[At-Large] ICANN oversight
carlton.samuels at gmail.com
Sun Oct 11 19:58:55 UTC 2015
See my reponses inline.
Carlton A Samuels
*Strategy, Planning, Governance, Assessment & Turnaround*
On Sun, Oct 11, 2015 at 2:57 AM, parminder <parminder at itforchange.net>
> Thanks to all who have engaged with this discussion.
> I will try and pull together my response in a single email.
> I see two kinds of responses. One, from what I understand are people who
> seem to be close to leadership positions in ALAC, which centre on the
> argument that a membership model as currently proposed by the CCWG is
> likely to (further?) put ICANN processes in control of powerful commercial
> interests, especially of the DN industry. The second set of responses are
> from those who are relatively on the periphery of the ALAC power structure,
> or at least seem to like to identify themselves as so. The main proposition
> here is: they are outraged but feel helpless, and have sort of given up. In
> any case, for them, the matter may not be of that great an importance.
> Before I respond to these two kinds of responses, which appear rather
> opposed to one another and strange to be coming from the same group which
> fact itself suggests some level of dysfunctionality of the group,
The At-Large has never been a single position community and as long as I
have caucused here, plurality has always been encouraged. The idea that
the ALAC - as the representative body of the At-Large to the ICANN
community - should always be in lockstep is even for me, way too bolshevik
> I may summarily observe that one thing that is common to the two is that
> they both represent a rather problematic abdication of responsibility by a
> group that is officially the representative of the users and the 'real
> Internet community' in the ICANN system.
I think this mischaracterises the situation. I think it is barely fair to
say the At-Large represents the interest of 'ordinary internet users' the
1.563B <http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats3.htm> in Asia, for example.
I say this to say none of the mechanisms developed over time to take the
temperature of the internet user community works all that well. There is
very little real participation by the mass of users so we tend to follow
our instincts on what matters. The IANA transition is one issue that has
VERY little traction in the internet user community. I hesitate to accept
the mantle of designated martyr; way too religion-tinged. And I personally
do not believe in fighting unwinnable wars. In the end, most users want to
get to the Internet for a small fee...or free of charge. And, for each of
us to use it to connect and reach all of us.
If one is abdicating, one should do it properly by declaring so and
> vacating the space. This abdication however proceeds without vacating the
> space. And for people and groups to both keep occupying the 'representative
> spaces' and abdicating responsibility at the same time is a double whammy
> that I find very worrisome.
Yessir. So, step up and represent. And by represent I mean study the
issues, develop a position and advocate that position to others in At-Large
and the wider ICANN community for adoption. Even better, get a few more
like you to engage. I can say the ALAC and those near to it - have tried
with decidedly mixed success to date.
Any additional firepower you can bring would be enormously helpful.
> More about that later, but let me first respond separately to the two
> kinds of arguments.
> First about the argument that a membership based model as currently
> proposed is such that it will lead to capture of ICANN processes by DN
> industry related commercial interests. Very interesting! And I wholly agree
> with the spirit behind it.... But my question to Olivier and Alan, and
> others who support thier contention, is simple and straightforward; how do
> you then accept the fact that the most important policy work - as the most
> political pubic function - that ICANN does, which is GTLD related policy
> development, is done by the same group which you now say is captured by
> commercial interests.
The policy development process is mischaracterised here. The support
organisations - xxNSO - advance policy strictures to the Board that the
Board can accept wholly or in part. They may also choose to ask for advice
from the advisory organisations like the ALAC or SSAC. It is more the case
that the advisory organisations provide unsolicited advice to the Board.
Here's the principle that is usually missing. The Board is not obliged to
implement every advice or policy stricture proposed. By law, regulation and
practice they have an obligation to make up their own minds in furtherance
of the corporation. And so long as ICANN remain a California corporation
that is the way it will be. The fundamental issue to understand is that
domicile and the legal environment in which ICANN exist imposes certain
That is the big change that will not likely happen.
