Last update: Mon Nov 11 18:45:20 2002
From: Kathryn Kleiman.
As some of you may know from my presentation to the ICANN Board, I see fewer and fewer voices participating from the noncommercial community in the ICANN meetings and related ICANN functions. Compared to the long lines of people who used to participate at the microphones in open meetings, and throughout the ICANN process, to my ears, there was a real silence in Shanghai.
The silence came from those who care about domain names as they are used by individuals, public interest groups, human rights organizations, those who critique big business and big government, and others. I can certainly understand the frustration. ICANN is increasingly unapproachable with its process and people hidden behind a veil of often misused procedural rules and "legalese."
But the noncommercial community should not give up. Like other constituencies, I think we have to appoint a group of people whose job it is to worry about ICANN issues. The other constituencies have people who are paid to participate in teleconference calls, write position papers, put together statements for signature in response to public comment periods. Participation in ICANN is a real job, and a difficult one.
Coupled with active, ongoing, and expert involvement, the Noncommercial community needs the press. It is the press which can demystify ICANN and bring the concerns of ICANN's growing powers to a larger audience. ICANN as a whole is overwhelming, technical, even boring. But broken into individual issues, such as WHOIS and the impact of publishing the address of a human rights organization, it may be approachable to the public. Further, ICANN cares deeply about its press coverage and has moved in the past to remedy criticisms from the press, even when it did not care about similar criticisms from its own constituencies. As more press cover ICANN it will hopefully spiral to increased coverage -- and some real accountability.
--Kathryn Kleiman, Association for Computing Machinery's Internet Governance Project
From: Norbert Klein.
Is ICANN overburdened with process? Or is the claim of "too much process" the result of a lack of orientation and criteria about what is substance? The Shanghai WHOIS interim report sheds some light on this question.
The ICANN Reform Process initiated by Stuart Lynn's paper ("ICANN - The Case for Reform") stated: "Undue focus on process to the exclusion of substance and effectiveness is the second major problem facing ICANN." He considers this to be so severe that he captions a section of his paper: "Why The Current Course Won't Work."
There was a lot of process. A Names Council WHOIS Committee handed over its work to a Names Council WHOIS Task Force already in April 2001. The ICANN Ghana meetings in March 2002 received information about a broad survey which had received more than 3000 responses--2750 in English, and about 50 each in French, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish--a good example of the international scope of ICANN processes. At the Bucharest ICANN meetings in June 2002 a Final Report on this survey was presented. The Shanghai meeting in October 2002 saw a PowerPoint presentation about the "WHOIS Task Force Interim Report," the full text being on the ICANN web site.
The report shows in much detail the tremendous work which went into the effort to improve the usability of the information of the data of domain holders. Two special concerns are addressed throughout: accuracy, as well as uniformity and consistency of the data held in different databases as a precondition to searchability and cross-registry WHOIS services. And secondly: concerns about marketing users and bulk access. The first concern resulted in elaborate and expensive to implement recommendations.
The current bulk access provisions allow the sale of customer information for up to US$10,000 per year, under the condition that the third party agrees not to use the data for unsolicited mass marketing, and not to resell or to redistribute the data. The new surveys suggested that the majority of respondents are worried how WHOIS information will continue to be kept protected, so that it cannot be used for unsolicited marketing activities.
The final section of the presentation asked how to "weigh the legitimate interests of bulk access to WHOIS against the preferences expressed by registrants," and it mentions "numerous legitimate uses being served by bulk access" (without spelling them out), as well as again the fact that the survey showed clear "objections to bulk access use for marketing purposes."
So far the process. I expected that now the substance would come at the end: Why would someone buy these data for up to $10,000 if not for business purposes? The presentation seems to hint at the answer: the provisions of access "should be evaluated to determine whether the following is feasible," that is to limit access to "those who are able to articulate a legitimate need, 'legitimate' still to be developed."
Yes, there is a lot of process--the study was dedicated to address many technical and administrative questions, but the privacy concern of the registrants, who want their data to be protected, has been kept undefined and unresolved until the end.
