On 23-24 April 2014, at the Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance (NETmundial 2014) ARTICLE 19 is pushing for meaningful implementation of human rights in internet governance processes, specifically on improved transparency and accountability of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
With the US Department of Commerce’s announcement that it plans to transition key internet domain name functions to a global multi-stakeholder community, an important step has been made in the globalisation of internet governance.
“To safeguard the right to freedom of expression and information and the right to privacy online, improved transparency and accountability in ICANN is more important than ever for a reliable internet,” said Thomas Hughes, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director. “Reform is essential if ICANN is to fulfil its promise as a truly global multi-stakeholder organisation.”
The functions currently performed by ICANN have broader public policy dimensions. In particular, ICANN defines and enforces intellectual property rules regarding rights in domain names, which has an impact on the ability of internet users to access information and therefore, the meaningful exercise of the right to freedom of expression. However, concerns have been raised about ICANN’s legitimacy in taking policy decisions in certain areas due to its corporate governance arrangements.
“Structural separation of the policy development processes and operational aspects, as well as strong oversight, are key for the trustworthiness of ‘the address-book of the internet’,” added Hughes.
“The transition of the key domain name function to a global multi-stakeholder community should be discussed and designed with full deliberative participation of all relevant stakeholders in a variety of forums. The internet is a global resource so everyone has a stake in its future. More voices from underrepresented groups and the global south should also be heard if multi-stakeholder internet governance is to be realised.”