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    ICANN Bid for Independent Status Gets Cool Reception | Log in/Create an Account | Top | 25 comments | Search Discussion
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    ICANNWatch - documenting ICANN?
    by Kieren McCarthy on Monday April 02 2007, @08:34AM (#16935)
    User #4206 Info
    My apologies if this response below seems a little aggressive, but I thought it only fair that I point out why I have recently been critical of ICANNWatch.

    If you find this information helpful, I will be happy to provide a summary every week or month.

    * On 31 March, you posted that the President's Strategy Committee (PSC) Report "makes public for the first time what insiders have been muttering about for almost a year".

    In fact there has been a specific webpage for the PSC available at http://www.icann.org/psc/ from soon after the committee was formed in December 2005. That webpage has held full details of three public consultations: one on 21 July 2006 that had an audiocast and an email address to send questions to; another at the ICANN meeting in Sao Paulo on 4 December 2006; and a third on 19 March 2007, also audiocast and with a chatroom, a forum and a webpage, constantly monitored for comments.

    For each of these meetings, ICANN made a separate official announcement that they were taking place and provided all the documentation available. The processes and the meetings themselves have been mentioned and/or covered on at least 30 different websites (I gave up counting at 30).

    Your opening statement that the report "makes public for the first time what insiders have been muttering about for almost a year" is therefore inaccurate by any reasonable measure. The report has been publicly available in each of its iterations.

    With regard to the specific point you raise about ICANN becoming an independent organisation, there has been extensive discussion of this in public for over a year.

    Such was the interest in fact that ICANN set up a specific webpage to highlight the report on this topic provided by Ambassador Hans Corell. You can read it here: http://www.icann.org/psc/corell-24aug06.html. It has been publicly available for review for over six months.

    What the ICANNWatch post did highlight was further discussion of this point by the American Society of International Law. I for one would be very interested in hearing more about those discussions as I have not been able to find an audiocast or a transcript of discussions.

    Incidentally, the transcript for all of PSC's three public meetings can be found on the ICANN website, including audio recordings of the actual discussions themselves.

    * You state in your comment above that "what we're about primarily is DOCUMENTING what ICANN does". And yet also on 31 March, the "ICANN: the Off-Broadway Musical" is uses the conceit of ICANN being a play as an opportunity to hurl about weak insults without any grounding in fact. It is, in fact, difficult to make out what the post is talking about at all, save for a quick mention of "RegisterFly" and "improper venue".

    * On 30 March, the post "Board Votes .xxx Down (9-5) -- Crawford Dissents" asks various questions, all of them good - but all of them actually tackled by the ICANN Board at the public meeting that the post was purportedly covering.

    The transcript of the discussion - if you were not able to follow the webcast or audiocast - was posted 30 minutes after the Board meeting ended, and a hyperlinked version, specifically designed to make review of the discussions quick and easy was posted to both the public participation website and the blog half-an-hour after that.

    Yes, Susan Crawford made a strong intervention - and even the public record states that she received applause for it - but so too did Raimundo Beca, Peter Dengate-Thrush, Roberto Gaetano, Vint Cerf and Alejandro Pisanty.

    You go on to state, in a wild accusation: "I am sure, given ICANN's circle-the-wagons culture that she will be pilloried for it by the staff and others, both to her face and behind her back. Watch for the personal attacks to begin any minute now."

    In fact, if you had actually watched, listened to, or read the Board meeting you would have seen that several of the Board made clear their strong views about Susan Crawford's comment, that one Board member publicly supported her, and that another Board member raised this dissent and attempted to calm matters down. This all happened in public in a room of 300 people being webcast and audiocast and with the transcript made available on the Net and searchable by search engines.

    The ICANNWatch post wasn't documenting what ICANN did, it completely ignored what ICANN had done, and then made a, sorry, but frankly laughable accusation that implied people weren't open about their disagreement when the whole thing was on a TV screen near you.

    * On 29 March, ICANNWatch says: "I'm just wondering if I am the only person who sees a small contradiction between ICANN's self-congratulatory conclusion that it is so wonderfully open and transparent (Independent Review of ICANN's Accountability and Transparency), and this report regarding the .xxx decision being made today (before the actual meeting) suggesting that even the very rare public board meetings are in fact showpieces with the real hard work done in secret undisclosed meetings in advance?"

