the roving_reporter



[Summer's over, and the roving_reporter will now resume coverage, mostly of ICANN. It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it. Cheers, T]

Past issues: UDRP? JDRP (1999-11-16); Viral Regulation (1999-11-24); ICANN Journal 1 (2000-09-10).

The current issue is here.

> roving_reporter t byfield [email]

Sun Oct 15 01:01:24 EDT 2000

PFIR harshes on ICANN

Lauren Weinstein, moderator of the PRIVACY Forum, doesn't seem to think much of the MAL election. In the latest PFIR statement, "Election 2000, Privacy, and the Internet," he writes:

Unlike the dreadfully sorry excuse for a representative process demonstrated by the recently completed ICANN..."election" procedure, many millions of persons will be voting in the U.S. national elections on Nov. 7. (For more thoughts on the ICANN process, please see the "PFIR Statement on Internet Policies, Regulations, and Control"...)

PFIR's co-founder is Peter G. Neumann, moderator of the RISKS Digest, Chairman of the ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy, and Principal Scientist at SRI -- which has an application for a new gTLD (".geo") before ICANN.

ICANN is so busy reviewing the SRI proposal for "confidentiality" claims that they can't get it together to post SRI's application even though SRI posted it over a week ago. How does the roving_reporter know? He got a copy of the hyperlinked Table of Contents distributed to the Intellectual Property Constituency.

Fri Oct 13 19:57:26 EDT 2000

The Incredible shrinking public comment period on new gTLDs

ICANN inaugurated the period during which the public will have an opportunity to comment on proposed TLDs. The inauguration comes four days late (and seven days after the Intellectual Property Coalition politely suggested to would-be TLD delegees that handing over their proposals ASAP would be prudent), but the closing date (27 October) has not been pushed back accordingly. And, well, only 12 of the 44 applications have been posted. And, of those, crucial sections -- involving registry by-laws and policies, for example -- are inexplicably inaccessible (e.g., ), vague to the point of meaninglessness (e.g., registry by-laws in Nokia's .mas, .max, etc.), or none of your business (e.g., the WHO proposal for .health). Given that one of ICANN's main stated reasons for delaying publication of the proposals stems from claims of "confidentiality," the roving_reporter suspects that proposals unveiled later may be even more spotty. Aside from all that, though, ICANN really wants to hear what you, the public, have to say.

One of the subtler dynamics at work in this process is the way in which ICANN effectively engineered a pseudo-bottom-up consensus on the fractious question of "protecting" intellectual property claims (not "rights"). Section 8 of the 15 August "Criteria for Assessing TLD Proposals" states, "In introducing new TLDs, care should be taken to ensure that the rights of third parties are appropriately protected," then elaborates with specific pointers. Not surprisingly, most of the proposals go to great pains to promise that they'll respect these putative rights (see, for example, the groveling and open-ended provisions in the .KIDS Domains proposal). There is, of course, no consensus whatsoever that an intellectual property claim mechanically translates into the right to a domain -- let alone into the right to the domain in every new TLD. But you'd never guess that from reading the proposals; in fact, several of the proposals speak of specific provisions for "sunrise" periods during which intellectual property claimants might get first shot and/or opportunities for preemptive challenge. Funny how this "consensus" works, isn't it?

Fri Oct 13 01:56:38 EDT 2000

Amazing grace

In the closing hour of ICANN's MAL election, someone at ICANN decided, without explanation, to extend the election's closing by thirty minutes -- a "grace period," as their front page put it. For an election already marred by half-truths and/or incompetence, this culmination seemed peculiar enough to wonder grace for whom? After all, tinkering with the rules of an election in progress is a hallmark of electoral fraud; and despite lip service about the "overwhelming success" of the MAL signup, the repeated efforts of ICANN's eternally "interim" board to hobble direct representation of users is well known. So why risk allegations of electoral irregularities to make sure that latecomers got their votes in? If the outcome of the vote had been an upset, this last-minute twist surely would have raised a few eyebrows. And diligent roving_readers will remember, of course, that the last time latecomers appeared on the scene, in the MAL signup process, ICANN's Policy Potentate Andrew McLaughlin derided them as "people with no understanding of ICANN...being pushed to register" -- hardly the kind of assessment that intimates a "grace period" might be in store later on.