Maybe this could be expected anyway, as---according to Stuart Lynn's vision--"the driving notion today, with the renewed focus precipitated by the events of 9/11, must be effectiveness." I walked away from the presentation with the question: Is the alternative really "substance or process," or is it "legitimacy or effectiveness"? And effectiveness to serve which goals?
--Norbert Klein, Open Forum of Cambodia, Member of the Non-Commercial Domain Name Holders Constituency
From: Clement K . Dzidonu.
The morning session of the last of the Shanghai meetings just concluded with the Board amending and voting on various clauses of the new bylaws. Very few participants were present--perhaps they've had enough and gone to do some shopping, braving the showers.
It was all a civilized affair while we (the few ordinary participants) sat and listened to 16 men and one woman debate amendment after amendment, one new text after another. As per tradition, the Board meeting was on the last day. Although open to the public, you only sit, listen and watch. Finally the Board voted overwhelmingly in favour of adopting the new bylaws (of course with the passed amendments). The vote was 15 in favour and 3 against. There were 17 Board members present and one participated via teleconference. By the conclusion of the morning session the teleconference guy says something like he has to go to bed and will therefore not be joining for the afternoon session.
I also noted that some of the Board members are heading to the Airport. Got to catch a plane...bye, bye to the afternoon session. In the words of one of the departing Board member: no serious business in the afternoon--in any case he has to dash.
BTW, just another quick one. The African group attending the Shanghai meeting met yesterday, as per tradition, to touch base on ICANN matters which affect the continent. Now that LACNIC (the Latin and Central America Registry) has signed up with ICANN there is pressure on the Africans to double their efforts to finalise AFRINIC. Most present at the meeting felt that progress is slow and that efforts have to be made to co-ordinate for impact. The need for putting in place mechanisms to facilitate the global participation and representation of the developing countries in the ICANN process has again be identified as crucial if Africa's effective engagement in the ICANN process is to be maintained. There was also a lot of talk about outreach, outreach, outreach. But it all comes down to the dollars--and the will to act.
--Clement K. Dzidonu, International Institute for Information Technology
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From: Marlyn Tadros.
The Auditorium was quite packed today for the reports of the different advisory committees presented to the Board of Directors. The meeting was chaired by Vint Cerf. Among the numerous reports presented, the two most interesting were those dealing with security issues. The first was presented by Jun Murrai, chair of the Root Server Advisory Committee which updates the database and then shares it among other root servers. After explaining the structure and recent activities of the committee, he began talking about the October 21st attack, about which little is known even though it was covered in the media. He said that 10 of the 13 servers were attacked, even though they did not show any degradation of service. No users reported service errors. The attacks lasted a surprising 90 minutes, but the situation was corrected in about two hours not only because operator rescue and corrective measures were taken, but also because the attackers themselves stopped the attack. Not very comforting. If they turned it off, then perhaps they can turn it on at will. (However, Murrai did explain that even if the attacks had continued, the measures the operators took to fend off the attacks were substantial and did save the day).
The second intriguing report was presented by Steve Croker, Chairman of the Security and Stability Advisory Committee. He also presented a review of the committee's structure as well as its current activities, and emphasized quite strongly that his committee was a technical committee and in no way politicized nor concerned with policy. He gave a follow-up on Murrai's report, and explained the kind of progress they were making towards securing the root servers from future attacks. He said the events of the previous couple of weeks focused their attention dramatically on the denial of service attacks, and explained that while effect on users was minimal or non-existent, the extent of the seriousness of that attack should not be underestimated. Several factors contributed to the success of restoring the root servers, such as the basic strength in structure of the root systems themselves, good redundancy and diversity, and speedy staff response. They managed to diminish the effect of the attack before it subsided, but they are now in the process of devising better defensive measures.
The two reports showed the frightening fragility of the Internet, and of the focus needed to work towards implementation of methods to ensure its security and stability.
-- Marlyn Tadros, Virtual Activism (virtualactivism.org)
===== Akash Kapur Nuffield College Oxford OX1 1NF United Kingdom firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.akashkapur.com
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From: Tony Harris.
