(No.123) Human Rights, Internet Policy and the Public Policy Role of ICANN

Go to Report
Workshop Theme: 
Managing Critical Internet Resources
Theme Question: 


Concise Description of Workshop: 

The recent years have proven that the openness of Internet is a
fundamental feature for the empowerment of citizens and the
strengthening of democracies. The framing of Internet policy should be
oriented towards this goal and the policies governing the Domain Name
System are not a stranger to this debate.
On one hand, a human rights assessment on new ICANN policies could
provide the community with means to better understand the impacts of
the introduction of new policies in the ICANN environment, in addition
to economic analyses. On the other, new regulation is being proposed
in numerous countries using the DNS system as a resource to prevent or
stop illicit activities. The fine balance between law enforcement and
the protection of human rights, such as free speech and privacy, among
others, is crucial for a number of new Internet regulations that
affects the DNS.
For example there are tensions between the potential benefits of
aggregating specific forms of content for communities of people to
support their right to information, and the ease of DNS filtering to
further censor or narrow the spaces for expression and information of
already marginalised/discriminated against sections of society, for
example, the introduction of dotgay.
Especially at ICANN, free speech concerns over the implementation of
new generic top level domains and the traditional debate over privacy
and the WHOIS highlights the need for a more concrete analysis on the
impact on human rights on ICANN activities.
However, ICANN is not a human rights standard setting body yet is
responsible for public policy making, although in a very narrow
sphere. The role and responsibility of ICANN in relation to human
rights needs further exploration and multi-stakeholder dialogue to
better understand how to give effect to human rights related issues
within ICANN.
The proposed workshop will provide a comprehensive analysis of
internet policy topics handled by ICANN that have human rights
implications and examine how these implications are paramount to the
fostering of the public interest in internet policy.
Agenda for Workshop no.123: Human Rights, Internet Policy and the
Public Policy Role of ICANN

10 minutes – Introductions
* Moderator: Framing the questions and setting the stage for the debates
*Each panelist: 2 line introductions from each panelist – their name,
affiliation and why they think the issue is important

60 minutes – What are the most relevant topics regarding human rights
protection on the development of the public policy role of ICANN?
* Panelists have 5 (five) minutes to present their remarks, followed
by 35 (thirty five) minutes of audience discussion

40 minutes – How to implement a human rights assessment on ICANN policies?
* Panelists have 2 (two) minutes to present remarks followed by 30
(thirty) minutes of audience discussion

10 minutes – Wrap up and way forward
*Each panelist: 1 minute takeaways
*Moderator: overall summary

Organiser(s) Name: 

Joy Liddicoat - Association for Progressive Communications (APC) - Civil Society - WEOG
Carlos Affonso Souza - Center for Technology and Society at Getulio Vargas Foundation Law School (CTS/FGV) - Academia - GRULAC
Robin Gross - Non Commercial Users Constituency (NCUC) - Civil Society - WEOG

Previous Workshop(s): 

Human rights: a unifying approach for access, development and
diversity: http://www.intgovforum.org/cms/component/chronocontact/?chronoformname=W...

Submitted Workshop Panelists: 

Joy Liddicoat - Association for Progressive Communications (APC) - Civil Society - WEOG - Confirmed
Wendy Seltzer - Non Commercial Users Constituency (NCUC) - Civil Society - WEOG - Confirmed
Franklin Netto - ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee - Govt - GRULAC - Confirmed
Avri Doria - DotGay Application Advisory Group (dAAG) - Civil Society - WEOG - Confirmed
Hong Xue - Institute of the Internet Policy & Law at Beijing Normal University (BNU) - Academy - Asia Pacific - Confirmed
Kuo-Wei Wu - ICANN Board - Civil Society - Asia Pacific - Confirmed 