Well, as it turns out, for 30-40 minutes of the closing hour of ICANN's MAL election, anyone trying to cast a vote (or merely monitoring the results) found that the host running the election, icann.election.com, was unreachable. But according to this WiReD News report, the company that was running the election processing, wasn't at fault -- ICANN was:

[Election.com CEO Jon] Mohen said that the initial problems were due to a quirk in the way ICANN wanted the election handled. "Typically, we control the whole election," he said, "but ICANN didn't want us to have access to the voters' names."

Fair enough: if the candidates themselves weren't given access to the voter rolls, why should election.com get it? But here's the kicker:

This requirement necessitated an ICANN-designed "front-end," Mohen said. That was the component that broke down.

The roving_reporter wagers that this "front-end" was written by the selfsame ICANNophile who reportedly wrote the crufty MAL signup process; but there's not much point in asking that question, since ICANN has repeatedly sidestepped our questions about that system.

The half-hour extension of the election closing seems both fair and well-intended, but calling it a "grace period"? Feh. The main beneficiary of this euphemistic "grace" was ICANN itself, whose opaque dealings and "technical coordination" skills escape accountability.

Election.com's Mohen concluded, "So we learned from this process." WiReD quotes him as "declaring that from now on, his company would require that clients divulge their voter lists, so that election.com could 'handle the whole election.'" Since it's unlikely that ICANN will release the MAL voter rolls in any future elections (if indeed there are any), Mohen's remarks suggest that his company isn't planning on working with ICANN again -- which makes the roving_reporter all the more curious to see what election.com will say in its "white paper."

Sun Oct 8 20:19:20 EDT 2000

ICANN, Humpty Dumpty; Humpty Dumpty, ICANN

"When I use a voting method," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."

Over the past months, ICANN has sent out numerous announcements to MAL participants (not "members"). Why, then, seven days into the eleven-day election -- or, accounting for time zone differences eight days for the majority of MALers -- did they finally send out a notice with a pointer to an explanation of the methodology by which the election results will be tabulated? Presumably, they were getting wind of the fact that MALers didn't understand it. Judging by the burst of messages distributed on Dave Farber's "Interesting People" list, MALers still don't understand it either.

ICANN's message to the "At-Large Members" list, dated Saturday, 7 October, (11:21:40 -0700), points at a sort of explanation of the Alternative Voting System (AVP) or Single-Transferable Vote (STV) method in the MAL FAQ:

Members will rank the candidates in order of preference ("1" for their first choice, "2" for their second, etc.). Members may rank as many or as few candidates as they choose. The votes will be tallied according to the first preferences (the "1"s). If at that point one candidate has an absolute majority (50% + 1) of the vote, he/she is selected. If not, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated.

So far so good, right?

The eliminated candidate's votes are redistributed to the next ranked candidates (the "2"s).

Uh...yeah... (Kudos to ICANN's staff for meticulously cutting and pasting this spotty description from the Election Committee's "Recommendations on Election Procedures.")

The problem is, which "2"s? There are 3 kinds of "2"s: (1) the candidate (or, if tied, candidates) who received the second-greatest number of #1 rankings in the first tabulation; (2) the remaining candidates (statistically, probably all of them) who received #2 ratings without regard to whether those rankings were eliminated in the first tabulation; and/or (3) the candidates who received #2 rankings from voters whose #1 rankings were eliminated in the first tabulation.

The ambiguity lies in the fact that, from a voter's perspective, AVP/STV is more accurately a differential ranking system than a zero-sum "voting" system. In effect, if your #1-ranked candidate gets thrown out in the first round of tabulation, your #2 ranking becomes a #1 (and #3 a #2, etc.) ranking and the results are retabulated, and so on -- until one candidate receives an "absolute majority" of adjusted #1 rankings. I think. As we have seen, ICANN's FAQ only muddies the waters; and neither of the "useful (and entertaining) background resources" the FAQ points to do either. One of them, "The Muppets Use Instant Runoff Voting" (IRV), presents a decent narrative of how an AVP/STV/IRV election unfolds (though a better explanation can be found here). But the Muppets aren't imposing an unaccountable globalized intellectual property regime on the net, now, are they? And that minor difference may prove to have a major consequence, as we shall see.

