22 November, 2010

Van Couvering on Controversial Strings

Antony Van Couvering
From the SO/AC MAPO discussion list:

In the event that a string rises to the level of scrutiny that we are envisioning, it will be a proverbial hot potato. it will stir up passions, it will be reported upon, and the arguments rehearsed in this working group will be repeated both within ICANN and without. Without even considering whether ICANN rules permit an outsourced body to make Board-level decisions, itis simply not credible that a decision like this -- or even a recommendation -- should be made by any party other than the Board. This cannot credibly be viewed as a non-political event.

The reason this WG and this issue are taking so long is that there aren't objective criteria for what's "moral" and what isn't. Even if you don't want to use the word "morality" you cannot deny the plain reality that these are not issues of fact, but of opinion.

Therefore, even supposing a decision or recommendation were, initially, made by an outside group, there would be incredible pressure to reconsider it. The outside group's credibility and impartiality would be attacked, which would undermine its effectiveness; ICANN would be attacked (again) for being pusillanimous, which would not be good for ICANN; and the world's governments may be pressured to take a position, which could lead to strife. In the end, the outside body's recommendations, however appealing they might seem as cover, cannot be taken seriously as something to rely upon. it would be a mistake, in my opinion, to attempt to clothe a judgment call in the costume of objectivity.  Whatever the decision, yea or nay, reliance on the judgments of a third party will be seen as a clumsy attempt to avoid responsibility.

That's the best reason for reserving to the Board the decision on controversial strings: they, either alone or with other ICANN bodies, are going to end up doing it anyway, and the effect of not sending it directly to them will be to fray and strain the credibility of ICANN and its Board, without any gain in speed, correctness, or reputation. An outside group can definitely provide objective input, e.g. as to international law, but it cannot take the place of a properly constituted decision-making body. Any attempt to do so will inevitably harm ICANN.

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