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ICANN and co U-turn on permanent seats for 'net 'UN Security Council'

NetMundial Initiative tries to save itself

The people behind a plan to create a sort-of UN Security Council for the internet have backed down from giving themselves permanent seats on the panel.

Domain-names overlord ICANN, the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Brazilian internet body – which are behind what's called the NetMundial Initiative – announced the climbdown earlier today.

It came at the end of a lengthy discussion over the proposed initiative at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), held in Geneva, in a bid to save the project.

Faced with a barrage of complaints over how they had organized the program, and facing the possibility that the IGF would not accept the permanent seat set aside for it, a statement was read out that included the note "there will be no permanent seats in the coordination council for the initiators of the NetMundial Initiative".

The decision comes in the wake of weeks of criticism, most notably a statement from the board of the Internet Society which said it was "concerned that the way in which the NETmundial Initiative is being formed does not appear to be consistent with the Internet Society’s longstanding principles." The Internet Society was one of a small group of internet organizations offered a permanent seat, which it refused.

That statement led to broad discussion within the internet community about the program and whether to engage it at all. The IGF's organizing body, the MAG, was split about whether to accept an offer of its own permanent seat.

Other groups adopted a partial boycott, with one begrudgingly agreeing to take part while noting that it had "very significant misgivings" about the program.

The initiative has also received an underwhelming number of nominations for council seats, forcing it to extend the deadline. As of today, there are still just 17 applications for the 20 (now, 25) seats.

And the entire, claimed, purpose of the initiative – to invite proposals for internet governance issues – has so far produced just three "proposals and ideas", raising questions over the viability of the whole project.

The removal of the permanent seats will prevent the initiative from collapsing, but after a number of false starts and missteps, and with the credibility of ICANN's CEO Fadi Chehade – the main driver of the program – having taken a blow, it is far from certain that the NetMundial Initiative will produce anything of real value.

Meanwhile, the rest of the internet continues to function as normal. ®

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