Fadi Chehadé, president and chief executive of ICANN, the organization that controls website addresses on the Internet, is confident the United States’ ceding control of the organization won’t affect the free and open sharing of information.
“We must make sure that ICANN will not fall captive to any one government,” Chehadé told The Foundry in an exclusive interview. “And we will do that.”
Last month, the U.S. Department of Commerce, which currently oversees ICANN, announced that in 2015 oversight of ICANN would transition to a different—and still undetermined—group that would not be controlled by the United States.
Brett Schaefer, Heritage’s Jay Kingham senior research fellow in international regulatory affairs, is concerned that allowing ICANN to be run by an international group could allow totalitarian countries to control the Internet.
“[These countries] want to censor the Internet,” Schaefer said. “They want people to not have access to other people’s ideas. They want to look at the political dissenters in their own country and say that ‘you shouldn’t have a voice.’”
Chehadé, however, was adamant that “mechanisms” and “processes” would safeguard ICANN from such countries and would provide “early warnings” if any countries did attempt to end the era of open speech online.
“Frankly, if we don’t get these in place, I would hope the U.S. government would send the proposal back to the community for more work,” Chehadé said. “And if they don’t, I will.”
Today is the first day of a two-day meeting on Internet governance in San Paulo, Brazil, which will include conversations about oversight of ICANN.