ICANN wants total control of DNS while breaking its own bylaws to block .africa probe

Board member ordered to appear at hearing

ICANN broke its own bylaws – and acted in a way "fundamentally inconsistent" with its role as the world's DNS overlord – while restricting efforts to make itself more accountable to netizens.

That striking judgment [PDF] comes this month from an independent review team at the International Centre For Dispute Resolution (ICDR). The panel said ICANN's moves to shield two top officials from questioning in a row over the .africa top-level domain "deprives the accountability and review process set out in the bylaws of any meaning."

DotConnectAfrica (DCA) wanted to run the .africa registry, but it was blocked from doing so by ICANN's committee of government representatives. DCA has been tussling with ICANN ever since to get the decision overturned, which is why it wants to quiz the two officials – ICANN board member, Cherine Chalaby, and the former head of its Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), Heather Dryden.

(This follows a similar ruling this time last year: in May 2014, ICANN was criticized by the independent team for failing to create a standing committee to hear complaints, again in breach of its own bylaws. And just last month, in a separate case, ICANN was slammed by the ICDR for restricting its ability to provide anything approaching an independent review of the domain-name overlord.)

This time, the ICDR panel has clearly had enough: it has demanded Chalaby and Dryden appear before them next month in Washington DC to answer questions. If they fail to appear, the panel has warned that it will "draw the necessary inferences and reach appropriate conclusions regarding that witness’s declaration."

ICANN – which wants to completely take over the heart of the world's DNS from the US government – said it will not send the two to the hearing, scheduled for May 22 and 23, and that any evidence would have to be submitted in advance in writing. In doing so, it quoted from its own bylaws – written by ICANN's lawyers – to back its position.

(Those handy bylaws were unilaterally written by ICANN staff in response to an earlier review hearing that the organization lost. In that case, back in 2010, ICANN's decision to block .xxx was challenged, and the DNS overlord was defeated after two of its senior officers were quizzed by an independent panel. Best not let that happen again, eh?)

The decision

The panel in the .africa case felt that not allowing any questioning of the key witnesses "unduly and improperly restricts the Panel’s ability to conduct the 'independent review' it has been explicitly mandated to carry out." Thus, ICANN walked all over its other bylaws that demand accountability, the team said.

It then went into greater detail over why that was the case:

How can a Panel compare contested actions of the Board and declare whether or not they are consistent with the provisions of the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws, without the ability to fact find and make enquiries concerning those actions in the manner it considers appropriate?

How can the Panel for example, determine, if the Board acted without conflict of interest, exercised due diligence and care in having a reasonable amount of facts in front of it, or exercised independent judgment in taking decisions, if the Panel can not ask the questions it needs to, in the manner it needs to or considers fair, just and appropriate in the circumstances?

How can the Panel ensure that the parties to this [Independent Review Panel] are treated with equality and that each party has the right to be heard and is given a fair opportunity to present its case with respect to the mandate the Panel has been given, if as ICANN submits, “ICANN’s Bylaws do not permit any examination of witnesses by the parties or the Panel during the hearing”?

The Panel is unanimously of the view that it cannot.

The decision highlights yet again that ICANN falls far short of providing adequate accountability into its decisions and processes, to the extent that it has purposefully developed and implemented procedures that make real accountability impossible.

The issue is of particular interest at the moment since ICANN is going through a formal process of review on its accountability before it is allowed to take control of the critical IANA contract from the US government.

An independent group is recommending that ICANN be turned into a member-led organization that would enable the internet community to sack and overrule the board on critical issues. It is also exploring the idea of creating a much larger board with a smaller executive board in order to deal with an endemic problem of secrecy and information control at the non-profit. ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Chip shortage forces temporary Raspberry Pi 4 price rise for the first time

    Ten-buck increase for 2GB model 'not here to stay' says Upton

    The price of a 2GB Raspberry Pi 4 single-board computer is going up $10, and its supply is expected to be capped at seven million devices this year due to the ongoing global chip shortage.

    Demand for components is outstripping manufacturing capacity at the moment; pre-pandemic, assembly lines were being red-lined as cloud giants and others snapped up parts fresh out of the fabs, and the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak really threw a spanner in the works, so to speak, exacerbating the situation.

    Everything from cars to smartphones have been affected by semiconductor supply constraints, including Raspberry Pis, it appears. Stock is especially tight for the Raspberry Pi Zero and the 2GB Raspberry Pi 4 models, we're told. As the semiconductor crunch shows no signs of letting up, the Raspberry Pi project is going to bump up the price for one particular model.

    Continue reading
  • Uncle Sam to clip wings of Pegasus-like spyware – sorry, 'intrusion software' – with proposed export controls

    Surveillance tech faces trade limits as America syncs policy with treaty obligations

    More than six years after proposing export restrictions on "intrusion software," the US Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has formulated a rule that it believes balances the latitude required to investigate cyber threats with the need to limit dangerous code.

