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OPPOSED: Social problems are not easily addressed with technical solutions

  • To: cyber-safety-petition@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: OPPOSED: Social problems are not easily addressed with technical solutions
  • From: Michael Bauer <mjbauer@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 19 Mar 2009 11:27:40 -0400

I oppose the creation of the proposed constituency. It is attempting to address social problems through ICANN, which is a provider of technical solutions.

The letter accompanying the petition quotes the original Notice of Intent to Form the CyberSafety Constituency (NOIF):

"For the new technology society, we need carefully to craft mechanisms involving law and industry that balance unfettered free speech and anonymity with some protections against exploitation of the most vulnerable, the ability to address and reduce criminal activity, and . . . the right of Internet users to have choices in the nature of their access."

This cited issues are social problems, not a technical ones. ICANN is not well situated to determine if a particular person is vulnerable or intent on committing a criminal act, especially because the definition of "vulnerable" and "criminal" varies so much from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, Thailand has prohibitions on criticism of the Thai monarchy which can result in significant jail time. The UK has no such restrictions on criticism of their own monarch. As another example, the definition of what constitutes illegal pornography -- or even what constitutes pornography at all -- varies drastically even within the United States, let alone around the world.

Anonymity and unfettered free speech are two of the most valuable points of the Internet. Attempting to "balance" that with protecting the vulnerable and reducing criminal activity in ICANN will result in a solution that resembles China's national firewalls. This would leave ICANN in the position of being or controlling the censor. ICANN or its agent would have to produce technical definitions of what can and cannot pass muster -- thereby reviewing all content for appropriateness -- and ICANN would hold the resulting liability should something slip through that should not have.

Prevention of, and prosecution of, criminal activity is better addressed by the various government law enforcement agencies around the globe. Protection of the vulnerable is better addressed by the guardians of the vulnerable -- competent parenting being first and foremost -- and those same law enforcement agencies.

This constituency should not be created, because it is trying to solve social problems with technical solutions. ICANN is an inappropriate forum to address these problems.

Michael J. Bauer

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