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    Highlights of the ICANNWatch Archive
    (June 1999 - March 2001)

    Government Advisory Committee (GAC) Don't Like the UN? How About GAC?
    posted by Mueller on Wednesday August 17 2005, @07:31AM

    By now everyone knows about the attempt by the US Commerce Department to "recall" the delegation of .xxx to ICM Registry due to pressure from deluded right-wing groups in the US who think that it will add to pornography on the Internet. I want to argue here that this is a major inflection point in the history of ICANN, and could represent the beginning of the end of its private sector/civil society based model of governance.

    The issue is not merely an assertion of censorship powers over top level domains, but the sudden assertion of authority through the GAC to delay, overrule or veto decisions made by ICANN's own processes and its Board. This shifts the balance of power in ICANN irrevocably back to governments, and encourages anyone seeking an important decision to spend most if not all of their time with Governments.

    Americans who worried about governments somehow "running" the Internet through the United Nations failed to see the Trojan Horses that were rolled into ICANN's structure in 1998 and 1999, respectively: the Governmental "Advisory" Committee (GAC) and the special US Government powers over ICANN.

    The GAC members often complain about their purely "advisory" role, but in fact their "advice" has always been more equal than the advice of others, including entities with formal policy making powers under ICANN's articles and bylaws. The GAC Principles for ccTLD delegations is a case in point. Adopted by the GAC in 1999, and never formally adopted by ICANN's Board or any of its policy making organs, those principles nevertheless find their way into all kinds of ICANN activities, including new gTLD delegations. (Take a look at the hoops .asia has had to jump through because of the GAC principles.)

    This kind of informal power is much worse, much more dangerous than the formal, negotiated, written international law that would come out of an international treaty or convention negotiated uder the auspices of the UN.

    It is notable that the US did NOT voice opposition to the .xxx domain in the Luxembroug GAC meeting. And the GAC itself did NOT pass a resolution or go through any formal process to ask to delay the delegation. What really happened is that the US Commerce Department basically ordered ICANN to delay it. Paul Twomey knows who his real boss is (ICANN operates under a MoU with Commerce) and when the boss sends a "request" the request is followed. And (what a coincidence) GAC Chairman Sharil Tarmizi of Malaysia sent a letter to ICANN in his personal capacity the next day also asking for a delay.

    So here is a recitation of the relevant facts:

    * At ICANN Luxembourg (July 9-15), neither the GAC nor the US made a request to stop the delegation. Other governments strongly objected to .xxx, true, but the GAC as a whole merely voiced their concern that "its creation will prompt significant public policy and public interest issues."

    * All the outraged letters from Christian conservatives (and pornographers posing as such -that's another interesting detail) came into the Commerce Dept. in late June, weeks before the Luxembourg meeting. If the US was really motivated solely by the "6000 letters" mentioned by Mr. Gallagher in his letter to ICANN, why did it take no action in Luxembourg?

    * Answer: because that was before Mr. David A. Sampson, a new Commerce Dept official with strong ties to the religious right in the US, was appointed. Sampson was confirmed by the Senate as Deputy Secretary of Commerce July 22.

    * The US Commerce Dept letter to ICANN is dated August 11, about two weeks after Sampson was appointed.

    * The GAC Chairman's letter to ICANN is dated August 12, and obviously is related to the US initiative.

    * The US letter was put out of view in the "Correspondence" section of ICANN's web site.

    * The GAC letter was put on the front page, providing a nice cover for the US initiative.

    So here's what I see as the picture. We have just learned that a relatively minor change in political appointees in the Bush White House can, thanks to the USG's special authority over the Internet, yank the rug out from anything ICANN does. We have learned that the GAC, which technically has no more authority over ICANN than the At Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) and less authority than its GNSO, ASO and CCSO supporting organizations, can without even a formal resolution of its members, bring processes taking years and millions of dollars to a crashing halt. And this can occur without even a formal resolution.

    Is this a model for how we want the Internet to be governed?

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      Related Links  
    · Dr. Paul Twomey
    · At Large Advisory Committee
    · Government Advisory Committee
    · ICANN
    · More Government Advisory Committee (GAC) stories
    · Also by Mueller
    This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
    Don't Like the UN? How About GAC? | Log in/Create an Account | Top | 84 comments | Search Discussion
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    Right Wing / Left Wing
    by Tom Occhipinti on Friday August 19 2005, @02:08PM (#15996)
    User #3725 Info
    Curious. Do you think that perhaps Left Wing Feminist groups would also like to see .xxx torn down and Internet pornography abolished?

    Don't assume that the Right Wing is the only wing from which Thought Police derive. I'm tired of that haggard presumption. It is myopic, delusional, intellectually dishonest, cliched and elitist.

    Oppression from the Left is just as rampant, and dare I say, more rabid and vitriolic.

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
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