The current ERC decisions have reduced the At Large participation at decision-making level to relative insignificance. Why has this happened ? What went wrong with this intriguing exercise in democracy ?
It has been alleged that certain election proceedings resulted in the "capture" of at large board seats. It has also been explained that the at large elections were cumbersome to manage, and costly to the ICANN. This happened, IMHO, due to basic strategic errors in defining the at large community, as well as in the election proceedings.
As I pointed out in the Melbourne ALSC meeting, it is unrealistic to attempt to include 100% of the worldwide Internet user community into an at large organization. The simple and inexpensive way to build that membership was to offer every domain name holder the opportunity to register as an At Large member, and tie his member identification (for voting purposes) to his domain name (no domain name can vote twice). Domain name holders are natural stakeholders in an entity (ICANN) that deals with the Domain Name System. It was argued this disenfranchised non-Domain Name holders, but this is rather self-defeating as an argument. You simply cannot afford a public outreach to all Internet users worldwide, and certainly ICANN and its funding sources could not manage elections that involve millions of voters using snail mail delivered passwords as was the case in the last election. I submit this is a lesson in the need to simplify such issues and avoid the unbridled zeal of defending the last eskimo and peasant's need (need?) to be involved in the proceedings.
--Tony Harris, CABASE (www.cabase.org.ar)
From: Seeta PeÃ±a Gangadharan.
Over the course of the past few days, it has become patently obvious that there is no place at the ICANN table for civil society and non-commercial interests. Forget about experiments in self-governance. The growing consensus here seems to be that governments have been deemed the "fittest" ruling class.
As this realpolitik ideology runs rampant, all vestiges of public participation at ICANN are withering away. With the abolition of direct elections for representatives of the global community of Internet users has come a rapid unraveling of public-interest concerns. These include: 1) the elimination of a general assembly within the annual ICANN meeting; 2) the internal meltdown of the non-commercial constituency; 3) the appointment of a multinational corporate litigation expert to serve as primary public-interest representative (David Maher, former lawyer for www.macdonalds.com); 4) the ill-defined plans of the ICANN board to designate a "public participation manager"; and 5) the refusal of key decision-making committees or groups within ICANN to acknowledge public-interest concerns.
For the civil society/non-commercial sector, there are clear implications. In the immediate, it means that contentious technical issues under deliberation at ICANN will benefit corporations at the expense of individuals and civil society. The WHOIS debate is a case in point. Each individual who registers a domain name must submit an address, telephone number, email and credit card number. Barring the credit card information, all other details are maintained and searchable on the Internet. Individual Internet enthusiasts who operate out of the home and civil society organizations who offer dissident and minority viewpoints or content can be easily located through a simply WHOIS query. There is no protection of privacy whatsoever--giving spammers and opposition groups full freedom to wreak havoc (or personal injury!). Other immediate concerns--which can not be elaborated here for space constraints--range from the establishment of new domain names, deletions caused by inaccurate WHOIS information, and transfers of domain names from one Internet registry to another. In the long term, the withering away of the "Internet public" brings ICANN closer to the elitist practices of other global governing bodies such as the World Bank, WTO, IMF, World Economic Forum and ITU.
--Seeta Pe?a Gangadharan, MediaChannel.org
From: Clement K . Dzidonu.
The fireworks of words and controversy which normally characterized most ICANN meetings I've attended over the past two years is absent at the Shanghai meeting. So far it has been a low key affair even at the usually explosive constituency meetings. The 'At-Large' issue which dominated most ICANN meetings since Yokohama is hardly getting any attention at Shanghai. Surprised that in the land of the 'over a billion' very few Chinese are attending the meeting --- which is a poorly attended ICANN meeting on the whole.
I attended the Government Advisory Committee (GAC) meetings as the Rwandan accredited representative. The GAC meeting concluded on Tuesday and as usual was a members only affair. Decision reached on: transferring the GAC secretariat to the EU from Australia; elections for new GAC chairman and 3 vice chairman (a process to be completed by January 2003); and on an outreach programme in developing countries, most of whom are hardly represented at GAC meetings. Currently less than a quarter of the GAC membership comes from developing countries. Surely this is a long way from a balanced GAC membership and given the crucial role being assigned to the GAC within the current on-going ICANN reform process, this is certainly an area of concern.
