[At-Large] Say Whut!

Evan Leibovitch evan at telly.org
Tue Dec 11 03:06:32 UTC 2018

Hi Olivier,

Before I answer your question, I want to remind others in this thread that
I do not consider ALSs a joke. I consider the structure of ALAC that
depends on ALSs to be wasteful, needlessly cumbersome, and a practical
obstacle to ALAC's ability to credibly fulfill its bylaw mandate.

You make several allegations. Please clarify:

One person's observations are another's allegations :-)

To be honest, I am pleasantly surprised at the level of engagement in this
thread and the interest in the subject matter. The exercise of exposing my
views such that may be suitably evaluated -- even if ultimately rejected --
is a source of hope.

I did not expect the thread to go long enough to require me to provide a
detailed rationale or plan based on my high-level comments. I will offer
brief answers below which I expect will not satisfy. Should interest exist,
I would be happy to produce a paper -- a manifesto, if you would --
providing further detail. I would be even happier if others of like mind
would like to collaborate.

The opportunity to raise my issues and those of others at the Montreal
mini-Summit sounds intriguing. However, I find it quite ironic -- and
supporting my position -- that ICANN will not fund every ALS to attend, and
that At-Large volunteers are expected sit in judgment of which fraction of
At-Large is worthy to attend. I also would not want to wait until then to
start this engagement. I would propose a series of webinars at which
various views can be aired and discussed in open chat or email.

> - overtly politicized

As a democratic process, it has been my observation that a notable
proportion of ALAC members achieve their position because they are good
campaigners or are well-liked, not because they are best suited to serve
ALAC's obligation to ICANN. I will not give specifics beyond that in a
public forum and others are welcome to disagree. I will simply state at
this point that when I first came into ALAC I detested the idea that the
NomComm would choose one-third of ALAC; I have fully changed my mind on
that, though I would make some changes to that process.

> - appears to superficial airs of importance

Anyone who has read my writings or heard me speak, knows that I feel ALAC
is far far too wrapped up in its processes and structures. How many
iterations and rebirths and renames and wasted person-hours have been
attributed to (re-)forming ALAC's policy working group. (I believe the most
recent edition is the "CPWG".)

It is IMO an embarrassment that ALAC even has a separate policy committee,
ALAC should *be* the policy committee and anyone who is not interested in
policy activity shouldn't be on ALAC.
Then there's ALAC's traditional utter terror of being assertive with an
opinion contrary to the rest of the ICANN momentum:
If we rock the boat, will they cut travel funding?
If we rock the boat, will they enable an At-Large-elected Board member?
If we rock the boat, will they refuse to fund ATLAS ?
If we rock the boat, will they refuse to fund ATLAS2?
If we rock the boat, will they refuse to fund ATLAS3?

I cannot think of one point of time since I joined At-Large 11 years ago
where there was not one form or another of this fear, and its associated
chilling effect on ALAC's ability to truly assert the public interest.y

Would I sacrifice ATLAS3 if ALAC could honestly and vocally change ICANN to
follow the public interest? In a heartbeat. But I suspect that is a very
unpopular PoV; boy do we we love our U-shaped tables and "for the
transcript record" assertions and the Board actually sharing a room with us
for an hour of uselessness at each ICANN meeting.

(As if anyone gives a damn about the transcripts, wherever they are...)

I would disagree with the first two of your allegations and when it comes
> to the third point, I would say that you are missing the actual target: it
> is not the ALAC that is impotent in regard to service its bylaw mandate, it
> is the ICANN structure that puts the ALAC in a weak position as an advisory
> role that the ICANN Board can completely disregard and with no power
> whatsoever over policy processes, except taking part in discussions as
> individuals and coordinating the sending out of comments.

I am specifically addressing what I call the "who the hell are you"
phenomenon that occurs any time that ALAC expresses an opinion that goes
against the corporate inertia. "You don't speak for anyone but yourselves,
why should we listen to you?". This objection successfully stymies what
little activist ALAC commentary actually gets produced.

