[discuss] ICANN policy and "Internet Governance"

Suzanne Woolf suzworldwide at gmail.com
Sun Jan 5 15:34:23 UTC 2014


On Jan 5, 2014, at 5:22 AM, Jeremy Malcolm <jeremy at ciroap.org> wrote:

> On 3 Jan 2014, at 9:38 pm, Andrew Sullivan <ajs at anvilwalrusden.com> wrote:
>> Finally, the actions of national intelligence services (including but
>> certainly not limited to the NSA) are, I submit, not "Internet" issues
>> at all, but international government issues in the simplest sense.
>> This is what diplomatic channels are for.  The US or Chinese effects
>> on Internet traffic (to pick two cases we definitely know about)
>> subvert apparently innocent international or domestic communications
>> of other countries' citizens.  Why does this need a special forum?
>> You'll note I keep asking why above.  This is the same question I've
>> asked before: what problem is some new body supposed to be solving
>> that isn't already covered?
> Short answer: if you are completely happy with the status quo, then there is no reason for a new body or forum.  But if you don't think that Internet-related public policies are currently developed in a way that gives voice to all those affected by those policies, then there is.

Short question: How does the conclusion follow? 

As an example: I am, personally, not "completely happy with the status quo". If I were, I wouldn't spend the time I do in fora like this one, ICANN, assorted ISOC-sponsored activities, and yes my "purely technical" activities in the IETF (I'm one of those "technical" people who believes that Internet standards and operations do, in fact, have political and policy dimensions). I'm also willing to stipulate that "Internet-related public policies" being "developed in a way that gives voice to all those affected by those policies" is a) intrinsically good and b) something that can be operationalized in the real world.

Where some of us get confused is on what can then be done with that aspiration.

As a null hypothesis: maybe we're actually doing as well as we could; no system is going to be perfect in "giv[ing] voice to all those affected by those policies," even if that were both necessary and sufficient. (Do not mistake this for an assertion we *are* doing as well as we could. But the fact the current system isn't perfect is not by itself a proof that another one would be better; I'm interested in the question of *how* we improve things, not just in agreeing that we should.)

> Longer answer, explaining why the latter is the case:
> Subject to international human rights law, governments have no democratic responsibility to take account of the interests of non-citizens, as the NSA affair vividly illustrates.  And even when acting together through intergovernmental organisations, they are still representing the international interests of citizens of states.  So (even assuming away the democratic deficits that exist at the international level, and the lack of enforcement mechanisms), governments still have no responsibility to take account of the interests of members of transnational communities.
> That's just one reason why the existing international system of states is not adequate to develop public policies for the Internet.  But it is not a solution to just leave public policy development to the technical community or the private sector, because they are still less representative of the interests of all those affected by the policies they develop.  Rather, we also need to further democratise international public policy making, by ensuring that all perspectives, including those of the stakeholder groups mentioned, but also including interests that none of those groups can represent, can be voiced.  We do this through multi-stakeholderism.  And from the foregoing, the important role of civil society in multi-stakeholder processes should be obvious.

So the prescription is that "we also need to further democratise international public policy making", outside of "the existing international system of states," as a principle. Is it also the case, in your view, that nothing *else* is needed-- that more representation and democracy will cure the deficits you see in the current mechanisms and lead to identifiably better outcomes for Internet users?

> Less theoretically, we can point to particular processes that affect Internet users, but are deficient in terms of process because they do not represent the interests of all those affected.  Some of these are intergovernmental (like the TPP), some are private (like the policies of Google, Facebook, Paypal, etc).  So a practical need for a global body or process is to create an overarching framework of consensual, human-rights based substantive and procedural principles that can guide governance processes (whether public or private) that take place elsewhere, to make those processes are more democratic than they are now.

This sounds like your position is that the existing processes are broken from first principles (they're not democratic and representative enough), so the outcomes *must* be suspect-- it's not necessary to point to anything in particular as a failure of the current mechanisms in order to justify the need for something new, although you point to the actions of the NSA and the policies of some large companies, in general terms, as examples.

Have I understood your argument correctly?

If so-- thanks for the explanation. I think I understand now where some of us have been talking past each other.

If not-- apologies for whatever I've missed, and thanks for your time.


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