Grand opposition to the Proposed Bylaws Changes Regarding Consideration of GAC Advice

The Internet community is proving to be a force which is not looking back, this comes in light of a recent surprising bylaw change proposal that would require 2/3 of the voting members of the Board to vote to act inconsistently with a piece of GAC advice. Currently, the Bylaws require a simple majority of the Board (50% + 1) to vote to not follow a piece of advice from the GAC .

The call for comments have caused public outcry that this would be giving governments a head start and an upper hand on any future decision making, this is possibly a trap that would ensnare ICANN in the future, not withstanding that ICANN is trying best to show that it can stand on its own feet in the wake of proposals for the US Government to cede its oversight through the NTIA.

Fadi Chehade in his recent blog agrees that “If you read the public comments received to date, you will see strong opposition to it.”  A quick scan through the public comments do not come as a surprise given that ICANN has in the recent past been in a path that puts it in the collision cause in the internet governance circles, couple with the increased calls for internal and external accountability that ICANN has been at pains to prove that it exists.

Robin Gross in her latest blog says

“This extreme proposal undermines any hope of a bottom-up process for policy development at ICANN and kills the incentive for volunteers to participate in ICANN since governments will be empowered to veto the bottom-up policy that was developed by years of hard work and painful compromises on the part of all stakeholders.” She adds that “Ironically, it is often ICANN’s own board and staff who do the most to undermine the “multi-stakeholder model for Internet governance”

Phil Corwin writing on behalf of the Internet Commerce Association

 “The proposed Bylaws change has the potential to allow the group of governments comprising the GAC to lead ICANN and to transform ICANN into an organization indistinguishable from an IGO/INGO. This result would be directly contrary to a key condition set by the NTIA for the IANA transition.” He concludes that “The adoption of the poorly drafted proposed Bylaws change in combination with a subsequent GAC vote to alter its OP to permit the issuance of advice in the absence of “consensus” would result in governments having vastly more say over ICANN policy”

The Internet Business Council for Africa (IBCA) in its opposition to the proposed ICANN Bylaws changes regarding consideration of GAC Advice notes that

“The GAC in itself has not set any operating principles that will guide it on any matters that cover conflict of interest, transparency or the multi-stakeholder approach…that “it is important to ensure that GAC has enough guiding principles and mechanisms to address the varied concerns of all other stakeholders before they could be allowed a majority vote to oppose any advice they have given. GAC should not be empowered in its current state”

Another commenter Gordon Graham adds that “To tilt the governance of ICANN completely towards governments is radical and intolerable. Many governments in our world are not democratically elected…”Echoing the fact that GAC representatives may not represent the peoples voice since they may hold positions from autocratic regimes that are an absolute enemy to the internet freedom.

Professor Milton Mueller adds that

“By proposing this ill-advised change, ICANN is corroding multi-stakeholder governance at its very foundations.  If this passes, ICANN can stop presenting itself as an alternative to Internet governance via governmental and inter-governmental processes. It will have privileged governments to such a degree that virtually any arbitrary, untimely, ill-considered pronouncement that makes its way through the GAC will take on the status of a global rule for the Internet’s DNS unless 2/3 of ICANN’s generally spineless board can be mobilized to stop it.”

DotConnectAfrica comments that “The proposed change, however, goes in precisely the opposite direction of where it should be headed based on the serious infirmities in the way GAC advice is rendered.”

The Internet Society in their comments would like to seek clarity on some questions/issues listed below:

  • How was the new requirement of a 2/3 of voting members of the Board selected?

  • Do the proposed Bylaws revisions give the GAC a preferential position in comparison to other AC/SOs?

  • Are there any safeguards in place to ensure that the GAC does not lower the bar internally for reaching consensus?

  • How will the proposed Bylaws alter the current stakeholder balance and ICANN’s multistakeholder, bottom-up policymaking model? Would this proposed change have the effect giving the GAC a policy development role within ICANN rather than an advisory role?

“Unwise, Poorly Timed, Potentially Illegal: Reject This Proposal” says another commenter. Looking at all the comments it’s a clear indication that this proposal cannot fly the way it has been prepared, it is imperative that ICANN seeks further advice before such a track is followed