[discuss] FW: Comcast undertakes 9 year IETF cosponsorship!?

Harry Halpin hhalpin at w3.org
Sun Mar 23 15:45:52 UTC 2014

On 03/23/2014 04:16 PM, michael gurstein wrote:
> Stephen,
> As I  said before I am not sufficiently familiar with the IETF to comment on
> its internal processes.
> However, the IETF is presented (and most of those involved appear to
> enthusiastically welcome its role) as a significant element in, and even
> exemplar of multistakeholderism where MSism is the preferred modality for
> public policy making in an Internet Governance context.
> Issues of conflict of interest, lobbyist registration/transparency,
> suborning of processes etc. would thus need to apply with the IETF equally
> as elsewhere unless of course traditional concerns for ensuring that the
> public interest is foremost in public policy making is seen as no longer
> relevant in the midst of MSist "enhanced democracy".
> How precisely this could/should be done in the overall context of MSism and
> specifically the IETF (or whatever) would seem to me to be a rather basic
> element in any useful plan for the implementation of MSism which goes beyond
> memes and slogans. This BTW is something whose presentation I have been
> waiting on with considerable anticipation for a very long time.

Both the IETF and W3C try to be as transparent as possible via public 
archives and a well-documented decision-making process as well as a 
clear procedure for getting involved. Remember, *anyone* can get 
involved by just joining a mailing list - and if possible, attending 
meetings. I for one really do support the public getting involved, and 
personally lobbied for the EFF and neutral academics to get involved in 
reviewing the W3C Web Crypto API. For those of us in MS-based 
governance, the main problem is lack of volunteer effort.

I'd personally rather have a transparent process where anyone can join 
and contributions are based on merit rather than representative-based 
voting - particularly in an era where many such traditional government 
bodies have lost legitimacy in the eyes of the public. If anything, I do 
agree we need to get more end-users, developers, and civil society 
actors involved in Internet governance. However, just as large 
corporations can easily contract out people to invest in open 
multi-stakeholder groups, in more traditional bodies often civil society 
actors can be bought by governments or corporations as well. I don't 
think this problem is in particular any worse in Internet 
multi-stakeholder bodies than in more traditional bodies -  or any other 
political process for that matter.

I fondly remember being involved in the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 
2009, where a mixture of civil society actors and governments more 
interested in either coal-based growth or maintaining the status quo 
manage to wreck the  important possible treaty, so no deal was done on 
what was perhaps the largest issue facing future generations. For 
example, earnest and well-meaning indigenous rights groups from 
countries like Bolivia managed to back the (lack of a) deal that worked 
out perfectly well for the governments of the United States and China, 
to the detriment of the general public.

So I'd rather see people get involved in IETF, W3C, and ICANN. All these 
groups can of course and should strive to be more transparent and 
accountable to the public, and for most people getting involved (at 
least in W3C or IETF) is quite easy - just join a mailing list. Then 
work personally to make sure transparency is maintained.


> M
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Stephen Farrell [mailto:stephen.farrell at cs.tcd.ie]
> Sent: Sunday, March 23, 2014 7:41 AM
> To: michael gurstein; 'S Moonesamy'; discuss at 1net.org
> Subject: Re: [discuss] FW: Comcast undertakes 9 year IETF cosponsorship!?
> Michael,
>  From the IETF perspective you can rest fairly easy thanks to the long
> existing level of transparency. Again, go look at the mail archives and see
> if you can find any interesting correlations between sponsorships and IETF
> decision making. If you do, I'm sure that those would be treated as great
> input for how to improve our processes.
> And no, I'm not claiming perfection. Anyone with money can pay a consultant
> to work on their behalf and that is not always transparent. That has come up
> in the IETF in IPR discussions and we've landed where we are in terms of
> requiring IPR disclosures to be made in some circumstances. (I don't recall
> all the arguments as they apply in consultant cases to be honest but you can
> find
> 'em.) I also don't recall if anyone has suggested extending that kind of
> disclosure requirement to more than IPR, but if you or someone wants to
> suggest that go right ahead if you're willing to do the work. (And there is
> work involved in figuring out a sensible proposal for that kind of thing out
> and plenty more work in getting rough consensus for your proposal.)
> But *please* don't bother to try take the tack of suggesting licensing, or
> registration or requiring government permission before one can contribute to
> the IETF. That would a) not fly and b) would be plain dumb:-)
> S.
> On 03/23/2014 02:16 PM, michael gurstein wrote:
>> Many countries now have laws governing the behavior of lobbyists and
>> requiring them  to register if they are going to act as lobbyists in
>> attempting to influence public policy. The intent is specifically to
>> ensure that there are controls and some imposed transparency on the
>> attempts by lobbyists to influence public policy in support of the
>> interests of their corporate clients.
>> One issue that obviously arises with respect to multistakeholderism is
>> the lack of such laws and such registration. (In response to your
>> question such transparency might be useful even in a forum such as
>> this one for example, so we know who is being paid to express certain
>> opinions and whose opinions represent which corporate interests.)
>> M
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: S Moonesamy [mailto:sm+1net at elandsys.com]
>> Sent: Friday, March 21, 2014 12:01 PM
>> To: michael gurstein; discuss at 1net.org
>> Subject: Re: [discuss] FW: Comcast undertakes 9 year IETF cosponsorship!?
>> Hi Mike,
>> At 11:22 21-03-2014, michael gurstein wrote:
>>> Great to see Comcast supporting the public good err. it's stakeholder
>>> interests. err. "multistakeholderism" and "our" institutions for
>>> supporting "enhanced democracy" err "multistakeholderism" blithely
>>> accepting such sponsorship.
>> There is a cost to my participation.  If I cannot afford to do that I can:
>>     (a) Stop participating
>>     (b) Accept financial sponsorship from Comcast (I used Comcast as an
>> example)
>> Is it acceptable for me to do (b), assuming I will disclose the
>> financial sponsorship?
>> Regards,
>> S. Moonesamy
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