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Development of operations systems in the ICANN organization

  • To: principles-comments@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: Development of operations systems in the ICANN organization
  • From: Wolf Halton <wolf@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 18 Nov 2006 00:26:55 -0500

Comment regarding privatization of ICANN control:

"Transparency" is a buzzword that doesn't address the issues requiring
fixing, and obscures the issue at hand by its subtle flight into
linguistic sleight of hand.  Transparency is exactly the opposite of
what is actually needed, "Visibility." Transparent means INVISIBLE.  The
process by which the ICANN board works is invisible and the results are
only visible to certain stake-holders who have made "figuring out which
locked cabinet in the ICANN web site they have to pry open to find the
latest 'public announcement'" their primary business.  Most of the
stakeholders to this current issue (the entire Internet community) are
not aware that anything is being decided, and this particular set of
deliberations makes obvious progress toward making more of the process
invisible and allowing even less opportunity to get 3rd-party oversight
than the current Byzantine mess does.

It is a pernicious and self-serving view which says that all the people
whose right to freedom of information is being jeopardized ought to get
law degrees so they can begin to understand the policies by which those
rights are being scuttled.  The language habitually used in these hidden
public announcements is itself far too convoluted to allow easy
comprehension by reasonably-educated individuals.  This language-barrier
is made stronger in cases where the interested persons do not speak
English as a 1st language.  

It is ICANN's responsibility to uphold and further the right of the
stakeholding Internet user population to get straight communication that
has not been edited or filtered by the various registrar's ideological
views, whether overt or covert.  In my opinion, the proper focus of this
discussion would be centering around support for straight

The very first issue to unmask is the issue of who sits on the ICANN
board, how they are appointed, what their term limits are, what their
individual and collected powers are and how anybody new can participate.
ICANN is deceptively referred to as if it were itself a real physical
entity, so the actors operating beneath this deception are not clearly

The next issue to unmask, though far more difficult, is to make the
staff accountable for the interests of internet users as well as other
stake-holders.  It has been suggested that the hired staff of ICANN are
the real power behind the ICANN facade, and undoubtedly that suggestion
has merit.  Long-term staff, like the bureaucracy that underlies the US
government, can easily affect how decisions are made by small actions or
inactions, such as the nearly impenetrable navigation system on the
ICANN web sites.  The appointed board members are plainly not aware of
the impact of such a navigation system, but it has a long and lasting
effect upon the useability of the site and availability of important

Accountability suggests adhering to some known standard.  It would be
useful to make visible the current level of accountability, for as far
as I have been able to ascertain, there is no accountability at all,
unless some third party stake-holder makes a complaint, at which point
the ICANN excuse machine goes into action.  "No of course we were not
railroading through a seminal change to how TLDs are handled that only
helps the registrars," or  "The input gathering that ends on October
31st is only a preliminary fact-gathering,"  are examples of the effect.
Were the visibility higher, then this kind of ad hoc reason-making would
be unnecessary.  Actual policies, written for maximum clarity would go a
long way toward increasing visibility and accountability.   

Maximum clarity would entail avoiding business buzz-words and would
require adhering to standard definitions of words unless specific cases
required a non-standard definition.  In such cases, the definition would
be provided close to the place the word is used.  Maximum clarity would
also entail wording that was understandable to the average high school
graduate, and avoidance of sentences longer than 25 words wherever
possible.  Maximum clarity would mean foregoing demonstrating one's
expanded vocabulary. 

Wolf Halton
Halton Technical Services

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