    The BIS on Wednesday announced an interim final rule that defines when an export license will be required to distribute what is basically commercial spyware, in order to align US policy with the 1996 Wassenaar Arrangement, an international arms control regime.

    The rule [PDF] – which spans 65 pages – aims to prevent the distribution of surveillance tools, like NSO Group's Pegasus, to countries subject to arms controls, like China and Russia, while allowing legitimate security research and transactions to continue. Made available for public comment over the next 45 days, the rule is scheduled to be finalized in 90 days.

    Continue reading
  • Global IT spending to hit $4.5 trillion in 2022, says Gartner

    The future's bright, and expensive

    Corporate technology soothsayer Gartner is forecasting worldwide IT spending will hit $4.5tr in 2022, up 5.5 per cent from 2021.

    The strongest growth is set to come from enterprise software, which the analyst firm expects to increase by 11.5 per cent in 2022 to reach a global spending level of £670bn. Growth has fallen slightly, though. In 2021 it was 13.6 per cent for this market segment. The increase was driven by infrastructure software spending, which outpaced application software spending.

    The largest chunk of IT spending is set to remain communication services, which will reach £1.48tr next year, after modest growth of 2.1 per cent. The next largest category is IT services, which is set to grow by 8.9 per cent to reach $1.29tr over the next year, according to the analysts.

    Continue reading
  • Memory maker Micron moots $150bn mega manufacturing moneybag

    AI and 5G to fuel demand for new plants and R&D

    Chip giant Micron has announced a $150bn global investment plan designed to support manufacturing and research over the next decade.

    The memory maker said it would include expansion of its fabrication facilities to help meet demand.

    As well as chip shortages due to COVID-19 disruption, the $21bn-revenue company said it wanted to take advantage of the fact memory and storage accounts for around 30 per cent of the global semiconductor industry today.

    Continue reading
  • China to allow overseas investment in VPNs but Beijing keeps control of the generally discouraged tech

    Foreign ownership capped at 50%

    After years of restricting the use and ownership of VPNs, Beijing has agreed to let foreign entities hold up to a 50 per cent stake in domestic VPN companies.

    China has simultaneously a huge market and strict rules for VPNs as the country's Great Firewall attempts to keep its residents out of what it deems undesirable content and influence, such as Facebook or international news outlets.

    And while VPN technology is not illegal per se (it's just not practical for multinationals and other entities), users need a licence to operate one.

    Continue reading
  • Microsoft unveils Android apps for Windows 11 (for US users only)

    Windows Insiders get their hands on the Windows Subsystem for Android

    Microsoft has further teased the arrival of the Windows Subsystem for Android by detailing how the platform will work via a newly published document for Windows Insiders.

    The document, spotted by inveterate Microsoft prodder "WalkingCat" makes for interesting reading for developers keen to make their applications work in the Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA).

    WSA itself comprises the Android OS based on the Android Open Source Project 1.1 and, like the Windows Subsystem for Linux, runs in a virtual machine.

    Continue reading
  • Software Freedom Conservancy sues TV maker Vizio for GPL infringement

    Companies using GPL software should meet their obligations, lawsuit says

    The Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC), a non-profit which supports and defends free software, has taken legal action against Californian TV manufacturer Vizio Inc, claiming "repeated failures to fulfill even the basic requirements of the General Public License (GPL)."

    Member projects of the SFC include the Debian Copyright Aggregation Project, BusyBox, Git, GPL Compliance Project for Linux Developers, Homebrew, Mercurial, OpenWrt, phpMyAdmin, QEMU, Samba, Selenium, Wine, and many more.

    The GPL Compliance Project is described as "comprised of copyright holders in the kernel, Linux, who have contributed to Linux under its license, the GPLv2. These copyright holders have formally asked Conservancy to engage in compliance efforts for their copyrights in the Linux kernel."

    Continue reading
  • DRAM, it stacks up: SK hynix rolls out 819GB/s HBM3 tech

    Kit using the chips to appear next year at the earliest

    Korean DRAM fabber SK hynix has developed an HBM3 DRAM chip operating at 819GB/sec.

    HBM3 (High Bandwidth Memory 3) is a third generation of the HBM architecture which stacks DRAM chips one above another, connects them by vertical current-carrying holes called Through Silicon Vias (TSVs) to a base interposer board, via connecting micro-bumps, upon which is fastened a processor that accesses the data in the DRAM chip faster than it would through the traditional CPU socket interface.

    Seon-yong Cha, SK hynix's senior vice president for DRAM development, said: "Since its launch of the world's first HBM DRAM, SK hynix has succeeded in developing the industry's first HBM3 after leading the HBM2E market. We will continue our efforts to solidify our leadership in the premium memory market."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021