roving_readers of course now understand AVP/STV/IRV intuitively and so will have no problem making short work of this non-hypothetical eventuality: Let's say you hold four out of seven candidates in such abysmally low esteem that you refuse to rank them at all -- that is, you rank only three. Well, first off, you'll be fed a response form that looks like an error (though there are worse fates). But let's say you persevere nonetheless with your three rankings. Now, let's say, further, that none of the candidates you ranked achieves an "absolute majority" in the first tabulation. Or in the second tabulation, where your #2 becomes your #1. Or in the third tabulation, where #3 becomes #1. Or in the fourth tabulation, where...oops -- you didn't provide a #4 rank. Off to the bitbucket with you...right? Not necessarily. Your failure to rank them may not have been the protest vote you thought -- you just didn't provide an explicit basis for redistributing your rankings. And we have ways to compensate for your pathetic schemes...

Now, whether election.com will assign variables or tinker with statistics in cases where candidates weren't ranked isn't clear. Brian Reid mailed the election.com help desk to get a better understanding, but their answer was more confusing than ever. Not to fear, though: they'll publish a "white paper" -- after the election. Unless they're doing this out of the goodness of their heart, then ICANN proceeds apace with PR first and "technical coordination" second. In any event, the roving_reporter looks forward to hearing what ICANN's Election Monitoring and Oversight Panel has to say about this all.

But lest the roving_reporter seem too persnickety and negative, take a look at Safevote's newsletter, The Bell, whose current (September) issue -- available as a free sample -- discusses the importance of open-source software in electronic elections. Election.com, deemed by ICANN to be the "leading global Internet election company," uses proprietary software.

Fri Oct 6 22:38:05 EDT 2000

ICANN finnagles its own Jim Crow

No sooner had ICANN posted the list of applications for new TLDs on 3 October than the Copyright Coalition for Domain Names (CCDN) -- which in less posh and/or more philosophical precincts might be compared to a "protection racket" -- presented the applicants with an offer they couldn't refuse. Steven Metalitz, Executive Vice President of the Intellectual Property Coalition (IPC) and counsel for the CCDN sent them an email "request[ing] a copy of your application" in the hopes of "initiat[ing] a dialogue...on those aspects of new TLD applications that the IPC has identified as critical." (The IPC's "requirements" for new TLDs are here.) He went on to say, "The IPC and its constituent members have made careful review of the new TLD applications a high priority, and plan to participate actively in the public debate leading up to ICANN's decision on the roll-out of new TLDs" -- that is, in the public comment period of 9-27 October. Evidently, the CCDN got copies of some applications: on Thursday, 5 October, the president of the IPC distributed selected materials from iDomains (regarding their .biz/.ebiz/.ecom proposal), biz Regulatory and Advisory Council, LLC dba bizTrac (.biz, .ebiz, .firm, .inc, .real), ICM Registry, Inc. (.kids, .xxx), and SRI (.geo). But the rest of us lusers have to wait: evidently unaware that new TLDs might be a multibillion-dollar business, ICANN underestimated (sound familiar?) the number of applications they would receive -- and, as a result, have delayed publicly posting the applications from 7 October to 11 October (i.e., two days into the public comment period in which the IPC will be so active). In effect, and once again, ICANN's missteps magnify the discrepancy between well-organized intellectual property lobbies, who get privileged access, and the unwashed massed, who get to wait.

If two days doesn't sound like much, then why is the IPC is so eager to jump the gun? The answer: for genuine consensus-based processes, two days is a spit in the bucket, but for backroom politicking it's not to be ignored. Does "backroom politicking" sound a bit harsh? Well, as ICANN sets about approving and rejecting proposed TLDs, ask yourself just where its mantras about "bottom-up" this and "consensus" that went. And why the sudden rush, after two years, to approve new TLDs before the November meeting in LA? Not that it really matters: the MAL boardmembers won't be seated until "the conclusion of" that meeting. This is starting to smell a lot like the LA meeting where the UDRP was passed before the "initial" then "interim" boardmembers were elected.

