TRUMP: ICANN'T EVEN! America won't hand over internet control to Russia on my watch
World collectively bangs its head against wall
Just when you thought discussion over the transition of the internet's technical functions couldn't get any more ridiculous, here comes Donald Trump.
"Trump opposes President Obama's plan to surrender American internet control to foreign powers," reads a press release put out by the Trump campaign on Wednesday, as senators attempt to reach reasonable compromise over funding the US government past October 1.
"Donald J Trump is committed to preserving Internet freedom for the American people and citizens all over the world," the release states. "The US should not turn control of the Internet over to the United Nations and the international community."
As has been customary with the Trump campaign, the assertion in the text is wildly inaccurate. It even goes further than the instigator of the campaign, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who yesterday was awarded three Pinocchio noses for his claim that transitioning the IANA contract would allow Russia and China to censor the internet.
Trump's policy director Stephen Miller goes on to say: "Internet freedom is now at risk with the President's intent to cede control to international interests, including countries like China and Russia, which have a long track record of trying to impose online censorship. Congress needs to act, or Internet freedom will be lost for good, since there will be no way to make it great again once it is lost."
Channeling Cruz's campaign of misinformation, the release argues: "The US created, developed and expanded the Internet across the globe. US oversight has kept the Internet free and open without government censorship – a fundamental American value rooted in our Constitution's Free Speech clause."
And of course there is a dig at Trump's rival for president: "Hillary Clinton's Democrats are refusing to protect the American people by not protecting the Internet."
Trump's unwelcome intervention follows several weeks where Senator Ted Cruz has pushed a wholly inaccurate version of events where the handover of a contract run by ICANN for 20 years suddenly represents the end of free speech.
Despite countless articles and witness statements pointing out that the claims made by Cruz – and now Trump – have no basis in fact, it has not stopped them being persistently put forward as part of a directionless partisan battle.
Cruz has been pushing to have the blocking of the IANA transition included as part of a "continuing resolution" to fund the US government until mid-December largely because he knows that Democrats and the Obama Administration want the two-year transition to proceed as planned.
The issue has infuriated politicians, government officials and internet experts alike because the arguments rest so firmly on false statements. (There are some good reasons to oppose the transition, such as ICANN's accountability failures, but they are playing little part in the current dialogue.)
In hindsight, it was perhaps inevitable that Donald Trump would wade into these post-fact, personality-led politics as soon as the spotlight on it grew large enough.
Just to be clear, both Trump and Cruz are indisputably wrong in their claims and both they and Congressional Republicans know it. But they may still block the transition before the September 30 deadline anyway. ®