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ICANN49 & IANA transition in Singapore: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

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ICANN49 continues for the 4th day today in Singapore, and the question remains: Who should oversee the Internet?

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A new article on Bloomberg.com raises several valid points about the timing and method of the expected transition away from US government control:

“The NTIA has done an exemplary job protecting the Internet’s openness and stability with a hands-off and nonpolitical approach to overseeing ICANN. Now it plans to hand that oversight to an international conglomerate of “stakeholders,” a Web term that roughly translates as, “a bunch of people that we can’t name yet but who know and care about this kind of thing.” In Singapore, ICANN’s members are discussing what that group should look like.

The U.S. has always said that it intended internationalize ICANN’s oversight. But for the transfer to be a (forgive the pun) net positive — and not dangerously counterproductive — it matters how it is done.”

Regarding the formation and composition of the transitional entity, Bloomberg.com states:

“At this point, no one has any idea what ICANN’s new governance structure will look like. The NTIA, although exerting almost no day-to-day control over ICANN, nonetheless provided crucial accountability. ICANN had to live up to a set of standards requiring things like a transparent budgeting process, ample security procedures and a commitment to work in the public interest. If it failed to, the NTIA could always have canceled its contract. ICANN’s new overseers need to make sure this kind of accountability continues.

A bigger worry is that ICANN could become susceptible to political influence from autocratic or censorious regimes. Right now, a concerned Ukrainian is free to register, say, VenalVladimir.com, and use it to denounce Putin. Russia could easily block the site within its borders, but it couldn’t prevent people elsewhere from seeing it. If ICANN no longer had the explicit backing of the U.S. government, however, Russia might have more luck stopping the site from ever coming into being in the first place.”

Bloomberg.com closes by emphasizing the potential susceptibility of ICANN to be influenced by other governments, something that the US won’t find acceptable:

“Most important, ICANN must explain how it intends to remain free of harmful political influence and keep its leadership accountable. The U.S. government has already said that it “will not accept a proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution.” It might also require that ICANN’s board include seats for advocates of free expression and private companies.”

Former US president, Bill Clinton, has already declared his strong opposition to the timing and framework of such a transition.

For the full article, click here.


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