Fri Oct 6 22:38:39 EDT 2000

and finnagles a poll tax as well

Initially, ICANN estimated that they would receive 7-20 proposals for new gTLDs, and that the total cost of reviewing the new TLD applications would be $350,000. On that basis -- where they get these numbers is anyone's guess but it's certainly not empirical -- they bass-ackwardly calculated that there should be an application fee of $7,500-$50,000. Not surprisingly, the organization that only one year ago was teetering on the edge of financial collapse took the hi^W low road and announced a nonrefundable gTLD application fee of $50,000.

In fact, ICANN received 47 applications and, with them, a windfall of over $2.3 million dollars. Assuming that their own worst-case estimates estimates are valid -- and if they weren't why are they in charge of this stuff? -- reviewing the applications should cost somewhere between that amount and $822,500 (i.e., ($350K/20)*47) -- leaving a potential surplus of up to $1,527,500. Where will the extra money go? The roving_reporter's five bucks says JDRP. It definitely won't go to the underfunded-by-underestimation MAL -- that, ICANN insists, is a "special project." But it could go to paying off...

Fri Oct 6 22:39:05 EDT 2000

ICANN's "bridge-loan into the future"

According to ICANN's general loan-disclosure statement (note well: page last amended 2 February 2000), the organization "executed one-year unsecured loan agreements" with Cisco, MCI/WorldCom, 3Com, and Deutsche Telekom. But the disclosure is window-dressing: it doesn't mention the date on which the loans were executed. For that we have to look to ICANN's 4 May 2000 proposed budget, which mentions "currently outstanding short term loans in the amount of $1.025 million [that might be] repaid on schedule in August, 2000." And indeed, just over a year earlier, the 26 July 1999 board meeting minutes confirm the term: "a number of commercial entities have indicated a willingness to loan the Corporation funds for a one-year term at interest of 7% or below." Why, then, in its successful 30 September 1999 application to the IRS for tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status -- filed in the middle of all these other "disclosures" -- did ICANN claim that it had "obtained non-recourse loans from several entities for a minimum term of one year, to be repaid after a permanent funding mechanism is created"? Maybe because it's safer to fib to the public than to the IRS? The roving_reporter asked ICANN's Maximum Leader Mike Roberts about this systematic discrepancy between statements made to the public and statements made to the IRS, and he said:

The information was consistent with what was known about the status of our budget and general financial condition at the time the documents were prepared. The Board's direction to me re extensions was after my financial report in Yokohama in July, which is referred to prospectively in the budget resolution in June, etc.

If you want to pursue more angles on financial condition, you shd probably wait until the report of the external audit is released in October. They get the last word on these matters. See related Yokohama resolution.

In other words, he didn't answer the question. Instead, we are to wait for the audit reports -- like, say, the one that mentioned that ICANN had paid $223,696 to "a company which is owned by a principal member of [ICANN]'s management" but failed to specify that the company is the Darwin Group in which Roberts and his wife are the principal stockholders.

So does reviewing $50,000 applications for new gTLDs constitute the "permanent funding mechanism" that, according to ICANN's statements to the IRS, will trigger loan repayments? Or is that, like the MAL, just another "special project" that happened to net ICANN $2.3 million? If so, maybe the shareholders of Cisco, MCI/WorldCom, 3Com, and Deutsche Telekom made a good investment after all.

Fri Oct 6 01:01:01 EDT 2000

David Post on the UDRP

David Post has posted an essay summarizing some fundamental problems with ICANN's UDRP. He concludes:

The UDRP, though, is just the opening wedge, the first step in what will likely be a long journey towards the design of the new set of legal institutions that will be setting rules and creating a degree of order for the global network. For better or for worse, this private law-making model is likely to serve as a template for other, more complex and more significant issues, whether administered through ICANN and the domain name system or otherwise. We'll be sorry -- very sorry, I think -- if we don't get it right.

Bingo.

Fri Oct 6 00:54:46 EDT 2000

The New Republic: "Kool-aid, anyone?"

Damien Cave, who covers intellectual property issues for Salon, has written an article about ICANN for The New Republic online. It's a tour de force of misinformation and credulity. For a terse rebuttal, see Jamie Love's; for a thorough trouncing, see Milton Mueller's letter to TNR.

