[NA-Discuss] Update on Consumer Constituency Charter Changes

Beau Brendler beaubrendler at earthlink.net
Fri May 6 18:33:00 UTC 2011

Interesting points.

You asked: "Would it be fair to characterize this application as being made by parties to monitized transactions, also known as retail on-line sales?"

The intent was for the constituency to represent consumer organizations, meaning consumer advocacy or consumer protection organizations, like Consumentenbond of Holland, or Test-Achats of Belgium, or my old employers at Consumers Union, though their advocacy side no longer involves itself in telecom issues (which was where Internet issues advocates were housed). Some consumer organizations and user organizations of that sort expressed interest in joining, and remain members of the "proposed" constituency, though the process has dragged on so long now that I think it's best to actually create something before re-engaging.

The idea was to use the constituency as a conduit for consumer organizations' opinions on particular Internet policy matters in the GNSO, since those organizations tend to represent, or at least communicate, with lots and lots of regular people, through their magazines and through their advocacy. In return, the constituency's goal was to assist consumer advocacy organizations in cutting through the ICANN learning curve to help them figure out how to prioritize what issues to focus on, since much of the activity in ICANN falls outside the scope of consumer organizations' interests. It would be difficult to interest consumer organizations, for instance, in IPv4 to IPv6 transition. But there are aspects of new gTLDs or WHOIS and Internet safety and stability issues that they probably would (and have had) an opinion on. I wrote an opinion three years ago for Consumers Union on the new gTLD process, for instance. Conversely, though consumer organizations may be largely considered politically liberal, most of them I know steer clear of human rights and freedom of speech issues, for reasons of politics, funding and applicability.

But in trying to get the constituency going, we broadened that focus a while back, because too many people got hung up on the word "consumer." So we in essence changed it to "end-user" or "human being."

There's a challenge, however, with not duplicating the efforts of the NCUC constituency, whose primary issues of advocacy are (in my opinion) freedom of expression, freedom of speech, human rights, etc. All excellent values to uphold, but there did not (again in my opinion) seem to be a constituency in the GNSO that represented issues such as safety, security, consumer protection from fraud and harm, etc. At times it has been suggested, perhaps wisely, that the Consumer Constituency be re-named the "Consumer Protection Constituency," because it was perceived it would often find common ground with such organizations as the APWG or SpamHaus or even law enforcement.

One could probably argue that the business and commercial constituencies are concerned about similar issues, especially when it comes to things like trademark protection. But in my experience business and commercial entities tend to act in self-interest (as they would be expected to do, with their primary goal to make and maximize profits). It's not appropriate to ask them to act as advocates of "consumers," because their goal is to make money from consumers. In addition, it's a trust issue. I may agree with some things CADNA might say, for instance, regarding consumer confusion and trademark protection in new gTLDs. But CADNA is a lobby group funded by corporations interested in protecting their trademarks. But industry has (comparatively) tons of money and time and legal resources and whatnot to get its points across in the ICANN realm.

Finally, if anyone is still reading, it's important to consider the existence of the Non-Profit Operations Constituency (NPOC), which has some strong opinions about non-profit trademark protection, for instance. The newly-chartered NCSG would be made up, if I have my recent facts correct, of the NCUC, the CC (consumer constituency), and the NPOC.

-----Original Message-----
>From: Eric Brunner-Williams <ebw at abenaki.wabanaki.net>
>Sent: May 6, 2011 1:08 PM
>To: na-discuss at atlarge-lists.icann.org
>Subject: Re: [NA-Discuss] Update on Consumer Constituency Charter Changes
>I've not paid attention to this particular constituency (or 
>stakeholder group) application, though I paid very close attention to 
>the earlier application for urban areas.
>It seems pretty clear from the language that the drafters of the 
>proposal don't view stub resolvers as "consumers", though this is 
>pretty much the view of the DNS technical community, that browsers and 
>mailers and anything else that uses the DNS invokes a stub resolver to 
>start the name to resource resolution sequence of query and response 
>exchanges between an edge device and some recursive or non-recursive 
>server somewhere else.
>If the BC is the entity which advocates for the self-interest of 
>on-line vendors-for-cash of goods and services, then is the CC the 
>proposed entity for the self-interest of the counter-parties of those 
>on-line vendors-for-cash of goods and services, whether they are 
>called "customers" or "purchasers" or "consumers" or ...
>Would it be fair to characterize this application as being made by 
>parties to monitized transactions, also known as retail on-line sales?
>Do they care how their non-transactional email works? What about 
>whether wikipedia resolves correctly? Are they vegetarians or do they 
>just eat yams?
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