Clement K. Dzidonu, International Institute for Information Technology
From: Marlyn Tadros.
The General Assembly convened early in the morning to a near empty auditorium. A presentation of 'Delete Issues' by Bruce Tonkin highlighted the problems concerning domain name deletions: processes of renewal, registration, and expiry. This eventually led to a discussion regarding the Whois database and the controversies surrounding it.
Marilyn Cade, member of the Whois Task Force and AT&T representative, explained that the task force has issued an interim draft report in which 3300 people were surveyed regarding inclusion in the Whois database. According to survey results, privacy was not an issue. In the afternoon, in the Names Council meeting, chaired by Bruce Tonkin, the Whois Task Force also presented their findings regarding the interim report, which they hope they will result in a final report with its recommendations following the conference. Marilyn Cade made sure to emphasize that the report took into consideration the concerns of the community regarding privacy issues and has addressed those. According to her, the task force identified four issues of importance: accuracy, searchability and marketing, resale and bill access.
In response, Eung Hwi Chun of the Non-Commercial constituency, presented strong criticism and concerns regarding the report. First, he said that the survey was inaccurate because it has not used correct sampling. Most respondents, he argued, were not from the non-commercial constituency, but rather representatives of commercial interests. Second, the document reflected only commercial interests and did not state recommendations with their pros and cons. He suggested that recommendations should have been more balanced. He added a number of other criticisms.
The Whois Task Force tried to give assurances that they were looking into ways to create a balance between privacy and accuracy. There is no doubt that some people deliberately seek the privacy issue for fraudulent and illegitimate reasons, but for the most part, people want privacy for legitimate reasons, and this should be respected.
One member of the panel emphasized that the commercial community is just as concerned about privacy issues as the non-commercial, and that in fact they had a stake in privacy simply because of problematic issues like spam.
-- Marlyn Tadros, Virtual Activism (virtualactivism.org)
From: Dorothy Kidd.
It's very smoggy outside, but perhaps the smoke screen inside is lifting a little. From the beginning, this ICANN conference has felt like a trade fair. While there are no goods in the lobby, the main participants are companies who "wholesale" and "retail" Internet domain names and URLs. When Andrew McLaughlin described it that way in the orientation session on Monday, I was bemused. Today that description seems very appropriate.
ICANN was set up with input from the US Government, when the Clinton Administration privatized the Internet and they still operate through a memorandum of understanding with the US Department of Commerce. Clinton believed that the "market rules okay" and the internal organization of ICANN reflects that. Commercial bodies and more importantly, their intellectual property marketing regime, seem to be the real operating system.
There are a few stories to explain the attempt at democratic governance. One, from delegates from Africa and Latin America, is that it was an attempt by the US Government to assuage the concerns about American domination from the rest of the world. This morning, responses to my first blog suggested I follow the money trail. I am not a techie. However, I think the point is that ICANN has created a false shortage of domain names and numbers, in order to create a new industry to sell Internet locators.
Tomorrow, I want to write about the three issues that might concern media activists and Internet users out there beyond the digital curtain.
--Dorothy Kidd, Department of Media Studies University fo San Francisco
From: Kevin Hurley.
Where have all the Chinese gone, Abraham, Martin, and John... Okay, I was lyrical (for those of you who recognize the tune) but it does highlight two things of interest: lack of active Chinese participation, and the use of English names.
As to the "China question" most of you know my disappointment in the context of ICANN outreach and the extensive "travel show" that must take place when meetings are scheduled in many locations. The intent is great but the execution leaves much to be desired. I appreciate Clement's apt comment (at a meeting on developing nations yesterday) that some screening is necessary for a "free and open" meeting but it does appear disingenuous of ICANN to move the meetings around the world and not have significant host participation. Further, we create a traveling elite of the same suspects attending meetings. All food for thought as ICANN thinks through its own development, including how much influence people from other countries, esp. developing nations, really have over the "new" ICANN process. One other note: attending the Names Council, yesterday, I was struck by the lack of D.C. representation (Tony recused!). THAT was a Western panel if ever there was one!!