Addendum: Cave seems to have backed away rather suddenly from deriding ICANN critics as a bunch of net.kooks: here's a Salon article about Barb Simons's candidacy for the MAL.

Thu Oct 5 14:43:44 EDT 2000

Another golden roving_reporter award...

...goes to Judith Oppenheimer, publisher of ICBTollFree News for her headline "BROWN OF NOSE, CRANED OF NECK, DOT WS PUCKERS UP TO TM BOOTY." The story? WorldSite, the commercially oriented maintainer of the .ws ccTLD for Western Samoa, tried to drum up business by "declaring war on 'cybersquatters'" -- reserving "all .ws domain names of Forune 500 public companies, Fortune 500 private companies, the top 200 Internet companies, as well as all professional sports teams for 90 days!" The roving_reporter boldly predicts that WorldSite will declare a truce with cybersquatters in, say, 91 days.

Thu Oct 5 14:43:44 EDT 2000

European MAL candidate resources

The rash of recent press and notices about ICANN Membership At Large candidates has centered on the North American candidates (see Slashdot's list here), but these candidates are running for only one of five new regional MAL seats. On 22 September, FITUG e.V., the Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft, held a moderated English-language IRC session with the European candidates; the log is available here. Fitug also maintains a discussion list, icann-europe, "to facilitate communications between the general public, including ICANN At Large Members, and the candidates for the European at large director's seat."

Thu Oct 5 14:45:43 EDT 2000

ICANN: transparency through obscurity

For several weeks, the roving_reporter pressed ICANN to release information about the systems supporting the MAL signup process -- the first and only genuinely technical process that ICANN itself has undertaken to date -- whose failures were widely noted (including in this space). In light of those failures, and in light of ICANN's attempts to blame them on "media organs...behaving quite irresponsibly" rather than admitting that ICANN had throttled the systems' processing capabilities in order to limit signups, I requested: (1) "the hardware configuration of the server(s) on which the MAL signup process is running"; (2) info on "who or what company wrote the software for the MAL signup process"; (3) "documents associated with the specification of the hardware/software configuration used for the MAL signup process"; and (4) a statement as to whether "the implementation of the MAL signup process [was] subject to an open and/or competitive bid?"

In its inimitable style, ICANN hasn't refused these requests: instead, after much hand-waving, it has refused to refuse them. On 8 August, Board chair Esther Dyson wrote with a familiar non-newtonian candor, "our system was inadequate for the demands it ultimately had to serve. There's no secret there. The board made its estimates, and we were wrong" -- the consequence of which was the hobbling of public-interest representation to counterbalance ICANN's well-entrenched representatives of commercial interests. On 18 August she brushed off the questions for good: "I don't consider [it] a priority...to find out."

Maximum Leader Mike Roberts's approach was more elaborate. On 18 August he misdirected me to "the revised instructions to the staff...contained in the Board resolution," rather than providing what I asked for, namely, the staff's instructions to the vendor. On 3 September he wrote, "the system has performed excellently against its original specification" -- which of course is the problem -- and went on to say:

I think what the community needs is impartial and complete analysis of the entire body of work on At Large, which to some extent goes back before ICANN to the discussions about what a user constituency was intended to contribute to the new corporation's technical management work. I personally don't see any way to arrive at such an analysis except through the careful work of the study group next year, its exposition of the background data provided to it by the staff, and the comments and suggestions also provided to it by the public, both professionally and non-professionally. When the press sees the study report, there will be ample opportunity to consult your own sources, experts, etc and challenge any part of the conclusions and recommendations you wish.

When I pointed out that it seemed odd for a self-styled "transparent" "technical" organization to refuse these requests, he fell silent.

Roberts's response is certainly articulate, but it's clear from his response that ICANN intends to steer inquiry away from ICANN's technical competence in implementing the MAL signup system to a very different question indeed -- whether the Membership At Large should exist at all. This agenda was made abundantly clear at the July Yokohama meeting in a number of ways:

  • changes to ICANN's by-laws stipulating that the newly elected MAL boardmembers "shall be seated at the conclusion of the Annual Meeting of the Corporation in 2000" (i.e., too late to do anything); and calling for a "'clean' sheet study -- meaning that previous decisions and conclusions will be informative but not determinative, and that the study will start with no preconceptions [i.e., the MAL's existence and right to elect boardmembers] as to a preferred outcome."

