March 30, 2007

ICANN: no .xxx, no public

Filed under: phone — Wendy @ 12:10 pm

ICANN’s thrice-annual junket is concluding in Lisbon. I haven’t been there, so I’ve been reading between the lines of the flurry of self-congratulatory press releases and announcements.

We learn, for example, that “Thousands of Voices Get Direct Say At ICANN,” in a release that never discloses that no one’s listening to this “say.” Three new Regional At-Large Organizations have been formed, but not one of them allows individuals to participate directly, and not one of them has a voting representative on the ICANN Board or GNSO Council. We’ll see if there’s any room to address these questions in the ALAC review.

We learn also that the Board has, for a third time, rejected the .xxx TLD application from ICM registry. Will it stick this time? Will ICM litigate? Susan Crawford’s vigorous dissent skewers ICANN’s process and the legitimacy of its conclusions:

I must dissent from this resolution, which is not only weak but unprincipled. I’m troubled by the path the board has followed on this issue since I joined the board in December of 2005. I’d like to make two points.
First, ICANN only creates problems for itself when it acts in an ad hoc fashion in response to political pressures. Second, ICANN should take itself seriously, as a private governanced institution with a limited mandate and should resist efforts by governments to veto what it does.


As a board, we cannot speak as elected representatives of the global Internet community because we have not allowed elections for board members. This application does not present any difficult technical questions, and even if it did, we do not, as a group, claim to have special technical expertise.

I’ve never thought .xxx was a good idea, but I’ve thought even more strongly that ICANN shouldn’t be in the business of judging “good ideas” or making content-based judgments about new gTLDs. ICM jumped through the procedural hoops ICANN set, would not cause technical problems in the root, and so should be entitled to its domain.

Together, these developments show what a monster ICANN’s web of contracts has created: a private regulator of public conduct with no public oversight. Watch out for the California public benefit corporation law, though…

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