> I havent ever heard you opposing that fundamental pillar of ICANN - but
> please do correct me if I am wrong. (In fact, the biggest screw up under
> the influence of commercial interests that the GNSO ever did which was
> about allowing 'closed generics' which was never appropriately opposed by
It is easy to support generics and I do. I am yet to hear a compelling
contra argument for closed generics, especially as they are configured
within the current domain name ecosystem. Matter of fact I thought it would
have been a great opportunity to disrupt the registry/registrar/ICANN
tandem...and perhaps drive some unforeseen market innovations.
> Can you please explain how are you fine with the same group (commercial
> interests captured, as per you, and I agree) can undertake domain name
> policy development, but it is not ok for that group, in association with
> ALAC and GAC (two groups which, whatever their other faults, certainly
> serve to balance against commercial interests), to undertake oversight over
> the board, which is supposed to be a role that gets activated only in
> exceptional circumstances, and by design is supposed to just keep people
> with executive power on their toes rather than be acting often. Preferably,
> they never need to act, as US did not, I mean mostly, which does not mean
> that the oversight hang was not there, and not doing its work.
> Making the question shorter to be clear: How are you ok with commercial
> capture of a/the policy making function in iCANN, but not of the same
> groups (esp GNSO) associating with others in an oversight role?
See above. The policy-making ecosystem is a little more complex than that.
And if you've ever worked a chartered working group where the policies are
defined, you would see significant opportunities to influence.
In fact, as far as I'm concerned, the working group is the place to put
limited At-Large resources if this community truly want to influence
policy. This is where the voluntary At-Large is disadvantaged. Because we
are working generally with folks who are paid to be there. And, too few of
us are there at the ground floor working hard while others hardly work.
We could use a man versed in argument and bringing the perspectives that
you could to the chartered working groups.
> In any case, if indeed you do think the Board needs oversight, and it
> should be by a group that is as closely representative as possible of the
> global public or the Internet community, rather than commercial interest
> dominated, lets first agree on these principles. Do we agree? And then from
> there arrive at what we want, and what the ALAC should seek. Since a
> membership based model is so much more public (and thus closer to ownership
> by the internet community - I mean the real one)
I actually believe that the membership model as proposed will marginalize
those of us already at the edge of empire even more so.
> than a board-centric corporate model, we should certainly be asking for a
> membership based structure, but seek a different way of populating that
> membership. Let ALAC develop a position on that, and it is indeed the
> responsibility of the people in ALAC's leadership positions to guide ALAC
> towards such a position. Representing those who are outside the relevant
> power configuration, in this case ordinary Internet users, is almost a
> sacred responsibility, and it does not get fulfilled by opposing proposals
> that cause at least some dispersal of power citing obscure,
> unsubstantiated, reasons, which simply do not square.
Yeah. But reality check. The United States government says we want to
transition. And they gave a red-lined pre-requisite as the only acceptable
endgame. Surely you're politically astute enough to understand how that
> I myself want a membership structure for ICANN oversight that goes towards
> new innovations that can include ordinary Internet users in some way, as
> much as practically possible.
Oh yes, what is 'practically possible' is indeed the thing. See above.
> The ALAC structure if properly developed seem the best candidate for it.
> Lets be bold and propose what we want to propose, rather than getting
> caught in power shenanigans.
I should be obliged to know how the ALAC could accrete some powere while
escaping the existing 'power shenanigans', even while standing aloof above
> I am ready to work with you on this. Let the ALAC community assert itself.
> It may look powerless but that is because it has made itself so... It is in
> my view the most powerful part of ICANN if we really look towards and
> connect to where its power and legitimacy comes from - the people, rather
> than getting bogging down in high power games, and manipulative handling of
> those who exercise power, and repeatedly keep expressing powerlessness
Without the leverage recognized by Chairman Mao, I would be obliged to
know how you would approach the entities now with power to cede power to a
relatively powerless ALAC
> ... And if not upto this challenge, vacate the space, say ALAC is
> structurally not working - ALAC cannot keep giving the ICANN system the
> legitimacy that it professes vis a vis the global Internet community.