  • a discussion in which ICANN's board, staff, and JDRP General Counself Joe Sims engaged in a tendentiously scholastic debate about the Cairo meeting (IV.N.5ff.), where commercial interests had tried to quash democratic representation of users on ICANN's board (RealFnord is available here at 7.20ff.).

We shall see how candidly this "clean sheet" study assesses ICANN's implementation of the MAL signup system.

Tue Oct 3 22:04:55 EDT 2000

So much ICANN, so little time...

On the, um, accountability front, Newsbytes paraphrases ICANN Uberstaffer Andrew McLaughlin as saying the ICANN board "often bucks ICANN staff recommendations in making its final judgments on Internet governance matters" -- as opposed to merely rubberstamping staff recommendations, of course... After subjecting the world to a years-long "election," Name.space proposes a laundry list of 116 TLDs that's different from the top 116 vote-getters. Diffing that list against the one in ICANN's list of proposed TLDs reveals a subtle but undeniable shift to the right, with allegedly bottom-up gems such as ".fuck", ".girl", ".hacker", ".hell", and ".pub" losing out to top-down gambits for world domination like ".antiques", ".church", ".dtv", ".opera", ".soup" (due to intense competition in the Marx Brothers space) and ".times" (due to intense competition in the Charlie Chaplin space)... Ken Stubbs flaks for Afilias's proposed TLDs ".info," ".site," and ".web." Wait, isn't that the same Ken Stubbs who represents registrars on ICANN's Names Council? No -- wait! No problem: article V-7 of ICANN's by-laws say "The Board shall adopt policies specifically addressing Director, Officer and Supporting Organization conflicts of interest." Phew! OK, so where's that DNSO conflict-of-interest policy? It's got to be around here somewhere. Oh, yeah -- you can't be in the DNSO unless you have a conflict of interest... ICANN Maximum Leader Mike Roberts refuses for months to reveal the deep, dark secret of who wrote the crufty MAL signup software, not realizing that ICANN staffers at Yokohama happily chatted about how hard ardent ICANN-lover and paid consultant to ICANN Kent Crispin worked on it -- as well as on all the constituency elections systems. Pay no attention to that man behind the curt^W lever... WWW stands for Web Web Web, it seems: three proposals for ".web"? One of them from none other than CORE-cutout Afilias (q.v.). Now, the trademark-loving COREniks know very well that IOD already trademarked ".web", so whatever are they thinking? Well, Milton Mueller's analysis of ICANN as yet another incarnation of the IANA-ISOC-gTLD-MoUvement might provide fodder for those inclined to think that ICANN has reason to be less than even-handed in its treatment of IOD -- especially in light of IOD's suits against the IAHC and CORE. And then there's Lockheed-Martin-Marietta spinoff Neustar's ".web": IOD may pride itself on running a functioning registry for years, but Neustar runs NANPA...

Addendum: In light of IOD's lawsuit against CORE over the latter's attempted use of ".web" and CORE-supported Afilias's application to ICANN for ".web", it's well worth looking back at the confrontation between IOD's Chris Ambler and Ken Stubbs at the July 14 DNSO Names Council (NC) section of ICANN's Yokohama meeting (at section III.G.44; RealFnord is here at 4:21-25). Ambler, a contributor to Working Group C tasked with making recommendations for new gTLDs, used the "comment period" to ask NC Chair Stubbs why the NC has overruled WGC's hard-won consensus recommendation for 6-10 new gTLDs; Stubbs refused to answer (Ambler: "Am I going to get an answer? No?" Stubbs: "Not at this time, sir, no."). Now, three months later, Stubbs -- still chair of the NC as representative of a Supporting Organization that has no conflict-of-interest policy -- reappears as spokesmodel for the Afilias consortium. And it was his NC that issued a statement on 29 September "Warn[ing that] Pre-Registration of Speculative New Domain Names Is Premature" -- which is exactly what IOD has been doing by running a functioning registry for several years.

