Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Thursday morning he is suing the Obama Administration over its decision to relinquish its oversight of an important intergovernmental entity that controls the Internet.
Tomorrow, a contract between the feds and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) — which approves and assigns domain names and IP addresses — is set to expire. With that, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration will lose certain rights and oversight privileges that essentially guarantee Americans the ability to freely use the Internet in all its glory.
The feds appear to believe that the expiration of the contract will not affect the country's Internet use. Paxton, however, along with various GOP senators including Ted Cruz, say that without the U.S. government's oversight there is no way to be sure that ICANN, in the hands of other regimes such as Russia and China and Iran, won't go rogue and screw with Americans' Internet use. Paxton is seeking a temporary injunction to block the government's decision to do away with the ICANN oversight, arguing Obama is simply giving away U.S. property in violation of the Constitution.
“Trusting authoritarian regimes to ensure the continued freedom of the internet is lunacy,” Attorney General Paxton said in a statement. “The president does not have the authority to simply give away America’s pioneering role in ensuring that the internet remains a place where free expression can flourish.”
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
In the lawsuit, Paxton offers up a few hypothetical scenarios that could go down if the judge doesn't grant this injunction and United States oversight of ICANN ceases. For one, he proposes, what if ICANN simply does away with the .gov domain name, and states are left to use the basic .com domain, removing citizens' trust in the webpage? Worse, he says, how can we be sure that advisers on the ICANN board who come from authoritative regimes will not invoke prior restraint, a form of censorship that could threaten Americans' ability to say whatever they please on Internet forums?
Paxton asserts that if the feds are insistent on allowing the contract to expire, then they need to first ensure that limits are in place that would not allow ICANN to breach any First Amendment rights.
As we noted recently, Cruz jumped to the forefront of this issue in his usual fashion: by risking a government shutdown. Unlike his past attempt to block the Affordable Care Act by engaging in a 21-hour filibuster with the support of pretty much no one, the GOP rallied around Cruz's efforts this time, and clearly his good pal Paxton took note as well, rallying attorneys general from Nevada, Oklahoma and Arizona to join him in the lawsuit as well.
This is at least the 15th time Paxton has sued the Obama Administration since taking office last year.