As for names, notice those name badges with "Leo" and "Mary." Turns out the Chinese view this as a branding exercise such that they choose their names to reflect a certain personality trait/association. Nothing new here except that if they were to use their translated names you would have "Thunder Wong" or "Righteous Beauty Xiu." I could live with that, "Righteous Beauty which way to the esteemed room of relief (toilet)?" A cultural curiosity but what a pleasure we might have if we were able to choose our own names later in life...Purple Mountain Hurley,
--Kevin Hurley, Salzburg Seminar
From: Julia Pimsleur.
What's ICANN? A new self-help seminar? The next generation iBook? A French film about a one woman can-can show?
After two days at my first ICANN gathering, where I am a foundation-sponsored "KPP" (Key Public Participant), I'd describe ICANN as kind of like the Wizard behind the curtain of the world wide web.
I get the feeling that the ICANN Board would rather people like me not show up at their biannual gatherings, but as a documentary filmmaker, I have a lot of practice crashing parties. I also have practice exposing things that corporations and governments would rather not have brought to public attention. This conference may not wind up as the next Frontline documentary, but something is definitely amiss here. The public participation in ICANN is dismally low, and the ICANN Board, having organized failed elections two years ago, decided to do away with them altogether. If that doesn't sound very democratic, how about a Board that is hand picked and has no accountability to the people it is representing? And have I mentioned that the U.S. Government is looking over ICANN's shoulder at every step? The U.S. Gov't has a "Memorandum of Understanding" with ICANN, which basically means this organization lives or dies at the U.S. government's will.
So here I am, wading through a dim sum of acronyms and finding out more about the tangled internal politics of this organization than I care to. I am still untangling what the key issues are here, and what one jet-lagged New York producer can do about it, but since I am one of the people being served by ICANN (I have a registered .org and .com after all) I will keep showing up in the hopes of a good denouement. After all, it was just one determined young woman with sparkly shoes who forced the Wizard of Oz to explain what the heck he'd been doing back there.
Julia Pimsleur, Co-Founder, MediaRights.org
From: Dorothy Kidd.
I'm not sure which culture shock is greater. This is my first time to China, and I speak almost no Mandarin. However, much more shocking is the new geographic and economic landscape. Outside, the skyscrapers loom Robocop-like in the Shanghai smog. Less than ten years ago, this new financial district of Pudong was farmland. Now the human scale has gone, replaced by the post-modern capitalism of high-tech factories, five star hotels, TV towers and "Super Brand Malls." And while the avenues are much broader than I imagined, there are surprisingly few people on the ground.
I'm having a similar experience inside the ICANN conference. It's a new language learning all the acronyms that are thrown around fast and furiously. I look around and wonder how all the other participants handle it, especially those for whom English is their first or second language. However, it's easy to get a phrase book. What is more difficult to comprehend is the gap in comprehension between paradigms.
ICANN is a hard organization to describe, even for old hands. In some ways, it appears to be a unique experiment in world governance, a third model that would go beyond earlier multilateral organizations like the UN which were dominated by national governments; or corporate structures that are controlled only by shareholders. Instead ICANN involves those power groups, and significantly, enfranchises groups and individuals with no commercial or national government interest as well. Indeed, back in the day, ICANN even ran a global election to make sure that individual citizens were elected from all regions of the world.
But if the new reforms discussed in the last two days go through, ICANN will remove any of the pretences of international and democratic representation. While the stories of the first world-wide elections sound almost as farcical as the Florida ballots that brought in the Bush regime, the new reforms will not remedy the problem. They call for a nominating committee from the Board, in effect creating a self-perpetuating process. Instead, under the guise of direct democracy from the bottom-up, members at large will be expected to arrive and then be selected from the five regions (Asia, Africa, Latin America, North America and Europe). Given the tremendous digital divide, this will effectively give the power back to the "haves," the countries of Europe and North America.
