RealTime IT News

ICANN Critics Call for Protest

A protest has been called against the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, the non-profit corporation that will take over managing the Internet's domain names and addresses.

Organizers say they want to "bring ICANN out of the shadows" and to end its policy of conducting board meetings behind closed doors. They're hoping to draw public attention to the policy by encouraging supporters to display a gray ribbon on their Web sites.

Ellen Rony, Web master of the Domain Name Handbook and author of a book about domain names, is one of the leaders of the campaign.

Rony believes that the ICANN board has failed to live up to the guiding principles set up when it was founded by the U.S. Department of Commerce last year.

"I don't have an agenda. I've just been following these things for three years and since the White Paper there's been talk of openness and transparency. And if these people feel that they can't do that, they shouldn't have become board members," she said.

The gray ribbon protest will carry over into meatspace next month. Supporters will wear and distribute the ribbons at ICANN's next meeting in Singapore on March 4th.

Among those who will wear the gray ribbon is David Farber, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who's considered one of the founders of the Internet.

"If you're doing the public's business, you should do it in public," Farber said. "If openness fails, you can look people in the eye and say we tried. But if it turns out to work, everybody's happy."

ICANN's directors could not be reached for immediate comment. But in the past they have defended their policy of closed meetings by saying ICANN is more like a corporate than a government board, and corporations typically hold board meetings in private.

But Farber says the closed policy could have dire consequences for ICANN.

"I'd like to see ICANN succeed because it's the first organization that attempts to self-govern the Net, and the alternative is government control. But whenever you have people who feel disenfranchised, there's potential for them to create noise, and I don't think its just a few wild people. There's a real underlying discomfort.

"Unless people have a warm fuzzy feeling about the organization, this is going to end up in court, and courts are not a good place to do networked business--they tend to lead to legislation."

At this point, about 20 supporters have joined the protest, including the Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility and the Domain Name Services Organization.