2016-04-20

ICANN and the Global Public Interest, A Contradiction in Terms

ICANN--the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers--and the Global Public Interest, a Contradiction in Terms?

Efforts by some within ICANN to "define" (and thereby "restrict") the term "public interest" is a misguided, ill-advised, attempt to supplant the proper role of governments, and will most likely result in a definition favorable to the clients and employers of the lawyers-lobbyists-stakeholders who infest, and have largely captured, ICANN structures and processes, principally representing domain name industry and other special interests, all to the actual detriment of the global internet community and the global public interest.

Multistakeholderism, insofar as it applies to ICANN, is just another term for regulatory capture (Wikipedia):
"Regulatory capture is a form of political corruption that occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or political concerns of special interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating." (emphasis added)
A prime example of ICANN regulatory capture is ICANN's new gTLDs program, which was designed and implemented primarily for purposes of making money for ICANN (for exorbitant salaries, exploding budget, staff levels, etc.), and the domain name industry, principally, new gTLD registry operators, registry service providers, and registrars. The dramatic increase in costs to members of the global internet community to defend against what ICANN enabled by adding over a 1000 new gTLDs to the global DNS, from cybercrimes to trademark infringement a/k/a cybersquatting, matters little to ICANN. By the time legal processes have caught up with the offenders, ICANN, together with the registry operators and registrars, have all collected their respective fees from the abusive domain name registrations and do not have to pay one cent to the victims in the global internet community. ICANN and the new gTLD domain name industry, in effect, constitute a public nuisance, making money by enabling and providing the platforms by which global bad actors, from terrorists to cybercriminals to cybersquatters, profit by exploiting the global economy and the global internet community. It's all win-win, wink-wink, for ICANN and ICANN's partners (@5:35 and 33:06) a/k/a ICANN's customers, or at least, was supposed to be. Read more at ICANN's Boondoggle | MIT Technology Review, August 21, 2012 and ICANN Damaged a Competitive Domain Name Market With Its New gTLDs | DomainMondo.com. ICANN and its domain name industry 'partners' are engaging in rentier capitalism at its worst--"as the economy becomes more and more about information, the crucial ends of capital holders is to take things that could [and should] belong to the commons and instead appropriate them as property rights and sell them off..." 
"ICANN is an organization rooted in the private sector (including civil society) with governments in an advisory capacity. In the Affirmation of Commitments of 2009, ICANN committed itself to act in the global public interest. ICANN is a bottom-up organisation which has its origins in one country and is driven by a community that is dominated by the domain industry and other special interests ... a discussion has started in ICANN about how to better understand the notion of global public interest and how to improve its accountability mechanisms so that the global public interest is better reflected in its decisions ..."  -- Thomas Schneider, Swiss cyber-diplomat and the Chairman of ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC); Geneva Digital Watch: Issue 5, November 2015 (pdf),(links and emphasis added).
Contrast ICANN Board Chairman Steve Crocker's letter below with ICANN's current denial in a U.S. District Court of any public interest in new gTLD applications and processes, i.e., the new gTLD guidebook, which resulted from ICANN policy-making! See News Review: dotAFRICA, Public Interest, Judge Holds ICANN Accountable | DomainMondo.com.

ICANN Board Chairman Steve Crocker's letter to GNSO Council Chair James Bladel, 12 April 2016 (emphasis added):

"... historically at ICANN, there has been no explicit definition of the term “global public interest,” the Board has understood the term within the context of Paragraph 3 of the [ICANN] Articles of Incorporation:
“In furtherance of the foregoing purposes, and in recognition of the fact that the Internet is an international network of networks, owned by no single nation, individual or organization, the Corporation [ICANN] shall, except as limited by Article 5 hereof, pursue the charitable and public purposes of lessening the burdens of government and promoting the global public interest in the operational stability of the Internet by (i) coordinating the assignment of Internet technical parameters as needed to maintain universal connectivity on the Internet; (ii) performing and overseeing functions related to the coordination of the Internet Protocol("IP") address space; (iii) performing and overseeing functions related to the coordination of the Internet domain name system ("DNS"), including the development of policies for determining the circumstances under which new top-level domains are added to the DNS root system; (iv) overseeing operation of the authoritative Internet DNS root server system; and (v) engaging in any other related lawful activity in furtherance of items (i) through (iv).” (emphasis added)
"... Future conversation and work on exploring the public interest within ICANN’s remit will require
global, multistakeholder, bottom-up discussion and I am glad to see the GNSO Council, along with other groups, is already taking a keen interest in these next steps."
--Letter embedded below (yellow highlighting added):



Resources:
See also on Domain Mondo:

Below is the slide Presentation from ICANN 55, Marrakech, March 7, 2016, Exploring the "Public Interest" Within ICANN's Remit:



Session Overview: Discussions on the topic of the "public interest within ICANN's remit" and potential definitions of this term have been ongoing for years. In 2013-2014, the Strategy Panel on Public Responsibility Framework, led by Nii Quaynor, explored this topic. Based on community input at sessions and webinars, the Panel defined the global public interest in relation to the Internet as: "ensuring that the Internet becomes, and continues to be, stable, inclusive, and accessible across the globe so that all may enjoy the benefits of a single and open Internet. In addressing its public responsibility, ICANN must build trust in the Internet and its governance ecosystem." While some recommended the report, at individual and ICANN meetings, and at ICANN 52 in particular, it is evident there is a need and a desire to revisit this topic. Given limits on bandwidth for additional projects, and given the intense focus on other ongoing dialogues, a wikispace was established as a resource space for all to populate with background documents that will be useful in guiding this conversation forward. As set out in the ICANN Operating and Strategic Plans, ICANN will be facilitating a conversation in Financial Year 16 to explore the "public interest" within ICANN's mission and mandate, and this High Interest Session will form an important part of this work.

Archival Media of March 7, 2016, ICANN55 "Public Interest" Session: 
Exploring the "Public Interest" Within ICANN's Remit | Adobe Connect: Full [EN] Virtual Meeting Room Stream Archive English
Exploring the "Public Interest" Within ICANN's Remit | Livestream: Full [EN] Virtual Meeting Room Stream Archive English
Exploring the "Public Interest" Within ICANN's Remit | Audio: Full [AR] Audio Stream Archive العربية
Exploring the "Public Interest" Within ICANN's Remit | Audio: Full [EN] Audio Stream Archive English
Exploring the "Public Interest" Within ICANN's Remit | Audio: Full [ES] Audio Stream Archive Español
Exploring the "Public Interest" Within ICANN's Remit | Audio: Full [FR] Audio Stream Archive Français
Exploring the "Public Interest" Within ICANN's Remit | Audio: Full [PT] Audio Stream Archive Português
Exploring the "Public Interest" Within ICANN's Remit | Audio: Full [RU] Audio Stream Archive Русский
Exploring the "Public Interest" Within ICANN's Remit | Audio: Full [ZH] Audio Stream Archive 简体中文





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