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Comments Regarding New CyberSafety Constituency Proposal

  • To: cyber-safety-petition@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: Comments Regarding New CyberSafety Constituency Proposal
  • From: Antony Van Couvering <avc@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 12 Mar 2009 17:39:46 -0400

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the formation of a new CyberSafety Constituency (CSC).

I am against constituencies in general, because they tend to entrench advocacy positions and make it difficult to achieve compromise. Furthermore, ICANN constituencies may make rules which further narrow the interest of the group to the point where positions that ought to be represented in the constituency are filtered out. And all of this, without clearly defining what the role of the new constituency might be. The CSC proposal is a case in point. There are many problems with this application.

Their mission, according to the petition, is to: "advocat[e] that ICANN policies and the technical development of the Internet should not unduly impair the lawful rights of governments and other organizations of authority to take steps to protect their citizens and members from illegal activity conducted on or through the Internet. "

Following are my specific criticisms of the Petition to form the CSC:

The phrase "other organizations of authority" ought to be worrisome. Who are these organizations. If this is code for law enforcement, then it ought to be called the Law Enforcement Constituency (LEC). If these organizations already have "lawful rights," then ICANN is no position at all to impede them, since they have both the law and the enforcement capability already on their side. And what does "safety" mean? Before ICANN admits a constituency, we ought to have a clear sense of that constituency's charter, who its membership is intended for, a convincing explanation of what as-yet-unfilled role they would play, and a name that clearly denotes the constituency's function.

In the petition, the reason given for the formation of the new constituency is that freedom of speech and privacy are already well- represented within the GNSO, and that alternatives or correctives to that point of view should be heard. Fair enough, but exists no Free Speech Constituency that needs to be balanced. Instead, these voices are within the GNSO generally. Why can't those who wish to present a different point of view also make their case within the GNSO generally -- why do they need the privileged position of a constituency? It might also be added that since their mission is basically to represent government authority, that they *already* have a privileged position in the GAC. We already have one case of two constituencies representing the exact same interests -- the Business and IP consituencies -- and there is no need for ICANN to compound that error giving governmental and law enforcement.

According to the petition, membership in the CSC-LEC would be restricted to not-for-profits and individuals who work for them. No reason is given, and one is necessary. I cannot fathom what would prevent a company or a person who works for a company from providing disinterested input and support to a constituency's mission, especially this one's. As everyone at ICANN knows, there are many instances of people working for for-profit companies who toil on Working Groups whose recommendations are often not in their employer's immediate interest. Before granting the status of a constituency to a group who wishes to unduly restrict membership, ICANN should ask them to provide a rationale.

In summary, I believe this petition should be sent back to the authors for improvements. If, as they say, they want to work in ICANN in the spirit of ICANN, they need to be much less opaque about their objectives, their role, and why they are needed at ICANN. In particular, if law enforcement wants to have a role at ICANN, they need to be much less shadowy.

With thanks for the chance to make comments,

Antony Van Couvering

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