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PRISM, Multistakeholderism Cancer Scare, Montevideo Declaration, Brazil Summit: Where's ICANN Going?

Khaled Fattal

Many who attended the ICANN Durban meeting this summer will recall the open forum were speakers lined up to call on ICANN to either speed up or slow down the new gTLDs depending on their position or interest. I chose to address a different topic that no one was yet willing to tackle publicly. It was PRISM and the NSA surveillance scandals.

In my intervention I was also the first to also publicly warn ICANN and Fadi Chehade directly that "Trust" in ICANN and Multistakeholderism face serious perils from the Snowden revelations and the NSA surveillance scandal, known as PRISM, and that PRISM is the cancer scare to ICANN and Multistakeholderism and must be dealt with head on and "better in the public domain than during private meetings when Fadi is meeting heads of states around the world," were my words.

Many will recall that I also called on Fadi to step up and declare ICANN's position on PRISM just like Google, Microsoft and other big US companies have and that I emphasized that failure to address this cancer scare head-on will continue to erode and damage irreparably the "Trust" by stakeholders all over the world in the ICANN and Internet Governance Forum (IGF) Multistakeholder "test" models that we are preaching to the rest of the world like a new "faith" or "religion" for them to adopt.

Subsequently we all heard and read about the Montevideo Declaration and the Brazil-ICANN Summit in 2014 on Internet Governance, both born as a consequence of PRISM and the NSA surveillance scandals.

Additionally and while new revelations were hitting the world press on daily basis as many like myself were attending the Bali 8th annual Internet Governance Forum, one of the most notable revelations was about friendly nations' leaders like German chancellor Angela Merkel's phone having been "allegedly" a victim of this NSA practice. Clearly the NSA had cause to wonder if Merkel has been associating with terrorists and undesirables to the US making her a US National Security Risk.

Worth nothing, the NSA surveillance were unavoidably centre stage of most conversation during Bali IGF.

If this ICANN's new direction is ICANN's answer to my Durban public intervention and direct call on Fadi and ICANN to act on PRISM and its attempt to repair "trust", then I have done my part.

However, I remain highly sceptical of the direction this is going and whether this is another "engagement" for the sake of "engagement" to appease and diffuse the pressure cooker until something new eclipses this matter, like critical subjects that are seldom mentioned such as US Treasury's OFAC and the SDN list governing the new gTLDs and the internet itself which I also took leadership on to help create healthy debate on its merits and challenges but which today is hardly mentioned or addressed but yet remains a fact of the daily internet Governance life of the world and is central to PRISM.

Fadi and the ICANN board are yet to advise the global internet community with clearly defined deliverables they hope to achieve from the Montevideo Declaration and the Brazil Internet Governance Summit — and I call on them openly once again in this post to clearly identify what these deliverable they are seeking are to the world's internet community and to do so affirmatively before the conclusion of ICANN Buenos Aires meeting in 2 weeks in the spirit of the Bottom up model we preach to the world.

I and many like me would like to know whether this cancer scare to "trust" and to "Multistakeholderism" is being adequately and appropriately treated and dealt with or it is merely being dispensed 2 aspirins.

Over to you Fadi and ICANN Board.

By Khaled Fattal, Group Chairman, The Multilingual Internet Group. More blog posts from Khaled Fattal can also be read here.

Related topics: ICANN, Internet Governance


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