ICANN Accountability Progress Made in Second CCWG Draft Proposal

Posted by J. Scott Evans, Trademark Director and Associate General Counsel

Note: This article also appeared in CircleID on December 18, 2015

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The December 21 deadline for submission of public comments on the latest Cross Community Working Group (CCWG)-Accountability draft proposal is quickly approaching. In this second draft of the proposal, great strides have been made toward addressing the accountability issues that members of the community have raised (notably, Lawrence Strickling’s recent remarks).

As I have previously emphasized, any plan to ensure the accountability of the ICANN Board of Directors must be closely scrutinized before the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) pursues its implementation. Now that the CCWG-Accountability has incorporated so many of the public’s suggestions, it’s time for the community to take a more detailed look at the proposal.

The current version offers many new specifics: it gives additional powers to the stakeholder community and presents a new model for many of the processes involved in ensuring accountability. For example, under the latest proposal, the community would have the right to approve any changes to fundamental ICANN bylaws, by way of a thorough 9-step process rooted in ensuring consensus. Careful considerations have been made to ensure that the system is effective and as efficient as possible, while preventing abuse of power.

However, one potential area of concern to business interests is recommendation 11. Under this proposed change to ICANN bylaws, any rejection of Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) advice that has been reached by consensus would require two-thirds of the ICANN Board to vote against the proposal. The definition of “consensus” in this case is “understood to be the practice of adopting decisions by general agreement in the absence of any formal objection.” Business interests must make it clear that consensus must not be defined as a simple majority, but must remain general agreement without substantial opposition.

We encourage the ICANN Board to accept the next CCWG-Accountability proposal. Some of the measures proposed represent significant changes, but given the entrepreneurial spirit of the Internet itself, the means by which it is managed should be innovative. In the event that the ICANN Board does not accept this proposal, we suggest an international, third-party mediator be brought in to work with the Board and representatives of the CCWG to find a resolution.

It is also important for the community to keep in mind that there is no need to rush this process. Although deadlines have been suggested for the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) transfer, above all, it is most important that we get this right.