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.
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.
“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.
“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.
he 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.
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.
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.
“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,” he said.
Goran Marby, the internet corporation’s CEO and president, told the committee, “We are a nonpolitical technical entity.”