US Mulls Ceding World Wide Web Oversight

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WASHINGTON -- Big government is at it again, but this time the Obama administration is planning to give up power, which could prove detrimental to people all over the world.

America has always been the main player in managing the World Wide Web. Even conservatives who typically want to limit the role of government say it's an example of Washington doing something well.

"It's a very relaxed control, which is why I think we've seen the Internet grow to be an incredible voice of freedom, not just in the United States, but around the world," Jordan Sekulow, with the American Center for Law and Justice, told CBN News.

In the late 1990s, the Commerce Department formed a nonprofit agency called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, which governs the system that assigns website addresses and directs Internet traffic.

"We're talking about every email, every search, something on Google, I mean, we're talking about every transaction," Sekulow explained.

But following former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden's revelations about America's spying activities, the Obama administration says it's feeling international pressure to give away the authority to direct Web traffic.

Even the head of ICANN says everyone with an interest in the Internet deserves a voice in managing it, as equal partners.

Now the big question is if the Internet isn't in U.S. hands, whose hands can be trusted?

China and Russia are waiting in the wings to fill the vacuum if the United States cedes control.

There's also a great fear the Internet will eventually wind up under the control of a U.N. organization called the "International Telecommunications Union."

Sekulow says that doesn't bode well at all.

"It's controlled by bad actors," he said. "In fact, they've now passed a resolution that will allow governments to shut down websites -- and that won't be a violation of human rights."

Indeed, many critics worry that if another country or countries take over managing the Web, it could lead to the suppression of free speech and political dissent, possibly even hurting international business over the Web.

Congress is considering two actions. The first delays the transfer of control and the second requires congressional approval before the Obama administration can act.

There's also bipartisan concern. Even former President Bill Clinton thinks the administration's plans are a bad idea.

"A lot of people who have been trying to take this authority away from the United States wanted to do it for the sole purpose of cracking down on Internet freedom and limiting it and having governments protect their backsides instead of empower their people," Clinton said.

Many Americans are also concerned.

Nearly 120,000 people have signed a petition to keep control of the Internet in the land of the free.

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Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.