2015-04-07

ICANN, Dysfunction, the Public Interest, and the IANA Transition

 Emily Taylor: ICANN: Bridging the Trust Gap (pdf): "Without effective accountability and transparency mechanisms, the opportunities for distortion, even corruption, are manifold. In such an environment, it is not sufficient simply to invoke trust. According to P. Sztompka (1998), a democratic culture of trust can be created through the institutionalization of distrust within the architecture of democracy. Accountability is highlighted as a key mechanism in achieving this." (emphasis added)
Domain Mondo recommends the above cited 16 page report about ICANN and the IANA Transition. This report, published by the Centre for International Governance Innovation and Chatham House, is more insightful than anything which has come out of the NTIA-ICANN scheme to transition the IANA functions to the global multistakeholder community to ICANN, including any of the "proposals" or "work product" developed thus far by ICANN's own self-interested "stakeholder groups" who control the IANA transition process. Instead, Ms. Taylor has insightfully, and honestly, dealt with the real issues preventing ICANN from operating in the public interest--a few excerpts (emphasis added)--

Any policy process needs to find ways of balancing the conflicting, legitimate interests of different stakeholder groups. In the ICANN context... a bottom-up process requires the board (despite having ultimate authority on behalf of the corporation) to assume a passive role in policy making.
If the community delivers an outcome that threatens the public interest, the board cannot be relied upon to step in and undo the community’s work... ad hoc workarounds highlight a problem with the
bottom-up process: what happens if a policy is crazy or bad? Who looks after the public interest?

ICANN bylaws... The public interest is hardly mentioned 

Key stakeholder groups (users and governments) are not part of the core policy-making framework, ICANN’s GNSO.... At ICANN, with the exception of the At-Large Advisory Council, there is almost no participation by advisory committees or other supporting organizations in providing comments within the formal GNSO PDP...

With no membership, ICANN’s directors represent the end of the line in terms of accountability.
Introducing a membership into ICANN’s corporate structure would not be a straightforward task. How would balance be ensured, to prevent capture by special interests?

In a public interest company, there is even more cause for concern, particularly as ICANN also has a contractual compliance function over those [registry/registrar] companies. There are at least theoretical conflicts in the dual roles of supplier and regulator. 

See also: The REAL Domain Hogs: ICANN Officers, Staff, Lavish Pay, Benefits, Accountability Risks Institutionalized


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