[CPWG] [registration-issues-wg] Discussion of Capture is and always has been a legitimate topic at ICANN (was Re: ICANN Code of Conduct)

Carlton Samuels carlton.samuels at gmail.com
Thu May 2 14:02:21 UTC 2019

Here you go again Evan, this malignant propensity to being erudite and

FWIW, I am proud to associate and support the POV expressed.


On Thu, 2 May 2019, 4:24 am Evan Leibovitch, <evan at telly.org> wrote:

> *TL;DR version:*
>    Q: Are capture and conflict of interest issues in ICANN fair game to
> talk about?
>    A: Well, sure, but norms on these issues in the outside world are
> gleefully ignored within ICANN. So good luck with your conversation.
> *Long version:*
> Well, this has been ... interesting.
> First, a few disclosures:
>    - I have been involved in the Internet Society though many vectors. I
>    co-started a chapter, was the primary drafter of its most recent chapters
>    advisory council charter, and I have been recruited by ISOC staff to help
>    impartially resolve disputes in other chapters. All of this has been done
>    voluntarily. My involvement at this moment is negligible.
>    - I own or manage about a dozen domains, none of which are being held
>    for resale.
>    - While on ALAC I "benefited" from travel subsidy that nowhere near
>    covered the value of my time participating at ICANN conferences. I have
>    also gone to two ICANN meetings at my own expense, and I am one of only two
>    people I know (besides Sebastien) who has hosted ALAC social events at
>    their home.
>    - Codes of conduct and conflicts of interest are a thing to me. I created
>    the code currently in use <https://www.lpi.org/conduct> at my
>    nonprofit employer which addresses multiple contexts, and is an amalgam of
>    a number of other codes.
>    - Not only do I agree that the dot-org price cap should be lifted as a
>    significant matter of public interest, I advocate a sharp increase of the
>    fees that ICANN charges all registries for domains. I'd actually like to
>    set a minimum fee rather than a maximum. More details on the rationale can
>    come later, but this discussion seems well beyond the specifics of that
>    public comment issue.
> Now to a few points:
>    1. Conflict of interest, in a governance context, has a more specific
>    definition than simply one's having conflicting interests (by being part of
>    multiple constituencies, perhaps). It means that someone's vote, or
>    advocated point of view, is driven by potential gain in either money or
>    power. If we want to strictly apply CofI principles, we find that Internet
>    Society chapters who are ALSs and whose members are not ISOC staff do *not*
>    have a direct conflict of interest, because their policy viewpoints would
>    not affect their income and power. Conversely, NGOs who protest the lifting
>    of the .ORG price cap are absolutely conflicted because they are defending
>    their own ability to pay as little as possible for domains. Their actions
>    are those of registrants, not end-users, and the issue of price caps is one
>    of those few where the interests of registrants and end users can be very,
>    very different.
>    2. I experience hand-wringing denouncements of conflict-of-interest
>    within ICANN with the sense of creepy entertainment that I get watching an
>    episode of Black Mirror. ICANN was built on a foundation of widespread and
>    openly visible conflict of interest and remains that way to this day. *Nothing
>    is off-limits so long as you declare*. Quoting other constituencies'
>    harping about CofI within ALAC betrays a dangerous ignorance of both
>    history and culture. From the day At-Large began as an alternative to
>    direct public elections of the ICANN Board there has been a constant and
>    predictable effort within most of ICANN, including certain senior staff, to
>    de-legitimize us. The goal of that has been to preempt anything we might
>    say that dare disrupt the cozy compact between domain buyers and domain
>    sellers. Sadly, over the years ALAC has been so timid and self-censoring
>    that such belittling campaigns have proven largely unnecessary.
>    3. As for capture, I struggle to see it within ALAC. Despite a list of
>    flaws that I could take a book to detail, ALAC and the other ACs are by far
>    the least-corrupted components of ICANN. Elections tend to be robust, and
>    the NomCom factor works to reduce cronyism. If anything, ALAC suffers from
>    the same ills as many democratic entities in that often the politically
>    sociable will win over the duller policy wonks, and ALAC has traditionally
>    been wonk-poor. I myself once believed that there was ISOC chapter capture
>    until I saw just how freaking diverse the chapters are; considering them a
>    cohesive interest bloc within At-Large, once one looks at the reality, is
>    laughable. Just because a group has reached a conclusion with which one
>    disagrees doesn't make it "captured" without further evidence of
>    manipulation.
>    4. Of *course* complaints are legit that a poorly-resourced 25-person
>    ALAC/RALO council can't possibly do a fantastic job representing "the
>    billions". Yet it does sorta OK with what it's given, considering that it
>    has no discretionary budget; ALAC-approved projects have been rejected by
>    ICANN without reason. I have always wished that ALAC got more involved in
>    public polling and education to better know with confidence what the global
>    public wants from ICANN, but (a) doing that is expensive and (b) I'm quite
>    sure ICANN really doesn't want to know this information. I also note that
>    ALAC is the only constituency within ICANN that has forced geographic
>    diversity.
>    5. Small nit that I couldn't let pass, even though the point is
>    irrelevant: The assertion that "*nothing would stop ISOC/PIR from
>    selling out to private equity*" is bullshit. Conversion of a nonprofit
>    body to a for-profit is impossible or horribly difficult in most
>    jurisdictions, and even transfer of assets would quickly come under the
>    disapproving eye of regulators. I've seen some attempts first-hand and they
>    didn't end well.
> Cheers,
> Evan
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