[At-Large] ICANN oversight

Evan Leibovitch evan at telly.org
Sun Oct 11 10:51:12 UTC 2015

On 11 October 2015 at 09:57, parminder <parminder at itforchange.net> wrote:


> you are ocuppying the ALAC space and providing the ICANN system its most
> important source of legitimacy.

​According to whom?

While within ICANN, I used to believe this. But most of the ICANN community
doesn't seem to think so.

   - The governments ​assert that they are the entitled custodians of their
   respective public interests and don't need other players.

   - The domain industry challenges At-Large's legitimacy at every turn (in
   part through endless obsessions of demanding re-definition of "what is
   public interest? Aren't domainers part of the public too?"). So long as
   ALAC is complacent, it is useful internally. Whenever it stirs the pot the
   "who the hell are you?" attitude is uneasingly quick to surface, even among
   some Board members

   - The civil society / academic component (ie, the NCSG) is more often
   angry with ALAC than friendly because ALAC doesn't fall in lock-step with
   its views (and -- horrors! -- sometimes sides with government over
   industry), compounded with a poorly-concealed jealousy of ALACs travel

In the absence of that, from where does the legitimacy come? Who is
supporting it, offering encouragement from the outside, imploring ICANN to
listen to that voice in its ear?

One of the depressing results of the relentless "who the hell are you", is
a very distracting tendency of ALAC to engage in endless self-discovery.
There are active groups within ALAC created for instance, to examine
performance metrics for At-Large participants (as if that will have any
value in proving ALAC's worth to ICANN).

> But I never hear them say things that I hear from you - we have given up,
> and even, now mostly see it all as a some kind of entertainment. This last
> is almost blasphemous to say - you are in this on the behalf of the most
> powerless in the world, and the work that you are abdicating involves power
> dis-balances and the opportunity to correct them.

​​​I do not deny that I find entertainment within
things that those inside the ICANN bubble find deathly serious -- in much
the same way that John Oliver's or Jon Stewart's writers can find humour in
even the darkest situations.​
​But I found that entertainment even while within ALAC leadership. Some of
what happens is so stupid it can't help but be funny.
If that is blasphemous, so be it.

​What is serious to me, is that beyond
 the maintenance of the root servers and the stability of the ccTLDs and a
handful of gTLDs, the DNS IMO will become increasingly irrelevant to the
public by its own hand. So I choose to refocus on where my own talents can
be best used to serve my concept of the public good. As a matter of good
fortune, my current employment offers a new perspective which assists this.
​To use your phrasing, the most powerless in the world have far greater
Internet challenges to address than who claims the rights to dot-africa...

> those who most surprisingly claim that these issues are simply not
> important enough should then tell others why do they spend time on this
> area at all... By default they are legitimising a system, why then they are
> doing it. Let people do work they think is important, and they can usefully
> contribute to, and leave the space of representation of the interests of
> ordinary Internet users in global Internet governance regimes to those who
> consider work in this area as important from a public interest point of
> view, and are ready to take up the needed struggle.

​Such lectures assume far too much: GIGO.

My withdrawal from ICANN​ was by no means a retreat from efforts to make
the Internet better. I am simply channeling my own efforts in ways that I
believe will have a better ratio of good-done per hour-spent.

There are quality people within ALAC that can and do fight the good fight.
A few of them I have personally helped recruit. I know their passion and
character and trust their actions. But, from my personal perspective, I
find the answer to "who oversees ICANN" to be far less critical to the
future of the Internet than most reading this message appear to.​​

​Yes, there were were challenges within ICANN that I thought important. But
even most of the "wins" turned out to be symbolic at best​ (an applicant
support regime that served nobody, and a TLD objection process that
eventually deemed ALAC had no standing). Maybe what is needed is fresh
blood, and I cheer on those who have succeeded me within the organization.
I do not belittle those in ICANN still taking on the challenge; I will
support as I am able, but from a distance and possibly with some useful
hindsight (else why am I reading this email list?). Personally I believe
that much of the damage that ICANN can do has already been done. Ongoing,
ALAC has a useful role in mitigating that damage but cannot undo the damage
any more than it could prevent it.

(BTW: Within ALAC, I was one of a number who argued *in favour* of closed
generics. The resulting ALAC position was not lazy or ill-considered, but
it did go against the civil society orthodoxy. Disagreeing with a
conclusion does not justify belittling the process that led there.)
Alan, Olivier and others have offered a fine explanation of the ALAC
position on the transition. Whether you agree or not, it is well considered
and the result of substantial person-hours and I trust their judgment. I
would not have been able to do what they did.

> No personal offence to anyone please, I am making an entirely general
> political argument, for reasons that I consider important enough to devote
> some of my time to pursing them.

Ditto. You might want to make fewer assumptions if you want those "general"
arguments to be generally useful.​

​- Evan​
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