Sat Sep 30 14:12:23 EDT 2000

Milosevic, BOFH

Xeni Jardin of the Silicon Alley Reporter daily reports that "one of Yugoslavia's senior top level domain (TLD) administrators" has alleged that "a series of personal threats and blackmail from a Milosevic government official compelled a member of the .yu TLD administration team to temporarily take over and redirect" opposition sites during the elections in Yugoslavia.

Sat Sep 30 14:12:12 EDT 2000

Our Ouija board says...

...E...D...RESIGNS...C-O-B -- chairman of the board? -- ...B4...LA NOV...LEST...MAL MMBRS...VOTE...ON...NEW...COB... Who are you? J...P... Really? NO...CUL8R... Will Esther resign? Who will replace her? Will ICANN seize the opportunity for tearful pomp and circumstance to upstage any MAL activities? Stay tuned...

And whatever happened to that executive search to replace Maximum Leader Mike Roberts? The roving_reporter can think of at least one candidate who'll soon be "between opportunities" who has all the qualifications: a proven ability to manufacture consensus, a detailed understanding of elections and institutional dynamics, and a strong interest in DNS issues. Stay tuned...

Sat Sep 30 14:12:02 EDT 2000

MAL? What MAL? Oh, that MAL...

ICANN announced the agenda for its November meeting in Los Angeles. There are no plans for the shiny new Membership At Large to meet.

Sat Sep 30 14:12:39 EDT 2000

LolitaWatch, v. 2.0 offers new features

C|Net is reporting (if you call a press release larded out with factoid filler grafs "reporting") that a bloke in San Diego by the name of Page Howe has submitted a proposal to ICANN for a .kids domain. The optimistic Mr. Howe further boosted morale in the ICANN offices when he said, "If we get rejected this time around, we'll just keep trying until ICANN thinks it's a good idea"; evidently, he's earmarked $10 million for his ICANN-funding program. One wag has echoed Tim May's response to a prior proposal along these lines by dubbing Mr. Howe's project a "whois for pedophiles."

Tue Sep 26 00:50:42 EDT 2000

Jamie Love on the ICANN DNSO election results

The ever-excellent Jamie Love of the Consumer Project on Technology has posted an interesting note about ICANN's DNSO (Domain Name Supporting Organization) elections to his "Random-bits" list, which offers "a pretty good indication of the DNSO power structure," hence of the prevailing forces in ICANN. Note that Jamie received 127 endorsements, just a few shy of the total number of endorsements received by all the competing candidates combined -- and more than four times the number received by the election's winner, Jonathan Cohen, "the strongest voice for big corporate trademark interests on the ICANN board."

Fri Sep 22 13:25:42 EDT 2000

ICANN forgets to announce that it outsourced the MAL election

On the morning of Thursday 21 September, election.com, sort of announced that ICANN chose the company to "conduct ICANN's first worldwide online vote" -- the Membership At Large election, scheduled to take place 1-10 October. Curiously, a day and a half later ICANN still hasn't gotten around to announcing anything of the sort. Is this an oversight? Yet another instance of a staff straining under the burdens of B2B "technical oversight"? We shall see: if ICANN makes a Friday-afternoon announcement, savvy observers may well wonder why ICANN would want to play down such a historic development by inserting it into the media cycle just as it troughs for the weekend.

Among the "long list of satisfied customers" election.com cites in its non-press non-release is the Arizona Democratic Party. However, that arrangement didn't meet with uniform glee: the Voting Integrity Project filed suit over the contract, driven by a concerns that the reckless dotcomification of elections brought up grave questions about equality of access in the context of a public election. See this short summary of events and links in the RISKS Digest.) The VIP's specific concerns don't seem to apply to the MAL election, because the MAL electorate, almost by definition, consists of people with internet access.

Addendum: Those kooks at ICANN sent a message (Mon, 25 Sep 2000 12:14:52 -0700, Subject: [members-announce] ICANN At Large UPDATE) to its "members-announce" list mentioning the election.com non-release posted under the filename "icann-pr21sep00.htm", as if to suggest that it was released on Thursday the 21st. It wasn't: the file's modification date is Monday, 25 September, 2:29 p.m. -- 15 minutes before the mod date of ICANN's front page, which now includes a new link to the non-release that's out of chronological order. Prior to the discombobulated new link, the non-release had been relegated to a link from the secondary archival "Past Announcements, Etc." page, chronologically below the "Advisory Concerning Register.com v. Verio Litigation" ("advisory-24sep00.htm (mod date: Sunday the 24th, 5:06 p.m.). Gotta brush up on those cover-up skills, kids...

