Let us ordain and
a global Internet
problems with ICANN is easier than finding solutions.
Saying what's wrong with ICANN is easier than saying what
to do about it. Trying stopgap measures is easier than
imagineering viable visions of democratic governance.
Knowing all too well the inadequacy
of my own vision when we get to the practicalities
of creating genuine network democracy, hoping at least to
help us move us in the direction of democracy by doing
what I do best as a journalist, and trusting we'll find a
workable way together, if we have the political
will, below are my recommendations on what we can do.
If ICANN truly is a private
corporation making an illegitimate power grab, trying to
govern without the consent of the governed, what can we
do about it? Do we try to salvage ICANN somehow, or do we
toss it into a trash can and start over? What do
Please don't feel discouraged or
overwhelmed by the prospect of stopping ICANN. We're
simply repeating the successful protest campaign from two
years ago, when we stopped the gTLD-MoU. This same "gTLD
gang" is making the same power grab as before, and we can
stop them again, the same as we did before. Each of us,
in our own manner, contributes to the effort. On our
interactive globe, you alone can and do make all in the
difference in the world.
from assuming total control.
logic here is pretty basic. An entrenched government is
hard to dislodge. ICANN is trying to become an entrenched
government. Therefore, if ICANN becomes an entrenched
government, ICANN will be hard to dislodge.
Answer? Don't let ICANN become
entrenched. Stop ICANN in its tracks.
Refusing to recognize the authority
of an illegitimate government is an accepted principle in
international affairs, and our Internet's government is
First step, immediately remove the
domain name system from ICANN's control. This will derail
all secret deals to add the gTLDs or any other TLDs to
the root. (See the section below about a moratorium on
adding new commercial TLDs.)
Once an investigation is completed,
once the world has a chance to think about alternatives,
once the world has a chance to vote about governance
instead of having governance imposed by the USA, if the
world decides ICANN should extend its authority to govern
us however it will, so be it. But I'm expecting humanity
to be wiser. I'm expecting us to admit we make mistakes
when desperate. I'm expecting us to see we've outgrown
kings at last.
ICANN's practices and
allegations against ICANN and its Board have been made in
this report and by others critical of ICANN. "An
abuse or misuse of power generally calls into question
the right of anyone to hold power," I wrote in Global
Sense two years ago, speaking of gTLD players,
paraphrasing Thomas Paine talking about King George. "The
allegation alone provides just cause for an open
inquiry." Ignoring the charges is
dangerous. An investigation to determine the truth is
necessary. If accusations of corruption or incompetence
are disproved, let ICANN survive. But if any of the major
charges are valid, especiually election rigging, then we
need a new plan.
Who is qualified to perform an
honest and thorough investigation of ICANN?
ICANN was supposed to have created
a committee for independent review, but the effort is
being stonewalled. ICANN wants to hand-pick the
committee. If a truly independent body can be created,
great, but that's not likely to happen.
My suggestion would be that some
existing and plainly impartial organization be asked to
perform the investigation, or to form an independent
panel to do the job. This does not need to be an
American-led investigation, and it might be best if it's
not, since the U.S. Government is the principal backer of
ICANN. Bringing such matters before the United Nations
has merit, but bear in mind just how the UN is influenced
by the USA and such Geneva-based groups as ITU and WIPO,
known as ardent gTLD backers. Why let the fox police the
I'd still support the U.S. House
Commerce Committee under Rep. Tom Bliley convening more
hearings about ICANN. While I may not always agree with
the Republican Congressman, he has the resources to study
ICANN, and he has the clout to sway the U.S. Commerce
Department. The U.S. Senate also needs to get involved;
I'd welcome interest from old and new Democrats, from
Sen. Paul Well stone to VP Al Gore, balancing the
prevailing Republican perspectives.
The key is having untouchable
investigators. If a U.S. group is desired, I suggest
the Center for
Democracy and Technology, which
may be very reluctant to take on the task, and that would
be a good signal. Other U.S. groups that might help here
could be the Consumers
Union, the Consumer's
Project on Technology, or
Professionals for Social
Responsibility (CPSR). You
may think of other options I'd never even imagine, so
make your own suggestions for independent
to modify or abolish ICANN.
say it makes sense to keep ICANN alive to manage the IP
standards or to administer IP numbers, replacing IANA.
