Governance and authority of ICANN

Started by Domaining News, Apr 18, 2023, 02:10 AM

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Almost 25 years ago, the US government privatized the Internet and created ICANN, a non-profit organization responsible for administering it. The US government retained some control through IANA, but concerns were raised about their dominance after Edward Snowden's revelations in 2013.

In response, the US announced its intention to give the global community more control by transitioning IANA's stewardship to ICANN. However, questions about ICANN's legitimacy were raised as it performs public functions and exercises public powers, leading critics to argue that such services should be monopolies of governments. ICANN justified its position using functionalist arguments, but within the current geopolitical context, this may no longer be enough. The original ideal design for ICANN was never executed, according to Hans Klein.

ICANN has evolved over the last quarter-century and it is now time to evaluate its political authority. ICANN has incorporated mechanisms to justify its legitimacy, such as its board of directors representing various constituencies, gaining recognition from nation-states, and performing its duties without outside intervention. ICANN embodies principles of democratic governance through the fairness of its charter and by-laws, following a bottom-up and consensus-building policy making, and being open, transparent, and accountable.

However, an independent study revealed that while ICANN ranks highly in legitimacy perception, its legitimacy remains somewhat tenuous. Tensions in the geopolitical context are impacting internet governance, and ICANN must be proactive and take leadership to defend the multistakeholder model of governance.

ICANN must build capacity to increase its reach and communicate its message, especially to swing countries and elites who represent their countries and influence their legislative approach. The multistakeholder model may not be perfect, but it is a successful experiment and it is worth our attention and efforts.