Google, Facebook etc rush to defend US govt in last-minute ICANN internet takeover lawsuit

Mad dash on eve of critical IANA transition

A slew of internet organizations have come to the support of the US government in a last-minute lawsuit designed to prevent the handover of critical internet functions at midnight on Friday.

The Internet Association – which represents Google, Amazon, Facebook et al – plus the Internet Society, Internet Infrastructure Coalition, NetChoice, ARIN and a number of individuals have filed an amicus brief [PDF] in Texas court on the eve of a hearing seeking a temporary restraining order against the Department of Commerce (DoC).

The lawsuit, brought by four states' attorneys general, seeks to stop the handover of the IANA contract from the US government to non-profit ICANN at the stroke of midnight in Washington DC on September 30 – when the current contract ends.

The lawsuit claims that the move would put at risk the First Amendment online, and could lead to ICANN simply deleting critical parts of the internet's naming systems at some future date.

However, the internet organizations argue that those claims are based on "fundamental inaccuracies regarding how the relevant Internet technologies work and the role that IANA functions have played."

The DoC agrees, and in its own filing [PDF] has also argued that the states' attorneys general do not have standing.

The hearing – which is happening at the time of writing – could delay the planned transition and possibly pull it past the elections in November, if the judge, George C Hanks, Jr, decides there is a case to answer. If the restraining order is approved, it could disrupt the entire transition that has been two years in the making; if it is not, ICANN will assume control of the critical IANA functions on Saturday morning. ®

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