There's a grain of truth to this one. A very tiny, crumbly, solitary grain.
Here's the version of events going around this week:
The Kenyan-in-chief is giving the internet away. You mean you didn't realize America owned the web? Well it does, because we're the most innovative peoples in the history of the universe. But we're still giving the web away! To Eurosocialists and dictators, or something!
Here's the grain of truth that yielded this pearl of wackadoo:
The internet's domains have been set and managed by an L.A.-based nonprofit, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers or ICANN; it's a name that you may recognize if you've ever done a who-is search for a domain owner.
Dating all the way back to the times when we were all logging on to AOL with the little phone icon and the whooshing modem sound, ICANN has performed its work through a contract with the U.S. government. But moving forward, ICANN wants to have a cosmopolitan reputation that's not tied to any particular nation—a desire exacerbated by "Edward Snowden's leaks about the NSA's sprawling surveillance programs," according to Politico:
The United States has always played a leading role in overseeing the management of .com and other domain names, but the administration announced Friday night that it will give up its oversight when the current contract expires in fall 2015. The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, last month proposed establishing "a clear timeline" for globalizing ICANN and the duties it performs under the U.S. contract.
Exactly who would regulate the Web's back-end is unclear, but the decision already has sparked backlash among some in the GOP, who warn it could allow the United Nations or authoritarian countries to step in and seize control of the Web.
Cue Bircher birther anti-One World Government batshit.
[T]o put ourselves in a situation where censorship-laden governments like China or Russia could take a firm hold on the Internet itself is truly a scary thought," Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said. "I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Senate Commerce Committee and with the Commerce Department on this, because — to be blunt — the 'global internet community' this would empower has no First Amendment."...
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, minutes after the Friday announcement, tweeted: "Every American should worry about Obama giving up control of the Internet to an undefined group. This is very, very dangerous."...
"This is red meat for the base," said former Rep. Mary Bono (R-Calif.), who sponsored a resolution in 2012 aimed at keeping the Internet free of governmental control. "We're at a critical time where [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is proving he is capable of outmaneuvering the administration. … As they digest it, I think people are going to be very upset."
"Giving up control of ICANN will allow countries like China and Russia that don't place the same value in freedom of speech to better define how the Internet looks and operates," Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said Monday.
"U.S. management of the internet has been exemplary and there is no reason to give this away — especially in return for nothing," former Bush administration State Department senior advisor Christian Whiton told The Daily Caller. "This is the Obama equivalent of Carter's decision to give away the Panama Canal — only with possibly much worse consequences."
And then there was Fox News, which called the move a "Super Power Surrender." Contributor Gregg Jarrett "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.'"
Actually, the U.S. alone didn't invent the internet. Unless Jarrett suddenly wants to give full credit to Al Gore or the federal government, which he probably doesn't.
But Fox News wasn't done. As the liberal media watchdog Media Matters pointed out, Tucker Carlson weighed in, bowtie and all:
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."
And of course, there was Pat Buchanan:
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.
Okay, what's the score here? Is America giving the internet away?
Hardly. In announcing the move last week, Assistant Commerce Secretary Lawrence Strickland—whose agency oversees the U.S. contract with ICANN—made clear that the nation wouldn't accede to a new arrangement that gives control of ICANN's functions to another government.
ICANN is holding an upcoming meeting for all global parties interested in internet governance, it's true:
"We are inviting governments, the private sector, civil society and other Internet organizations from the whole world to join us in developing this transition process," said Fadi Chehadé, the president and chief executive of Icann. "All stakeholders deserve a voice in the management and governance of this global resource as equal partners."
But the U.S. also "made clear that the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations affiliate that oversees global telephone traffic, would not be allowed to take over Internet governance," according to the New York Times.
So, to recap:
The U.S. didn't invent the internet all by itself (hello, Tim Berners-Lee!). The U.S. does not own the internet. The U.S. is not giving away the internet. The U.S. is allowing the independent group that determines IP addresses and domains to be, well, independent of government interference. But not entirely: The U.S remains committed to making sure Kim Jong Un or Ban Ki Moon or even Rupert Murdoch can't take control of the internet's architecture.
Will any of that change the minds of Inner America's tinfoil hat crowd? Perhaps, if ICANN relents and gives them the .gop domain name they want. If not, set your Jonesie phasers to "Agenda 21" and shoot a socialist globalizing zombie for Christ!
[Photo credit: AP]