Mon Sep 18 20:12:58 EDT 2000

Q&A with North American MAL candidates

During the endorsement phase of the MAL election process, the roving_reporter put a series of questions to many of the candidates -- "member-nominated" candidates who had received more than 10 endorsements as well as candidates nominated by ICANN's top-down-appointed Nominating Committee. Even though the endorsement phase has passed and several of these candidates are now out of the running, all the responses are offered here to provide perspectives on some fundamental issues surrounding ICANN.

Of the 15 "member-nominated" candidates who met the 10 endorsement criteria, 5 agreed to respond and did so: Robin Bandy, Liz Bartlett, Eric Grimm, Subhash Gupta, and Barbara Simons. Emerson Tiller agreed to respond but didn't do so.

Of these candidates, three received enough endorsements to qualify for the election: Karl Auerbach, Barbara Simons, and Emerson Tiller. It's unfortunate that Auerbach didn't respond, because his intense involvement in DNS issues (fighting the good fight) over decades makes him almost uniquely qualified among the candidates; he is a superb candidate, whose responses would have been very instructive. ACM President and longtime public-interest advocate President Barbara Simons did respond -- and her responses are very instructive. Note: I have already endorsed Simons (see here) and Auerbach (see here.)

Of the four NomCom-nominated candidates, one agreed to respond and actually did so, Lawrence Lessig; his "telegraphic" answers are here. One agreed to respond but never actually did, Donald Langenberg. Two did neither, so strike them, Lyman Chapin and Harris Miller.

ExecSum: Auerbach, Lessig, Simons.

As we lose solid candidates such as Robin Bandy, it becomes clearer what a loss was the current ICANN Board's sneaky maneuver at the Cairo meeting, when it reduced from 9 to 5 the number of seats to be filled in this election while extending 4 unspecified Boardmembers' terms yet again.

Addendum, Sat Sep 30 17:29:12 EDT 2000: Emerson Tiller responded to the questionnaire.

Sun Sep 10 01:03:50 EDT 2000

ICANN MAL candidates: Haste wakes maste

The member-nomination phase of ICANN Membership At Large (MAL) election is finished. On 9 September at 12:41 local time (PDT), ICANN posted the final number of participants in the MAL process: Africa (321), Asia/Pacific (38,397), Europe (23,519), Latin America/Caribbean (23,519), and North America (10,694). Five hours later, ICANN posted the qualifying "member-nominated" candidates. The delay is noteworthy because, one would think, such a leisurely pace was needed to avoid any embarassing errors -- like, say, linking Lyman Chapin's name on the candidate announcement page to opposing candidate Donald N. Langenberg's statement. I hope the august committee monitoring the MAL election groks the implications of this bungle for the integrity of the electoral process. If the tabulation and publication were automated, the system would be subject to technical oversight, but they are not automated. More on this subject RSN...

Two European candidates -- Lutz Donnerhacke and Dmitri Bourkov -- received enough endorsements to qualify (2% of their region's activated MAL), but because ICANN's Board-appointed Nominating Committee named 5 out of a Board-imposed regional limit of 7 candidates in Europe, they've been disqualified in lieu of top-down candidates.

North American candidate Emerson Tiller qualified despite his relative unknown status in the field of DNS (a Google search on returns 106 pages, whereas a similar search for competing candidate <Karl Auerbach ICANN> returns 1,390). Tiller seems to have used his "icannvote.com" site -- which he lists on his At Large candidate page as a qualification -- to gather email addresses of MAL participants. Given ICANN's refusal to release contact information for MAL participants to candidates, Mr. Tiller's end-run was artful, though I'm curious to see any messages he distributed.



The above material is Copyright © 2000 by t. byfield.

The r_r began as a semi-collaborative nym on the <nettime> list, where it worked well; but the pseudonym precluded comments, and there was more to report than was good for the list, so now it -- or a mutation of it -- has resurfaced on TBTF. [ top]


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