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    Membership Issues ICANN Staff and Structure
    ICANN Doesn't Listen--Official
    posted by michael on Tuesday December 09 2003, @08:01PM

    Here's a paper that documents things that are probably blatantly obvious to most ICANNWatchers:
    • ICANN doesn't listen,
    • Board members tend to vote like Soviet automatons except for (some of) those who were elected before ICANN killed the Board elections
    • the staff does the heavy lifting.
    It's all set out, complete with charts and data, in Public Participation in ICANN: A Preliminary Study, by John Palfrey, Clifford Chen, Sam Hwang, and Noah Eisenkraft, all of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School.

    The abstract follows:



    This study considers to what extent the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has achieved its stated goal of a "representative" and "open" decision-making process. An initial review of approximately 100,000 postings by members of the Internet user community to ICANN's e-mail lists and public online forums — indeed just a few of the several means of public participation in ICANN's decision-making process — showed that public commentary for or against a given proposal before the Board does not correlate strongly to an outcome either for or against that proposal. The data suggest that the Board has been more likely to rely heavily upon staff recommendations and upon the input of the Supporting Organizations, in which the public can also participate, than on broad-based input from the Internet user community.

    In large measure because of the difficulty of assessing public involvement in the Supporting Organizations, it is unclear whether ICANN has been successful at collecting commentary that is representative of the Internet user community through its full range of user input methods. On some key issues, such as the reassignment of the .org domain and on specific Top-Level Domain extensions, Internet user community members posted very few substantive comments, despite the very large aggregate number of postings, to the public message boards.

    In a parallel analysis of the Board votes at ICANN, we found that, of the 723 resolutions passed by ICANN, 597 were passed without a dissenting vote. Only 10 of the 42 directors in ICANN's history cast a single "nay" vote during their tenure on the Board.

    None of the findings in this report bear on whether or not the ICANN Board made the right decision on any given issue from the perspective of fulfilling the technical coordination — rather than the procedural — side of its mission.

    Based upon these findings and related evidence, we reach three conclusions:

    1. ICANN's experimentation in new modes of corporate governance has broadly failed in terms of attracting and incorporating "representative" input from the global Internet user community, at least with respect to the public online forums. This failure underscores the need for an overhaul of ICANN's governance structure away from its semidemocratic past. Online message boards and public e-mail lists have proven extremely limited for ICANN as a means of engaging the global Internet user community in the decision-making process.

    2. Regardless of the new structure adopted, ICANN should clarify the way(s) in which users can involve themselves in the decision-making process for managing the domain name system, at a minimum by indicating plainly the relative weight given to Supporting Organization input as compared to other forms of direct public input.

    3. To the extent that we seek new means of governing the technical architecture of the Internet, we ought to look beyond ICANN, which may never have been the right place for such experimentation given its limited technical mandate.

    It's hard to know how to feel about this. It's a sober piece of work. It will be useful for those who came in late and didn't get to live through five years (more if you are a real veteran...) of being ignored. And no doubt it's helpful to have a blue-ribbon study with lots of impressive statistical data to wave about should anyone be foolish enough to suggest that ICANN is consensus-driven (does anyone still say that without laughing?), but one is tempted to say, come on folks, don't you have anything less obvious to count?

     
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      Related Links  
    · Berkman Center
    · ICANN
    · Public Participation in ICANN: A Preliminary Study
    · More Membership Issues stories
    · Also by michael
     
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    ICANN Doesn't Listen--Official | Log in/Create an Account | Top | 7 comments | Search Discussion
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    Section 4.2
    by GeorgeK on Tuesday December 09 2003, @10:07PM (#12732)
    User #3191 Info | http://www.kirikos.com/
    Section 4.2 will be very useful in the WLS case (or unhelpful, if one shills for Jones Day).
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Frequent poster?
    by cambler (chris@ambler.net) on Tuesday December 16 2003, @11:23AM (#12748)
    User #36 Info | http://onthenet.ambler.net/
    How amusing. I am lumped into the group of frequent posters as a flamer and someone who made no substantive comments.

    I think the authors of the paper would find, if they bothered to read the posts, that virtually all of my posts were substantive. I was one of the only TLD applicants who bothered to answer questions and be responsive on the public forum, making the presumption that it counted for something.

    So not only did my participation count for nothing, I am now damned for having participated and called unsubstantive (at best).

    I think an apology from the authors is more than in order.

    --
    Ambler On The Net [ambler.net]

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    • Re:I concur by JPalfrey Tuesday December 16 2003, @12:49PM
    • 1 reply beneath your current threshold.
    Re:Interesting study, but.....
    by ldg on Wednesday December 10 2003, @11:59PM (#12738)
    User #2935 Info | http://example.com/
    It would be nearly impossible to determine what a "fringe" element is in this context. ICANN has made little attempt at outreach and the vast majority of the public has no idea what ICANN is or what it does/does not.

    Those who comment are those who are more aware of ICANN and it's true that many are critical - with good reason, IMO. Therefore, it would be incorrect to conclude anything else but that the board pays little attention to public input as the survey pointed out.

    I think it is quite telling that the actual number of posters to the forums is low when compared to the numbers of affected individuals. Whether this is the result of lack of outreach or simply frustration at being ignored is less imporant, IMO. If there were enough outreach and education, there would be a larger response, but still deliberately ignored.

    It is notable that the numbers of posts to the forums by informed individuals has decliced to almost nothing. That would indicate to me that the frustration level has reached the point where people do not wish to waste their time when they will be insulted or ignored by ICANN. The danger is that the lack of communication via the public interfaces will be taken as a green light for ICANN to forge ahead without considering internet users at-large. At the same time, it leaves more room for the UN and ITO supporters to move further toward a power grab that will further disenfranchise individuals and empower governments to force even worse top-down measures.

    Lose-lose?

    In a more perfect world, a survey like this one would spur indiviudals to join atlarge organizations like icannatlarge.org and help to make it a reality. For anyone interested, the members mail list page is at http://mailman.icannatlarge.org/mailman/listinfo/m embers and the website is http://www.icannatlarge.org.

    It's a bumpy road, but if individuals really do want a voice, they must come together as a cohesive group. The alternative is to have more survey results like this one.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
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