Simpson Garfinkel on the 'Net's Single Point of Failure
Date: Thursday February 20 2003, @04:23AM
Topic: The Big Picture

Internet author and columnist Simpson Garfinkel pens a short column for the MIT Technology Review on ICANN, The Net's Faltering Democracy. A good article to give people who ask you why you care about ICANN.

From the article:

Why does a corporation with no accountability have so much control over the Internet? Critics charge that it is the De Beers of the Internet: an organization that, like the diamond cartel, has created an artificial scarcity to protect a few established players. Worse, they say, whatever claims this body once had to legitimacy were wiped away last year when its board voted to abolish elections.

This faceless power center is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN. And its actions may jeopardize the future of the Internet.

The Internet could evolve into a global commons where people all over the world are free to communicate and interact and to distribute and consume an endless variety of literature and media. Or it could become a tool for enforcing corporate control and governmental censorship. Which direction the Internet takes depends in large part on which policies and technologies ICANN supports


The one attribute the U.S. government couldn't confer on this outfit waslegitimacy.


But ICANN need not worry about more sham elections. When the company's board of directors amended its bylaws last December, it eliminated elections and instituted an advisory committee-at-large whose members-chosen by other committees-lack real power. Maybe that's okay. "ICANN is not an experiment in global online democracy," says Stuart Lynn, ICANN's president and CEO. "So the board decided that, at least for now, elections were not to go on."

Perhaps ICANN serves as a model for systematically shutting the public out of messy policy debates and letting the appointed representatives of global business take over.

Perhaps democracy is overrated.

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ICANN and public accountability
by Anonymous on Thursday February 20 2003, @08:36AM (#11204)
Stuart Lynn likes to say that ICANN isn't about democracy. But what does he think ICANN is about? Since deeds speak louder than words, let's take a look at what he's done:

Under Lynn's reign it's been pretty clear that ICANN has been about selling the Internet to the highest bidder - mainly the trademark industry - and paying the proceeds to Stuart Lynn (salary of about $250,000 per year plus expenses) and ICANN's law firm (about $1,000,000 per year, much of that probably going to ICANN's founder, Joe Sims.) And lest we forget, many on ICANN's staff appear to consider ICANN to be an open wallet for worldwide junketeering. Tell us again how many ICANN staffers it took to attand a meeting in Kenya?

Lynn also ought to mention that ICANN is apparently all about foisting false images. ICANN creates a committee of security poo-bahs to create an image of safety while the truth is that ICANN has not done diddly about the actual security of DNS. ICANN proclaims that it protects the stability of the net, yet the truth is that those who are most involved in creating that stability, the operators of the root servers, don't even bother to tell ICANN of major restructuring. And to top it all off, ICANN, in its quest for power, uses the most flimsy of excuses to withhold critical IANA services, risking the operational loss of entire country codes. ICANN under Lynn isn't interested in democracy, instead ICANN appears far more interested in running a protection racket designed to force country code operators into signing contracts with ICANN.

In a perverse sense ICANN under Lynn is all about democracy - about the elemination of democracy. ICANN under Lynn has shredded even the last vestiges of accountability of ICANN to the public. The system that ICANN has interposed between itself and the public is so complicated and opaque that it would impress even an old Soviet politboro hack. In fact, ICANN's new system of nominating committees, ALACs, ROLOs, and at-large structures appears to be a largely a reincarnation of the system of soviets from the USSR. And wasn't it Lynn who unlawfully blocked a director of ICANN from looking at ICANN's financal records?

Accountability to the public, whether that be by elections or otherwise, was simply a nuisance and a bother that got in the way of more staff, more org charts, bigger budgets, and more travel. Lynn is the Imperial Bureaucrat; his self-image seems to be measured by the size of his staff and the size of his budget.

When the awards are made to those who have most harmed the Internet ICANN will be the hands down favorite for the institutional prize. There should be little doubt that ICANN's officers, staff, lawyers, and directors will be strong contendors for the personal awards. The US Government, particularly its NTIA, deserves a special award of non-merit for its mindless support of the ICANN game year in and year out.
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regular mail, not e-mail
by RFassett on Thursday February 20 2003, @12:03PM (#11206)
User #3226 Info |
"Only 75,000 of them completed the elaborate verification process, which entailed getting a
personal identification number by e-mail and then typing it into a Web site."

I do not recall this part as quite correct. I believe ICANN mailed (not e-mailed) out these identification numbers. I did not get mine. When I inquired where it was, ICANN responded "it had been returned to sender". I replied that this was "very odd" since I used my office mailing address and I get hundreds of all sorts of mail there every week. I did not save these e-mails. But, I believe the rules were that the identification number had to be snail mailed, not e-mailed, by ICANN. Anyone else recall this rule?

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