[At-Large] On a "consumer" agenda for ICANN

Evan Leibovitch evan at telly.org
Fri Sep 2 09:27:44 UTC 2016

Hi all.

On yesterday's briefing on the topic of ALAC's setting a "consumer" agenda
I made a number of points which I felt were either not well received or
well-understood. Having the opportunity to reflect I would like to try to
express them here in a way I hope may be better accepted.

   - The issue of whether to call this a "consumer" effort or not appears
   contentious. My own view is that the term "consumer" is already used within
   ICANN and has a meaning understood as registrants and end-users. As
   At-Large has a bylaw mandate to address the interests of end-users, I
   personally believe that we will have our hands full just advancing
   end-users; there are other constituencies within ICANN expressly to
   represent the interests of registrants.

   - We are significantly constrained in what we can do in the area of
   compliance because there are so little end-user relevant facets upon which
   ICANN can act. The RAA limits what ICANN can enforce, and we already know
   that the main end-user-relevant component of the RAA -- Public Interest
   Commitments -- are weak and in many cases optional. There is some useful
   work to be done here -- notably in WHOIS accuracy -- but it is a fraction
   of all the possible end-user complaints end-users may have.

   - In the absence of broadly useful enforcement, we have the role of
   education; and it is here where the most can be done and most needs to be
   done. My main point is that ICANN's voluminous communications are focused
   on readers who are at least moderately sophisticated in the technical,
   economic and/or political components of the organization. ICANN does
   NOTHING of value for what I would call the unsophisticated audience --
   people who don't know that (and why) ICANN has nothing to do with
   two-letter top-level domains. In the absence of such general-public-facing
   information, ICANN leaves itself unable to counter untruths and conspiracy
   theories that may be fact-free but are presented in a way anyone can
   As an example of the level I am talking about, there is no dead-simple,
   fourth-grade language that explains
      - That ICANN does not control "the Internet", just its directory
      - That ICANN can't do ANYTHING help people with problems with
      two-letter TLDs (and won't easily help people figure that out)
      - What action to take -- and the limits of what ICANN can do -- if
      you are getting abuse from a domain
      - Who runs ICANN (hint: it's not the United Natiions)

To write simply or do infographics about ICANN -- and I almost
mean children's book levels, in a dozen or more languages -- takes a
specific skill, one which volunteers should not be called upon to provide.
If there is to be an advancement of a "consumer agenda" it must begin with
an informed public. So far ICANN has spent all its communications resources
speaking to those interested (and skilled) enough to want to buy, sell or
regulate domains. But it has done little to inform the BILLIONS who likely
will never in their lives have or need a domain of their own. In
the absence of such straightforward information, demagogues and
agenda-based media are able to create their own narratives without credible
rebuttal. And the growth of such narratives -- without accessible answers
-- is hurtful to our advocacy efforts and generally to the organization a s
a whole.


Evan Leibovitch
Geneva, CH

Em: evan at telly dot org
Sk: evanleibovitch
Tw: el56
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