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Do Not Empower Non-Democratic Governments' Control Over the Internet with this Draconian "GAC Veto" on ICANN Board Decisions

  • To: comments-bylaws-amend-gac-advice-15aug14@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: Do Not Empower Non-Democratic Governments' Control Over the Internet with this Draconian "GAC Veto" on ICANN Board Decisions
  • From: Robin Gross <robin@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 27 Aug 2014 15:50:13 -0700


This draconian proposal to change ICANN's bylaws would fundamentally transform 
ICANN away from being a "bottom-up" and "private-sector-led" organization and 
into a governmental regulatory agency by changing the GAC's role from 
"advisory" into "primary decision maker" by essentially creating a 
"governmental veto" on all key organizational decisions.  This would mark a 
truly significant change in the overall power structure at ICANN that would 
dramatically empower national governments (some democratic, some authoritarian) 
over the management of critical Internet resources at the expense of those who 
participate in the bottom-up policy development process.

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 

Ironically, it is often ICANN's own board and staff who do the most to 
undermine the "multi-stakeholder model for Internet governance", and this 
proposal, if passed, would be a prime illustration of that fact.  By making 
additional concessions to GAC that give governments more power at ICANN, the 
board would be relinquishing its responsibility to provide oversight of the 
organization's operations.  And since so many non-GAC board members are 
"conflicted" on issues that are of greatest significance to the org's work, in 
reality it will take far more than 2/3 of the board to resist the mandatory 
imposition of GAC "advice" by ICANN.  There is nothing to prevent GAC from 
becoming a voting body that imposes its majority will on the entire Internet 
via the ICANN board; and this bylaws change would certainly incentivize such a 
reaction from GAC.  Since ICANN claimed in its recent determination of the BGC 
Reconsideration Request 14-35 (which refused to release any information about 
GAC policy deliberations) that GAC is not a part of ICANN, it is inexplicable 
why ICANN would choose to give what it claimed in its determination is NOT a 
part of ICANN the predominate decision making position on the ICANN Board of 
Directors.  That is quite a quiet transfer of power and resources "away from 
ICANN" to a non-accountable, non-transparent, non-bottom-up, 
non-private-sector-led organization over the management of critical Internet 

It should not be forgotten that many of the governments who participate within 
the GAC are not democratically elected; meaning citizens in those countries do 
not have free and fair elections in which people govern themselves; meaning 
those governments are not bottom-up; meaning those non-democratic governments 
are illegitimate in their authority and have no right to demand a decision 
making role over anyone, let alone the entire world via the ICANN board.  

Why ICANN would voluntarily choose to empower non-democratic governments with 
an even greater say over global Internet policies as this bylaws change would 
do is anyone's guess.  

One of the most precious aspects of the Internet is the ability of activists 
and the disenfranchised to communicate with the world outside from an 
authoritarian government'' control by using the Internet.  This bylaws 
proposal, if passed, will ultimately stifle use of the Internet for both 
disenfranchised people and those who live in democracies but will still be 
governed by the GAC via this ICANN Board "veto".  Unfortunately many 
governments view the Internet either as a threat to their control of their 
citizens, or as a powerful tool that enables their control of their citizens - 
this is true in both democracies and non-democracies, and that stifling view 
will be recklessly empowered by the adoption of this bylaws change.

This is a truly dangerous proposal that would send the Internet back towards 
the dark ages when the Crown controlled access to printing presses and what 
information was allowed to spread.  For the ICANN Board to empower 
non-democratic governments by approving this bylaws change would be among the 
worst damage done to the health and growth of the free and open Internet since 
it was created.  The ICANN Board should recognize its obligation to promote 
democracy and protect everyone's use of the Internet, but especially the 
disenfranchised by not empowering authoritarian governments' control of the 
Internet with the adoption of this draconian bylaws change.

Thank you,
Robin Gross

Note:  I am a member of the Executive Committee of ICANN's Non-Commercial 
Stakeholder Group (NCSG), but submit this comment solely in my personal 

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