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.

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