The ICANN saga – part 2

Guest blog contributor: John Carr. He is a member of the Executive Board of the UK Council on Child Internet Safety, the British Government’s principal advisory body for online safety and security for children and young people.

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Earlier this week I blogged about an article that appeared in The Times concerning ICANN’s neglect of children’s issues. The story got a little promotional piece on the front page and was huge inside the paper.

Imagine my surprise when I was contacted by The Times again yesterday. ICANN had sent them a statement and the journalist wanted my reaction to it. I asked him to send me the statement. He did.

First point to make: this was ICANN responding to an article that was all about children and children’s welfare. In their 346 word reply the word children did not appear once. Neither did any derivative of children e.g. child or anything that might be even loosely connected e.g. youth or young.

The second is that to any but the wholly initiated their prose is all but incomprehensible. Look at this:

“ICANN is a unique institution that is governed via a bottom up, consensus-driven multistakeholder model. As a result, ICANN staff cannot unilaterally impose guidelines or requirements on registries, registrars or other stakeholders in a top-down manner. Policy recommendations are developed and refined by the ICANN community through its Supporting Organizations and influenced by Advisory Committees – all comprised of volunteers from across the world – in a “bottom-up”, multistakeholder, open and transparent process. Each Supporting Organization has its own specific policy development process. The 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA) was the product of a long public consultation process that led to the consensus development of new gTLD policies and the incorporation of advice from law enforcement agencies into the agreement”

I have been to a few ICANN meetings so I think I can just about translate this but the journalist on The Times put it very eloquently when in a second article that appeared today he said

ICANN say they cannot and will not accept responsibility for the publication of illegal content online. We rely on courts and governmental regulatory activity to police illegal activity.

But isn’t the rather obvious point that by their own actions ICANN can either make it harder or easier for such regulatory activity to be effective? Regulators do not willfully ignore crimes but the way ICANN has set its rules means the volumes are now overwhelming them.

Top-down, bottom up, multistakeholderism counts for nothing if the end product is mayhem.  Cui bono? ICANN cannot hide behind a working method to excuse it of a clear responsibility to act in the public interest. ICANN is a legal entity in its own right. It should not have to ask volunteers if it should act to protect children in whatever way it can.

***To view this article directly, please click here.

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