New ICANN CEO Promises More Transparency And Balance

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By Monika Ermert for Intellectual Property Watch

The new CEO of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), Fadi Chehadé, today announced a new structure to enhance transparency, visibility and balance of the private net managing body to be presented on the official opening day of the Toronto meeting.

Chehadé, who took over 40 days ago, spoke at a 12 October pre-conference of the ICANN Non-Commercial User Constituency (NCUC) and did not hold back criticism of ICANN. A “disfunctional relationship” between ICANN board and staff, a “culture of fear” at the staff level (a fear of making mistakes and being hold responsible) and most importantly, several layers of imbalances, are things he has already started to tackle, he said. Not only there is an imbalance between English-language and non-English-language speakers, which is the result of where ICANN came from, but also there is still some work ahead to create a multi-equal-stakeholder playing field.

“It is not one government above the others, or governments above us or one group above the other groups,” Chehadé said emphatically. The first people he would meet when going to a new city, he said, would be “not the people in the fancy suits” but the at-large internet community.

A shifting, and more important role of the broader internet community and users at large was also the topic of the NCUC pre-conference on “ICANN & Internet Governance: Security and Freedom in a Connected World.” Ron Deibert from Citizen Lab challenged the community to take up their role in protecting the internet, in a decentralised, classical internet way, against rising security threats – and not leave that task to the states that in fact are trying to roll back civil rights.

The NCUC Toronto conference, sponsored by the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee, also talked about the “hot potato” new Registrar Accreditation Agreement in which law enforcement from some countries want to have Whois data retention provisions, objections and potential censorship of new top-level domain (TLD) applications by governments and the debate about the World Conference on International Telecommuncation (WCIT), all of which will be discussed during the 14-18 October ICANN 45 meeting.

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