater customer retention, better complaints resolution, and as a proactive step for them to instill responsibility and accountability for their actions. Also, the proposal for a .xxx domain extension is seen to benefit individuals or families wanting to avoid adult content. Surfers can easily filter websites with adult contents just by merely looking at the extension names.

After about a year, the ICANN publicly announced that it had entered into commercial and technical dealings leading to the creation of .xxx domain. The US government was quick to respond to this surprising move and asked the ICANN to delay the final approval for the creation of .xxx after various sectors loudly aired their opposition to it.

Although many countries lauded the decision to put a halt in the creation of .xxx and give way for multi-lateral consultation, a clear, steering issue boiled and steamed out. The international community raised concern of American hegemony in the internet governance. The *European Union* is clear in its stance that the .xxx case is a crystal-clear proof of government intervention in the policies of ICANN. This, the EU says, is unacceptable to sovereign governments who are relying on ICANN for the control of their websites like UK's .uk.

With the .xxx controversy still unresolved, the ICANN is now faced with yet another crucial issue. The international community has demanded that Internet governance be transferred from ICANN to a neutral, political intervention-free body. This has been prompted by the fear of American
government's strong political influence on the policies of ICANN. Also a concern is the slow action, if not complete inaction, of ICANN on the proposal to have a multi-lingual domain system that would allow citizens of different countries to register domain names in their native language.

With many governments using the internet to deliver services to their citizens, internet governance and its autonomy from a suspected American hegemony is a hotly contested and very legitimate issue. With internet intersecting with critical elements like freedom of speech, privacy, and a fair marketplace, its governance is really of global concern and undeserving of any political maneuvering. Currently, the US Commerce Department is holding a hearing on the fate of internet governance and ICANN management.

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