As we note the 25th anniversary of the birth of Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web this month, the integrity of the Internet is threatened as never before. China and Russia are launching cyberattacks at unprecedented levels, and the NSA’s hacking and spying are destroying trust in technology.
In that context, the Obama administration has announced it will give up U.S. control of the Internet to an international governing body. This has been in the works for more than a decade — but the president needs to be certain that the transition to a nonprofit will maintain a free and open system. That is not at all clear today.
Silicon Valley can’t keep driving the U.S. economy unless the guiding principles that shaped the Internet are the foundation of its next governing body.
If it were possible, we would urge Obama to hand control of the Internet back to “God.” But the bushy-bearded, sandal-clad tech genius who bore that nickname, the University of Southern California’s Jon Postel, died in 1998 after serving as unofficial governor of the Internet for decades.
Commerce Department officials have issued guiding principles for the next governing body that emphasize the importance of a stable, open Internet. They maintain they will not turn over control to a government-led organization of any form. That’s a relief.
The Obama administration should insist on an international nonprofit with established Internet principles to assume leadership. Unfortunately, the United States has lost some of its moral authority in this choice because its own spying outrages have been exposed. It’s one more reason the president needs to restore Internet integrity, starting with its own use of the system.