    This isn't documenting what ICANN does. This is misrepresenting one thing and using it highlight a single blog post about something else.

    The words used in the announcement of the One World Trust report were: "The report says that overall ICANN is a very transparent organisation, noting that it shares a large quantity of information through its website, probably more than any other global organisation. The report also identifies areas for improvement. In addition to the report, ICANN also posts today, the next steps in the development of a set of Management Operating Principles for accountability and transparency."

    How do these words fit in with ICANNWatch assertion that they are "self-congratulatory"? The words are a simple statement of what the independent report says, and they point out that there are areas for improvement and that there a new set of principles to try to get there.

    It is clear, unfortunately, that again ICANNWatch has not actually read the report, but simply taken the opportunity of its release to take a cheap shot at the organisation by using a blog post that itself admits it isn't sure about the information.

    * Also on 29 March, ICANNWatch posts what it claims is "most mendacious and dishonest ICANN statement of the past year". That statement - or, rather, headline, was "Thousands of Voices Get Direct Say At ICANN."

    In fact, that statement is entirely accurate. The RALOs signed agreements with ICANN and ICANN is now bound to listen to what the RALOs have to say. Before it wasn't. Yet somehow, even this positive step sees ICANNWatch suggest that someone somewhere is being played for a fool.

    Thereby, from its vantage point, not watching or listening to what is going on on the ground, and apparently without having spoken to a single one of the people that had been up on stage signing the agreement (I can produce a few photos and names if you want to actually document what ICANN has done) ICANNWatch has decided that all of the individuals in the room had somehow being fooled.

    This is a rather difficult accusation to take seriously.

    But if ICANNWatch is right when it says the headline that "Thousands of Voices Get Direct Say At ICANN" was indeed the "most mendacious and dishonest ICANN statement of the past year", well then ICANN is in even better shape than I imagined.

    Kieren McCarthy
    General manager for public participation, ICANN
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    ICANNWatch - documenting ICANN? by Kieren McCarthy
    Re:ICANNWatch - documenting ICANN?
    by michael (froomkin@lawUNSPAM.tm) on Tuesday April 03 2007, @07:39PM (#16939)
    User #4 Info | http://www.discourse.net/
    I apologize -- it would have been much better to say "makes official" rather than "makes public", this being the first time (to my knowledge) it's appeared as a formal suggestion in an official report rather than a trial balloon. I had completely forgotten about the earlier drafts.

    On an only somewhat tangential point, I think one thing this points up is how useful it would be for those who don't do ICANN full time if there were a summary page -- maybe spreadsheet style -- where one could see the timeline of all ongoing ICANN consultations with a VERY brief bullet point summary of the issues they address.

    However, I totally disagree with your characterization of the RALO's which are by any ordinary definition INDIRECT representation of those thousands of voices. And I also disagree that ICANN has any obligation to listen (in the sense of giving weight as opposed to nodding politely) to what RALOs say. Contrast the position of, say, registrars' representatives. They have Board members with votes. (And the threat of lawsuits in the background.) It's that simple. Recall that the RALO's are the result of rejecting the real bottom-up suggestions for a membership structure because they were too empowering. (Remember the At-Large Study Organization's recommendations? ICANN's Membership Advisory Committee? Its Membership Implementation Task Force? The NAIS study? They all proposed rather more than what we got.)

    I also reiterate what I said about the Board meetings. All important ICANN decisions are, so far as I can tell, made in either in private phone board meetings, or in the secret pre-show meetings. ICANN's claim that it has meaningful transparency at the Board level is not credible. A number of former Board members agree. (And we'll see about Susan Crawford's treatment. ICANN has in the past routinely turned on its internal critics and been quite beastly to them when off-camera. It's not inevitable that this will repeat, but many of the same people are in the same positions of power...)

    Incidentally, even Esther Dyson now says that one of ICANN's biggest problems is lack of transparency -- said in an open meeting at the ASIL last week. Ambassador Gross said something similar. This is getting to be close to a consensus view...

    But I do take your final point above.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
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