Name of Remote Moderator(s): 
Carlos Affonso Souza - CTS/FGV
Gender Report Card
Please estimate the overall number of women participants present at the session: 
The majority of participants were women
To what extent did the session discuss gender equality and/or women's empowerment?: 
It was mentioned briefly in the presentations and discussions
Reported by: 
Carlos Affonso
A brief substantive summary and the main issues that were raised: 

The workshop aimed at providing the audience with information on human rights implications that might arise out from the public policy role of ICANN. The panelist presented their perspectives on a number of human rights involved in ICANN activities, mostly focusing on free speech, privacy and security concerns, as well as in the implementation on a rights assessment in ICANN’s public policy activities.
Domain names – as mentioned by Wendy Seltzer - are ways for people to express themselves, either for commercial or for non-commercial purposes, in the internet, raising concerns over restrictions that might be applied to them as pointers to online speech.
As recent national laws have been authorizing the filtering of content using the DNS, as well as domain name seizures by law enforcement entities, the regulation of the DNS sets the stage for a fine tuning of the balance between several rights and interests.
The panelist discussed the fact that ICANN is not – and should not be – a human rights developing body as such would go far beyond its technical mandate. At the same time, as comment from the audience suggested, the framing of the debate around the expression “human rights” be the most adequate for some stakeholders as it may be understood as a strictly non-commercial approach to ICANN’s activities. Other concern is that it could lead to a interpretation that would expand ICANN’s mandate far beyond its reach.
On the hard task to find balance among rights, panelists commented about the protection of trademarks in the new generic top level domains program. The live question on the table was whether that would be an implementation of the compromise that was struck among a multi-stakeholder group of trademark holders, registries, registrars and non-commercials representatives, all working together to agree that there are some areas where trademarks need to be protected against infringement and some others where the rights of others to register generic terms need to be respected and balanced.
Still on the issue of new generic top level domains, Hong Xue raised the question of the community-based registrations and how they can be important to give voice to some groups, but at the same could impose some questions of representation and legitimacy that could challenge the new domain policy as drafted by ICANN.
Another topic that has been addressed by the panelists was the WHOIS policy. Apart from the usual discussion on the balance between privacy and security concerns related to the information disclosure provided by the WHOIS, panelists debated how the availability of such information may hinder online speech as registrants may feel reluctant to provide accurate information in countries in which such information may be used to locate the speaker and enforce measures to hinder opposing political views.
Focusing on the way ICANN functions and how it can be responsive to human rights concerns arising out of its activities, Kuo-Wei mentioned that such task is two-folded: first it is necessary to listen to all stakeholders on the topic and then implement a procedure when needed.
Franklin Netto mentioned that the topic of human rights and internet governance is welcomed not only for the purpose of discussing if access to internet is a human right, but as well as to provide room for the debate over a number of other human rights from the first, second and third generation such as the right to expression, to assembly and to development, all being reflected, in some degree, in the Affirmation of Commitments (AOC). The AOC, as the panelist mentioned, states that ICANN should act in the benefit of the public, and the human rights debate is a driver for the fulfillment of such task.
Privacy concerns were also raised, as it is an issue with the renegotiation of the registrar’s accreditation agreement with ICANN. In this regard there are concerns over the demands presented by law enforcement agents on data verification and validation and data retention.
On a more practical level, on the new GTLDs program there have been a proposed change in the policy development process to require a rights impact analysis on the crafting on ICANN’s policies, opening space for this debate to foster in the forthcoming years.

Conclusions and further comments: 

The discussion about rights in ICANN has matured. Not only between the multi-stakeholder groups, but in the organization as a whole. One of the main goals of the workshop was to think about ways this debate will evolve, continuing a process that has begun in recent NCUC’s Policy Summits. The organizers expect that the issue of human rights will get increasingly relevant in the making of ICANN’s public policy and therefore the existence of multistakeholders spaces for debate on what has been done and what are the ways forward with the issue will be key to guarantee that a rights assessment in ICANN’s policy will be an instrument to improve the legitimacy, transparency and accountability of the organization in the global internet governance scenario.