'I'm begging you to join' – ICANN's NetMundial Initiative gets desperate

Plus what on earth are they spending $600,000 on?

And finally - what's really going on

As ICC BASIS probed further, aspects of the NetMundial Initiative's real mission started to emerge.

"After an initial cycle of membership, the council itself should decide what its charter should be," noted Samans - paving the way for an existing council of 25 people brought from across the world and across different sectors and in charge of a vague internet governance body to completely rewrite their purpose in one year's time.

Frustrated by repeated questions about why the NMI should exist at all, Fadi Chehade gave two revealing responses:

The next time someone stands up at a WCIT and says 'we need a treaty for spam', we can point to solutions.


We need to make sure that next June we don't have delegation after delegation going to UNGA [the United Nations General Assembly] saying there are no solutions to these issues.

In other words, what the NetMundial Initiative is really about is finding a way to block efforts by governments at the United Nations and International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to develop their own policies for ongoing internet governance problems.

And it would seem that having decided on that path, the NMI organizers are willing to say whatever they need to in order to get non-government actors on board and so give the process legitimacy.

Bottoms up

Two examples: despite repeatedly claiming that the NMI will be bottom-up and completely open ("Nothing comes close to the bottom up nature than this"), when business representative explained that this was actually one of their concerns, the organizers immediately changed tack.

Highlighting ICANN's previous effort to build an internet governance body, 1Net - a structure that collapsed soon after the NetMundial meeting - business representatives complained that the completely open nature of it meant that a few people were able to completely disrupt effective dialogue.

Chehade agreed with this assessment: "Yes, governments walked away from 1net because they said they couldn't participate… that's why we need the council… to make sure the platform is not hijacked. We should be protecting the platform from a few not constructive players."

And despite the fact that the NMI requires people who wish to nominate themselves to the council to answer the question "Can you confirm that this organization will embrace the NETmundial Principles?" and that the organizers repeatedly said that they the expectation was that everything would be multistakeholder and that the NetMundial principles would be "behind everything", when the business representatives questioned the value of this, the organizers again offered to withdraw them.

ICC members would have a hard time agreeing to something that may legally oblige their company, explained some. And some solutions can be held up if they have to be multi-stakeholder i.e. requiring someone from all different parts of the internet community to be involved.

Chehade again: "We used the word 'embrace'. If that word is felt to have a legally binding nature, we will change it. We could make it 'taking note'… Please suggest to us any wording. This should not be binding anyone to anything."

And as for multistakeholderism - the key defining characteristic. "How we hoped it would work is in a multistakeholder way. We hope an embrace of these principles would at least create a filter for a government that wants to push a policy that has not been collaborated in a multistakeholder way."

As for the initial efforts by the three organizers to give themselves permanent seats on the council - something that was met with immediate hostility and later dropped - that was just a misunderstanding. "The mention of permanent seats was misunderstood that we would sit on the council forever," said Chehade.

Leaving a bad taste

In other words, the NetMundial Initiative is all about prevention not cure. Stopping others from proposing solutions because of who they are, not what they propose.

It's no wonder that the technical community - who built the incredible global communications network that is the internet with help from individuals, companies and governments from every corner of the planet - don't like the smell of this initiative.

It's just not the way things are done on the internet. ®

Other stories you might like

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022