The untimely death of IANA's Jon Postel has left a
vacuum, goes the argument, and these critical tasks still
must be done by someone, so it might as well be ICANN,
conceived by Postel, bless his diligence. Our world's
governments can oversee ICANN, keeping it under close
Still, if we do let ICANN keep on
performing its essential functions while we're
investigating the corporation and deciding what to do
next, that might get a bit messy, intensifying the
politics. It's best if we select some existing
organizations with proven integrity and expertise to
entrust with ICANN's four critical tasks, temporarily,
clearly temporarily, while we globally determine our next
The toughest ICANN foes, however,
say vital tasks can be run without ICANN, that the
organization should be dissolved as fast as possible, the
plan abandoned. Let other existing bodies handle
technical administration while we stop to think about
what to do next. Working together, we can do better than
For myself, while I may try working
from within ICANN's structure to call for democracy,
because I hope to see genuine network democracy under a
global Internet constitution (see below), I prefer
replacing ICANN entirely. Devoting efforts to making
ICANN more democratic, lamentably, could be in vain, like
trying to teach a mule to sing opera. It wastes your time
and annoys the mule. Chances for success are as good as
betting on that slackback mule to win the Kentucky Derby.
I feel ICANN has demonstrated itself to be
But if the world decides, after a
fair and open vote, that privatization is desirable, that
ICANN should be preserved as the instrument for that
privatization, then I'd urge fundamentally changing
ICANN's Bylaws to prevent abuses of power with a system
of checks and balances. An accountable Board should be
required to gain advice and consent from those it
governs, all under independent public review.
The foremost issue, though, is
ensuring a smooth transition to something better.
Modern life is chaotic enough already without us
contributing to the confusion. Besides, chaos only
creates a climate conducive to depots. Why open the
moratorium on new commercial TLDs.
is hurtling toward adding new TLDs to the root like a
teen male in heat, saying he wants to marry a virgin
while doing his utmost to ensure none are left. Unmet
childhood needs at play. Responsible adults learn to
Adding commercial top-level domains
beyond ".com" accelerates the growing cyberspace
land rush. Because we do not have equitable laws in place
to govern this population surge, there will be
turbulence. Removing ICANN from power in the midst of
such tumult will be harder than in today's relative calm.
ICANN must be prevented from adding
any TLDs as a ploy to entrench itself. Further, ICANN
must be prevented from acting upon any deals now secret.
Until independent investigations
determine if ICANN can be trusted, the first order of
business is suspending ICANN's authority over the domain
name system (DNS), especially control of the root
servers. Until we are certain that sunlight shines upon
all DNS dealmaking, we must not let ICANN add any top
level domains to the root, not any of the gTLDs, not any
While we think and talk about our
options, let's agree to a one-year moratorium on
commercial TLDs competing with ".com" domains.
This needn't halt formation of registries competing with
Network Solutions for ".com" registrations,
breaking the NSI monopoly. Also, individual nations could
add commercial domains under their own country codes
(i.e., ".co.uk."), since it's within their
province. But go carefully. The idea is to pause, take a
breath, reflect before we go on, look before we leap.
Today's TLDs will suffice for a
year. The demand for new TLDs will not fade.
referendum on Internet privatization.
Internet was created with public money, so it's public
property. The premise is supported by the U.S. Commerce
Department insisting the ".com" database is the
property of the U.S. Government, not the property of NSI,
a private corporation contractually given a monopoly on
.com domain name registration.
If the global Internet is public
property belonging to every one of us, we have a duty as
property owners to thoughtfully decide what happens in
our network community. We need to consider the children
along with ourselves.
Think of the Internet as a virtual
community in which we all might own private property,
like owning a home on a public street. ICANN would
deliver the street itself into private hands. The United
States imposing privatization on the world is like a
Uncle Sam erecting a tollgate in front of your driveway.
Would you like to live on a toll road? That's
essentially what we're accepting if we let ICANN
Because the global Internet belongs
by natural right to everyone on the planet, we as a world
have inherent rights to decide if we accept the
unilateral decision of the Clinton-Gore administration to
privatize a global public utility. We deserve a
We need to call the question of
privatization as a priority topic for public debate
leading up to an international referendum. The global
Internet is unlike any prior experience in human affairs,
and we need to respond to it in new ways. A global vote
on Internet governance will set a necessary precedent in
Voting on privatization can be
handled on a country by country basis, perhaps in elected
representative assemblies, but I'd prefer to see general
elections. The only way this could happen is if each of
us gets informed and gets involved, locally to globally.
privatization is too important historically for us to
ignore the issue.
global sense to value democracy.
been concentrating on the here and now. Let's look down
Humanity remains too immature to
live without a government. To establish a legitimate and
accountable system of global Internet governance,
however, we as a world need a new social contract.