But the questions of democratic governance are only half of it. Tomorrow, I want to look at some of the other issues.
Dorothy Kidd, Department of Media Studies, University of San Francisco
From: Rob Courtney.
David Maher, Chairman of the new Public Interest Registry organization to operate .org, and Lynn St. Amour, President of the Internet Society (ISOC) attended the Non-Commercial Domain Name Holders Constituency Monday and answered questions about .org.
David and Lynn fielded questions about the state of the .org redelegation and about the future structure of the PIR. The .org contract has been posted on ICANN's web site and is expected to be signed shortly.
In particular, David spoke about the new PIR board and PIR's intention to conduct itself with openness and transparency. There was some discussion of PIR's emergent "Advisory Council" that was referenced in its application; David and Lynn stated that outreach for such a council was beginning but not yet complete. ISOC's .org application specifies that the Advisory Council will come online within 60 days. The Advisory Council will be PIR's major means of staying in communication with the community of .org registrants and the global non-commercial community; the next few weeks are likely to be important for PIR as it puts this council together. Lynn St. Amour mentioned another of PIR's accountability mechanisms -- the fact that PIR Directors serve at the pleasure of the ISOC membership, and can be removed if their actions are inconsistent with ISOC's institutional goals of openness and access.
After the .org discussion, Evolution and Reform Committee Chair Alejandro Pisanty spoke to the NCDNHC about the reform process in a brief discussion that shortly segued into a broader ERC presentation in a different room (described by Akash). In particular, Alejandro discussed the impact of the alternate blueprint put forward by the Regional Internet Registries. The RIR blueprint proposes that ICANN act mostly as a review body for the RIRs activities -- including performance of certain IANA functions. Alejandro expressed the ERC's reluctance to embrace the RIR model, citing a concern that national governments might attempt to establish greater influence over the allocation of IP addresses through increased pressure on the RIRs.
Alejandro did not get a chance to address an interesting question raised by the RIR blueprint. "Core Value 3" of the ERC's proposed "Mission and Core Values" cites that ICANN should delegate its authority to other appropriate bodies when it can. The RIR proposal points to the importance of clarity in establishing such values. Are the RIRs appropriate bodies for such allocation? Why? Why not? Unless some metrics for evaluation can be established, it's an open question how useful the guidance of the core values will really be.
Rob Courtney, Center for Democracy & Technology
From: Akash Kapur.
Perhaps fittingly, the Evolution and Reform Committee meeting was held in the basement of Shanghai's gleaming Conference Center. Rita Rodin presented the proposed reforms, and after some further discussion, the floor was opened to questions.
Karl Auerbach asked at one point if the participants were supposed to be engaged in a "debate" or a "discussion." The distintinction he was making wasn't entirely clear to me--maybe it's because it had already been a long morning (I had already sat in on the Orientation session and the Non-comm meeting). For whatever the distinction is worth, though, I would say that most of the discussion centered around the need to come up with funding for the ALAC, particularly (as Stuart Lynn emphasized) for ALAC members from developing countries. Funding is necessary to get ALAC members to ICANN's meetings, but there is currently no funding mechanism for these members in ICANN's budget. There was a suggestion that maybe some kind of permanent travel fund could be established.
The "discussion" on ALAC was mostly civil. Things took a slightly more tense turn in the "debate" on transparency in ICANN--particularly over the issue of closed ICANN teleconferences. The debate was prompted by a question over the necessity of such meetings from Rob Courtney of CDT. A lot of people seemed to question why such closed meetings were necessary. Their concerns were acknowledged--but perhaps not embraced. The more persistent the questioning got, the less embraced they were.
There was a suggestion made that maybe people asking such questions were engaged in "conspiracy theories."
Akash Kapur, Programme in Comparative Media Law and Policy, Oxford (DPhil candidate)
In an effort to increase awareness about ICANN, the Markle and Ford foundations sponsored a group of Key Public Participants (KPP) from around the world to attend the ICANN meeting in Shanghai. These participants will blog regularly from the various meetings; their reports will represent the voices both of insiders and outsiders.