ICANN warns UN may sideline tech community from future internet governance

'We built this thing and now you don't want to hear from us – WTF?' is the gist of it

The United Nations' proposed Global Digital Compact will exclude technical experts as a distinct voice in internet governance, ignoring their enormous contributions to growing and sustaining the internet, according to ICANN and two of the world's regional internet registries.

The Global Digital Compact is an effort to "outline shared principles for an open, free and secure digital future for all." The UN hopes the compact will address issues such as digital inclusion, internet fragmentation, giving individuals control over how their data is used, and making the internet trustworthy "by introducing accountability criteria for discrimination and misleading content."

But ICANN, the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), and the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) worry that recent articulations of the Compact suggest it should use a tripartite model for digital cooperation with three stakeholder groups: the private sector, governments, and civil society.

That's dangerous, ICANN and co argue, because technical stakeholders would lose their distinct voice.

They've therefore co-signed and published a document criticizing the Compact as it stands today.

"The technical community is not part of civil society and it has never been," the document states, citing outcomes of the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS) – a UN event staged in 2003 and 2005 that defined a multi-stakeholder internet governance framework. 2015's WSIS+10 event affirmed that strategy.

"This model excludes the technical community as a distinct component, and overlooks the unique and essential roles played by that community's members separately and collectively," DNS overlord ICANN and the registries added.

In the write-up Paul Wilson, the director general of APNIC, along with ARIN CEO John Curran, and ICANN interim president and CEO Sally Costerton, argue the UN model therefore goes against established practices.

The document argues that the tripartite model represents an unnecessary change to internet governance.

Citing growth in internet users from one billion in 2005 to over five billion today, the authors argue that today's governance models – that include the technical community as a distinct stakeholder – have worked.

And they argue that such arrangements will continue to deliver a robust internet for all – just what the UN wants the Compact to deliver.

The post concludes: "The technical community will certainly continue to play its critical roles in the future of the internet, and it behooves the UN to recognize this reality in its formulation of any future processes related to internet governance." ®

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