Like what? Like agreeing we're all interactive here on
one network earth, like agreeing the worldwide network of
networks is transforming the lives of everyone, like
agreeing everyone on network earth is a rightful
stakeholder in our global Internet. Such agreements will
be reached by consensus, over time, from cultural shifts
induced by the global Internet itself, demonstrating to
us daily how deeply interactive we are.
Our best hope for open and fair
network governance resides in the power of the Internet
to help a critical mass of humanity see how deeply we're
interconnected. We can jump beyond judgments about right
and wrong to see the greater whole. We then can
know our shadow selves enough to make choices based on
broader wisdom instead of narrow greed. It's called
maturity. Our unloved inner kid can
pout and rant, get upset about not getting instant
gratification, but it's time we grew up. A global
sense of our interactivity
encourages responsible self rule.
Cultivating an interactive global
sensibility releases fear-based habits of the heart
leading to dictatorships. Instead of us enforcing our
will on folks, so we can fool ourselves into feeling
secure, we can release compulsive desires for power as we
experience a peaceful matter-of-factness arising from an
interactive awareness. (While I regrettably feel this
sensation all too rarely, each time has an impact.)
Alertness to our interactivity
stimulates us to give other people a fair chance to
openly say what they want when we're deciding matters
affecting them, whether the issue is global Internet
governance or who does the dinner dishes. Eventually,
openhanded personal democracy may become second
nature to us.
Recognizing our interactivity
changes how we interact in daily life. Seeing how what
we do to others we do to ourselves, induces us to
govern our actions more alertly, no matter how we do
learn our lessons the hard way (sigh). It's not
conscience or holiness producing this change as much as
common global sense. In any healthy human, the
thumb will not attack the fingers on the same hand. We
don't need gurus to become enlightened. We just need to
Develop a new
vision of network democracy.
we need is a fresh mindset, a new world view, a new
"paradigm". Together, let's evolve the deep
media literacy and global
sense to value network
The Internet increasingly acts as
the loom on which we weave the threads of culture
composing our diverse societies. Because global networks
evoke global thinking, our global media vision can easily
embrace global network democracy. An actual system of
network democracy, in turn, can foster more democracy in
our local to national governments. All systems are
interactive. One alters all.
Down the road, the architecture
created for worldwide votes on Internet issues could be
applied to decide other planetary issues, like what to do
about overpopulation and the global warming generating
social upheaval and earth changes. One world government
is not be desirable to me; for we'll see messiahs galore
scheming to rule our world. Yet a global system of
decentralized democracies, modeled on the Internet, would
be a boon. Humanity as a whole may awaken to our
Generating the political
will to create network democracy is like generating
the political will to end hunger. The problem is not
resources, but the willingness to make something happen.
Once there's the political will, a way can be
The generations alive today face
critical choices that will forever alter our path. What
we see in our minds affects what we see in our lives,
so, hold the vision.
ratify a global Internet constitution.
government governing without the consent of the governed
is illegitimate. The baseline recommendation? We need
governance by laws, not committees.
I envision a new social contract
unlike anything we've seen on earth before, an agreement
for self governance not based on sovereignty over land,
but based on dominion over cyberspace, a body politic
that transcends all national borders.
We need to appreciate that the
Internet is more that a physical network of wires and
switches and computers, more then its architecture.
Please try to understand that "cyberspace" on a PC screen
has just as much consequence as any country. National
borders are human inventions imposed on the landscape.
The Internet's virtual domains, with borders, deserve
similar legal standing as actual domains.
A helpful proposal along these
lines comes from James Love, director of the
Project on Technology, a
Ralph Nader group that may have the resources to turn his
vision into tangible reality. Love sees ICANN becoming a
non-governmental organization (NGO) overseen by the
elected governments worldwide, plus the UN. ICANN would
be like the Red Cross or Red Crescent, recognized and
respected internationally. Love's proposal moves us in
the right direction, but we're not yet all the way home.
I prefer totally replacing ICANN. The NGO option merits
study, yet it would leave the Internet with a status less
than that of an independent nation, more like a colony.
Will this work for you?
How do we move from ICANN to a
global Internet constitution?
