WASHINGTON (BP) – When the U.S. government relinquishes control of a nonprofit organization that oversees internet domain names, a California Baptist University software engineering professor says, the potential for religious liberty violations could increase.
Since 1998, the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has coordinated and administered internet domain names, with oversight from the U.S. Department of Commerce. But as of Oct. 1, when the government’s contract expires, ICANN will be governed entirely by an independent board – a move that has been decried by some commentators as dangerous and dismissed by others as innocuous.
On the other side of the debate, the Department of Commerce listed on its website several supposed falsehoods about the ICANN transition, including, “This transition is ‘giving the Internet to authoritarian regimes’” and “The U.S. government transition will lead to blocking of websites.” The Los Angeles Times and NPR likewise published articles downplaying the significance of ICANN’s independence.
Creed Jones, professor of software engineering at California Baptist University, told Baptist Press the transition does not pose a “high risk” of religious liberty violations but does create a possibility that individuals with an agenda hostile to religion could gain control of ICANN and block access to websites with Christian content deemed objectionable.
ICANN’s ability “to make decisions as to whether traffic will get through or not” to particular domains and websites could present difficulties “from a religious liberty perspective,” Jones said, acknowledging “that I may be being paranoid or worst-case” and that technology experts are virtually unanimous in their support of open access to online material.