Free Speech at ICANN Meetings Only Costs $5000
Date: Friday November 09 2001, @07:39AM
Topic: ICANN Meetings

The ACLU has written a sharp letter to ICANN protesting the limiting of leafleting at ICANN's meetings to sponsors who pay $5000 or more.

Could it be that this is the wrong issue to get excited about? After all, ICANN is a bottom-up, consensus based organization. Surely, therefore, there is nothing to leaflet about. And if, as it happens, ICANN's consensus routinely is primarily that of its staff and the small number of corporations that have captured ICANN, and is reached in secret before the meetings, well, then leafleting would just be a waste of time.

Furthermore, ICANN implements its obligation to "operate to the maximum extent feasible in an open and transparent manner" by routinely not releasing the details of Board resolutions until a few hours or days before the minority of Board meetings open to the public (in this case, after mandatory pre-registration for meetings has closed!). So there isn't time to prepare leaflets about anything actually responsive to the issue(s) the Board will vote on, whatever they are going to be. (Anyone have any idea?) Many important issues -- like the rather large law firm and first class travel bills -- are decided in secret telephone meetings, or by the Executive Committee that was supposed to do only really urgent matters that couldn't wait.

The failure to give meaningful advance notice of Board resolutions also ensures that there isn't much time for jet-lagged Board members to think about the issues or attempt to consult with anyone about whether there's consensus or not, since they don't know what the resolutions will be yet either, so it's a good thing we have that staff there ready to find the consensus for us.
Update inside - ICANN replies to ACLU.

And, of course, all the groups that hold meetings which might not totally hew to the ICANN staff party line are now being forced out of the hotel ... into the Tikki Room across the street, no less. Pretty tacky, that.

Meanwhile, I'm just waiting for someone to argue that allowing people to leaflet for free might be a security risk, or might undermine the stability of the Internet.

UPDATE Nov. 9 18:30 EST

Andrew McLaughlin sent an e-mail reprinted on David Farber's mailing list stating:

The complaint is mistaken. ICANN holds open meetings, free to attend, with open mike sessions for public comment. People have always been allowed to distribute policy drafts, proposals, RFCs, resolutions, etc. The meeting is not, however, a trade show, and we don't want companies to use it for marketing purposes. So the distribution of commercial literature is restricted to sponsors. That's SOP for meetings like this.
ICANN then changed its website to reflect the new/old/whatever policy that leaflets are ok. (Unless of course you are, in which case even if you are ready, willing and able to pay $5,000, ICANN won't take your money, and won't let you make your case at the ICANN meeting.)

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