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Comments on the ICANN Membership Advisory Committeee Recommendations
of March 18th, 1999, Pertaining to The Formation and Function of the
ICANN At-large Membership

First, it must be said that these most recent recommendations of the
M.A.C. seem to ignore entirely not only the lengthy discussions that
have taken place on the ICANN membership mailing list but the
extremely well thought out and well exposed models proposed by
Mssrs. Teernstra, Heckendorn, Fishkin, and Lowenhaupt, which appear
at the ICANN website (http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/mac/bbtop.htm).
We do not understand why such hard and fruitful work on the part of
conscientious persons deeply concerned with this process and its
successful outcome has been thrown aside. Is the ICANN Board, and
the MAC itself, unwilling to take the trouble to comprehend,
assimilate, and synthesize these proposals? If so, they should
dissociate themselves from the complex questions involved in the
formation and function of the ICANN At-Large membership and make
room for those willing and able to do the work, of which there
appear to be not a few.

This said, we offer a brief critique of the MAC's recommendations as
expressed in the Summary of the MAC Conference Call
(http://www.icann.org/mac-mar18.html), which, due to the shallow
thinking they reflect and their obvious lack of appreciation of the
objective reality that would ensue from their adoption, hardly merit
even the little space we give them here.

1.  Any individual or organisation may be an AL member. Only
ORGANISATIONS that are members of a SO are excluded. 

Comment: No criteria whatsoever for membership is a clear invitation
to persons with no real interest in the Internet, but who seek to
use a newly created organization to further their political
ambitions, to join and manipulate their standing as members for
their own purposes. As Joop Teernstra has so well pointed out in his
proposal, an Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
clearly has a primary if not unique responsibility towards those who
possess or make use of Internet names and numbers, and it is these
who should be its members. As to excluding from the At-Large
membership organizations that are members of the SOs, that is not
only impossible to control, since organizations are after all only
collectives of their individual members, but undesirable since the
organizations that belong to the SOs, as well as the individuals who
are members of them, need a forum for collective deliberation, and
that, by all reason, should be the At-Large membership.

2.  Members must apply by sending an on-line registration form
provided by ICANN, giving an e-mail address and other minimal
identification details, which ICANN will only attempt to verify if a
complaint is lodged. 

This is merely a convenience for the ICANN Board; but, like the
recommendation above, it invites the worst abuses. Who is to know if
the persons applying even exist, or if any of their information is
correct? Surely, minimal authentication, easily provided by postal
service mail-back, must be required in order to substantiate the
existence of the applicants.

3.  Members must re-register annually. Changes to registered
details, particularly e-mail address, must be advised on pain of
loss of membership. 

What is the point to this if there is no hard-copy authentication of
members' existence? It only invites further abuses, such as the
creation of unlimited false identities on a regular basis, or in the
event of an important vote.

4.  There will be no membership fee. (We consider this to be too
difficult to set equitably, and costly to collect.

This is preposterous on the face of it. No membership fee to belong
to, and vote for the directors of, the international organization
controlling the technological and sociological development of the
Internet, the most economically and socially potent tool for
communication yet invented by man? Why? So that the present Board
need not go to the trouble of thinking of a way of collecting dues,
something that is accomplished by every other organization without
great difficulty? And with what consequences? That persons may join
and vote, not only without having to substantiate their identity but
without being asked to make any a priori personal contribution
whatsoever? And how is ICANN to support itself? Through the funding
of special-interest groups, invariably those with the biggest
purses, and who will manipulate and control ICANN in proportion to
the amount of financial responsibility they provide for its
functioning? Is this what is meant by responsibility and
responsiveness to the community, as expressed in the White Paper and
ICANN's own bylaws?

6. Members form a single world wide constituency to elect AL

A nice sentiment. However, it remains to be seen if it has any
inherent significance, in light of the other, more pragmatic,
measures that may make its realization impossible.

9. There is no limit to the number of candidates at any election.

Shall all members be candidates, then? And voters as well? Every
person in the world, regardless of their character, relation to the
Internet, or willingness and ability to participate conscientiously
in its functioning, may be both a member of ICANN and a candidate to
its board of directors? This is to turn democracy on its head. As
always in such undefined situations, those who wish to control and
manipulate will find it easy to do so, since there will be no
structure impeding them from imposing their own. He who organizes
controls, as is well known.

10. We see no need for a nomination committee, or for an electoral
committee. These are tasks for the ICANN executive. 

And who is this executive? Is it not persons who must be empowered
by the membership, which at first is not yet formed? In the chaotic
and anarchic membership situation created by the foregoing
principles, any two or more persons masquerading as the interim
executive will have no trouble at all in manipulating the
candidature and election of the At-large directors. There must be
committees; as many as there are tasks to be performed; in order
that the power to control events be distributed and therefore
limited. The constant pretence that organization can be avoided will
per force result in an undesirable organization. Just as nature
abhors a vacuum, so human organizations abhor undefined
responsibilities, which are invariably assumed by those interested
in using the power that comes with them for their own ends.

Our comments end here at the last recommendation. As stated earlier,
the comments given here are poor because their subject is poor. We
remain amazed that such poverty of thought could result from such
richness of initiative on the part of so many. And again, we say
that those who have reduced the rich suggestions offered in good
faith by the potential members of ICANN to such poor recommendations
stand aside to let those willing and able to provide ICANN with a
better foundation for its future take their place.

Michael Sondow

International Congress of Independent Internet Users (ICIIU) 
        http://www.iciiu.org       iciiu@iciiu.org