> This already brings me to my reply to the other kind of responses that my
> provocation evoked - of helplessness, desperation and dis-interest. But
> dear sirs, you are ocuppying the ALAC space and providing the ICANN system
> its most important source of legitimacy.
I agree somewhat with you here. The fig leaf of the global public interest
could always be removed but that has a very short halflife. So expect a
little short-lived impact. I have always thought one reason the ICANN
community comes built with the tension of who are the representatives - the
ALAC or GAC? - of the 'global public interest' is to make this outcome so
much less likely.
> You have the power, you just do not exercise it. Do you think civil
> society groups fighting climate injustice, trade and intellectual property
> injustice, disability and gender injustice, and so on, have a less
> challanging job than yours. 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.
To be entertained even as you go to the gallows is not an unknown response
to adversity. Especially if you know what the end game is.
> Lastly, 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.
> 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.
None taken, my friend. Hope you reciprocate in good humor.
> On Sunday 11 October 2015 04:17 AM, Alan Greenberg wrote:
> I have been otherwise occupied most of today, and so others have already
> replied and given a number of perspectives.
> Although I am the ALAC Chair, what follows is being said purely on my own
> At-Large has been far from aloof in this debate. You are correct that we
> have not contributed hundreds of posts to the mailing list over the last
> few days, but I think that speaks more to our self-control than anything
> else. We have been very clear in our formal comments, and we have been very
> active in the sub-groups refining the CCWG proposal.
> You are also correct that we have not been among the "firebrands" who have
> been advocating more radical community control over the ICANN Board. This
> is not accidental, and there are several reasons for this.
> 1. The position we have taken is not that of a single person. There has
> been a large and active At-Large community involved. The positions we have
> arrived at have been hotly debated and refined over the months. This does
> not necessarily make them better than some other position, but I feel
> strongly that they do represent the vast majority of those in our community
> who have chosen to be involved in this process.
> 2. It is easy to identify specific cases where ICANN Boards have made what
> I believe to be poor decisions. In at lease some cases, they have later
> agreed that perhaps some other path should have been followed, so this is
> clearly a learning process. The Board can also be cited for being less
> diverse and representative of the entire world or Internet users than it
> might be. But from my perspective, thanks partly to the good work of recent
> Nominating Committees, it is far more diverse that some of the constituent
> bodies of ICANN. And it is the ONLY body in ICANN that is charged with
> protecting the core mission and values of ICANN as documented in its
> Bylaws. As such many of us in At-Large feel that it SHOULD have the
> ultimate decision on many issues, weighing the perspectives of the various
> other stakeholders within ICANN. It is an essential component that adds
> balance to the multistakeholder model.
> 3. If you look at the people and groups that have been advocating for
> complete community control over the Board, it is illuminating. The vast
> majority of those voices are from the US and, in one form or another,
> represent powerful commercial stakeholders who have much at stake related
> in the Internet Domain Name System. Is it any surprise that they want power
> and control. That does not make them evil, and many of these people are
> colleagues and friends. But it is natural that they will strive to do what
> is best for their own communities. Within At-Large, we have regularly taken
> the position that, to paraphrase an old (mis)quote, what is best for
> General Motors is not necessarily best for Internet users.
> At 10/10/2015 07:13 AM, parminder wrote:
> I cannot but note with considerable surprise and disappoinment that when
> everyone with any thing ever to do with ICANN is currently hotly
> debating the issue of the stand off between the ICANN board and CCWG on
> ICANN accountability, ALAC remains so aloof from the issue.... When this
> should prima facie be the one part of the ICANN structure, as
> representing the peripheries, that should be most bothered by efforts at
> concentration of power, or of holding on it, vis a vis the rights of
> the public.
> I have not been able to follow the process closely, but if I am right
> -and please correct me if I am not - even in the earlier discussions
> ALAC has been most lukewarm to any kind of structural changes that could
> indeed place an effective oversight of the 'community' over the ICANN
> board, when as said ALAC is the one group that should be most keen on
> institutionalising such checks over centralisation of power with the
> ICANN board. Can anyone explain me why it is so. It really intrigues me,
> and I am sure I am missing something here.
> Thanks, parminder
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