Could ICANN help us? If the
corporation survives the investigation, could ICANN act
in the spirit of the Continental Congress, making itself
obsolete? Could ICANN help coordinate drafting a
constitution?: It's doable but not probable. Whom within
ICANN would you trust with the responsibility? Not the
self-serving Board or the DNSO Names Council. The General
Assembly meets too rarely to be helpful. No, I don't see
ICANN ever being the source of an Internet Constitution,
yet we live in an open, unpredictable age, even if these
changing times do try our souls. People of conscience are
everywhere. Anything is possible. Miracles happen.
Ideally, we'd elect a special world
assembly to draft and enact for ratification a global
Internet constitution with a bill of rights and
responsibilities. After six months or a year of
public debate and consensus-building, before the world
TLD moratorium expired there would be an election. Our
votes would be tallied, whether by paper ballot or online
voting (if secured against vote fraud). The experience
from a global vote about privatization will be most
Writing the articles of a network
constitution is beyond the scope of this report,
which seeks an inner shift in how we're thinking that
changes what we do. Planting seedthoughts for network
democracy, inspiring the political will to stop ICANN,
describing a vision of global democracy, that's a
sufficient challenge for now. Accomplishing any part of
this is a miracle in itself.
Still want details? I'd favor
loosely adapting the U.S. Constitution with its
executive, legislative and judicial branches for a
system of checks and balances. I'm open to a
parliamentary system, but beware of inherent instability
when a clever no-confidence vote can topple the
government at any instant. The main thing is that all
Internet governance decisions be taken in an open manner.
We need an elected government sworn to uphold the network
constitution, whose decisions and actions are subject to
sanctions by the general world electorate.
Eventually, I'd like direct
electronic democracy to become the norm with online
voting on all major issues. Several electronic voting
methods are available today, but none will prevent vote
fraud. Once a safeguard is found, as we begin routinely
voting on global Internet governance issues affecting our
lives, this precedent will be pivotal in human affairs.
Deep aspirations for democracy, already transforming
civilizations around our planet, will become
And if you worry about "social
engineering," please consider that the Internet already
is the greatest social engineering experiment in human
history. By design or default, the Internet is forever
transforming our civilizations. Why not do it be design?
We are smart enough at last.
informed, and then get involved!
we do need a democratic constitution to rule cyberspace,
just like we need a democratic constitution to govern
physical space, how can we go from vision to reality?
In politics, personal democracy translates into
educating yourself about the issues impacting your life,
and then actively participating in creating the
Knowledge is power. Ignorance is
Who has real power over the ICANN Board? Right now,
the U.S. Government, through ICANN's contract with NTIA
at the Commerce Department. The White House could pull
the plug today -- if it wanted. Who else has any
authority over ICANN? No one, at least, not officially.
And once privatization is complete. once the U.S.
Government abdicates its responsibilities for the
Internet, who'll be left, capable of keeping ICANN in
check? Each and every one of us, if we're willing.
The best time to act is now,
before ICANN gets too entrenched to budge.
Given our situation, only a prompt
and sustained public
demand for network
democracy can spare our world from a technocracy ruled by
ICANN. Are we willing to sleep while an appointed
committee of technocrats usurps our natural human rights?
Everyone on earth has a right to vote about the issues
effecting everyone on earth. We have a right to decide if
our global Internet is privatized, how cyberspace is
ruled. An honestly democratic system of Internet
governance must be possible. Let's explore our options,
then choose where to go from here.
You already have within all the
power you need to change the world.
Your own solution could work as
well or better than anything I would imagine. Please
don't doubt your own capacity to help. Why let old
insecurities stop you? Why are you afraid to trust your
own wisdom? if you expect me to have all the answers, let
me suggest that you're really seeking a messiah, and
that's the same need for a king to govern you that got us
into this mess in the first place. Some pop-psych folks
call this "codependency," but its just a new way of
saying we're looking for someone else to save us since
we're too frightened to save ourselves. Studying Internet
governance questions may lead to more empowering
Please invest a weekend, a week, a
month, or a year in educating yourself. You may conclude
my concerns are justified, or not, but don't keep your
findings to yourself. Speak with other people about
Internet governance. Help to spread the word about this
robust threat to the worldwide pro-democracy
In the final analysis, network
democracy makes global sense.
Perhaps my vision for a global
network democracy is much more than you can accept, now,
but perhaps you share my feelings that ICANN is off
Therefore, you are requested to
go do your homework. Take time to familiarize yourself
with the techie
terms. Understand the
concepts enough to ask
questions. Ask zingers
pushing our minds in new directions.