Reconsider internet change, Grassley says

Plans call for U.S. government to end role in assigning domain names

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CEDAR RAPIDS — There’s more at stake than his Twitter account, Sen. Chuck Grassley said about asking the Obama administration to reconsider ceding authority over assigning internet domain names to a multinational panel.

“If China wanted to censor my Twitter account they could do it right now,” he said with a laugh. The Iowa Republican is an avid tweeter with 102,000 followers.

Grassley and other members of the House and Senate have asked the departments of Justice and Commerce to reconsider the transition scheduled to occur Oct. 1. The Obama administration has decided to turn over the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority functions managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to a global organization.

Obama’s plan, which is supported by some tech giants including Facebook and Amazon, would leave address-assigning functions in private hands, removing a U.S. government role the Commerce Department describes as largely clerical. At issue is the system for handling domains like .com or .org.

Grassley and others are concerned that totalitarian governments — Russian, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China and, perhaps, North Korea — could censor what appears on the internet.

“As you know,” Grassley and colleagues wrote, “many in Congress have expressed concerns that this irreversible decisions could result in a less transparent and accountable internet governance regime or provide an opportunity for an enhanced role for authoritarian nation-states in internet governance.”

Iowans would be unlikely to see an immediate change if the transfer occurs Oct. 1, Grassley told reporters, “but depending on what happens in months or years down the road, they might see a lot of difference. That’s why I’m opposing the change.”

Grassley was joined in the letter by Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.

The Washington Post contributed to this report.

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