This is by design of ICANN with the acquiescence of ALAC. We *could* should
we choose actually ask the whole world what it thinks is important about
the DNS; instead we play futile diversity games that gloss over the fact
that the 25 At-Largers in the room at ICANN meets (well, the ones that
engage in policy) are only doing their collective best guess at the public

> Have you read the At-Large review? I see from your point above that you
> have not. I am sorry but you are just repeating the very words of the
> At-Large review. And these were rejected by the community, an alternative
> wording was proposed and this was accepted by the Board and now going into
> implementation.

I don't see the current ALAC acknowledging the weakness of the ALS
infrastructure, the lack of emphasis on public education, or any attempt to
take ALAC beyond continuing to guess at the public interest.

As others have said, the outside reviewers were ham-handed and ignorant of
what ALAC really is or needs to be. That doesn't mean they couldn't
accidentally be right on occasion. I don't know the rationale behind what
they proposed but am happy to make mine.

Second, I am utterly flabbergasted to read the point you make about
> reducing travel and investing more into virtual meeting technologies. You
> are the first person to know how terrible and expensive Internet
> connectivity is in many developing countries and your point is basically to
> promote the voice of developed countries at the expense of the rest of the
> world.

Hardly. Tech has advanced by leaps and bounds, yet ICANN continues to
saddle us with generations-old crap like Adobe Connect and Adigo. Let ALAC
have more control over its choice of tools; give the TTF a budget to pick
the best tools and have ICANN implement them based on the criteria we need.

(In my own org, new generations of tools such as WebRTC and Zoom are
particularly good with nodes of poor connectivity. Don't knock it till
you've tried it... I have. We have other proofs of concept such as the ISOC
InterConnect teleconference that seem pretty inclusive to me. And I note
that at least one RALO has abandoned Skype in favour of WhatsApp for its
internal chats.)

I would also concentrate ALAC activity in ONLY three areas:
> Again, exact wordings given in the At-Large review, basically transforming
> the ALAC into a free, volunteer marketing agency for ICANN.

Doing public education on the dangers of DNS abuse, or the differences
between gTLDs and ccTLDs, whether to buy defensive domains, or the ways to
address phishing or report abuse to law enforcement ... constitutes
marketing for ICANN?

The main issue that ALAC needs total independence in the content of the
education campaigns (so long as it's in scope), the crafting of questions
on the surveys and R&D, and the analysis of the results of said research.

Without such total independence you are right, it's a propaganda machine.
But properly used it can alert the public to dangers and problems that
ICANN might want hidden.

> Evan, have your expectations of the multistakeholder system in ICANN
> fallen so low that you are giving up bringing the input of end users into
> the ICANN processes? This is the primary role of At-Large!

Domain names subtract value from the Internet, speculation and abuse and
shakedowns are rampant, the Board has claimed unilateral rights to the
auction proceeds (the issue that started this tread), gaming of every
process is rampant, ICANN refuses to play regulator, and we're headed
inevitably for a new round before we know if the last one served the public

So actually, yeah my expectations are that low. To me these days, ICANN's
approach to multi-stakeholderism is best described as "there's no such
thing as conflict of interest so long as you declare". The inmates are
running the asylum and only money talks. ALAC is usually too timid to
assert real change, and when we do we get shut down for not being able to
prove we speak for the public.

My proposals offer an alternative path to fulfilling ICANN's bylaw mandate,
with which I am quite familiar.

Now if you are looking at having a group that is there to correct fake news
> about ICANN, end users and the multistakeholder model, then why not join
> the At-Large Social Media working group?
> https://community.icann.org/display/atlarge/At-Large+Social+Media+Working+Group
> I see you are listed, but have not confirmed your membership.

That's because someone may have volunteered me for the job but obviously I
haven't taken it. And as I have indicated about, I would not participate in
any communications activity that could not truthfully and independently
protect the public against the consequences of ICANN policies. This WELL
beyond countering fake news.


Evan Leibovitch, Toronto Canada
@evanleibovitch or @el56
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