Statement of Robin Gross in ICANN Public Forum on 23 June 2011

On the question of ‘what does it mean for ICANN to act in the public interest?’

From transcript:

>>ROBIN GROSS:  Hi, this is Robin Gross with the Non-Commercial Users

Constituency (NCUC).  As someone who’s been somewhat of a long time advocate

saying ICANN should represent the global public interest, I think we

should have an exploration and discussion about what does that mean,

what does something mean to be in the “public interest.”


However, I also have grave concerns about where this discussion could

go and where it could lead, particularly since we see a lot of large

actors, governments and such that are really bringing this issue

forward — this public interest issue forward.


So I have some concerns about this.  For example, when we use labels,

things like the public interest, that sort of means we don’t have to

think anymore.  Once something has been decided that it is in the

public interest, well, I guess we don’t have to evaluate or examine

whether or not we need to think about that anymore.  So I’m concerned

about trying to, as we just heard from the last speaker, codify that

and not allow for something to be a breathing concept.


I think perhaps the better thing to do is talk about principles and

principles that we can agree can help us to achieve what we think is

the public interest, things like openness and promoting freedom and

making sure the Internet enables education, communication, innovation,

exploration, these kinds of things, these principles.


So how do we achieve that?  How do we get to what we think is the

public interest?  Well, I think it’s — by building the right process,

to reach that result.  So if we can build the ICANN internal processes

that allow for all of these important viewpoints that when taken

together will create the public interest, that is the right answer.


So I’m concerned about this idea that once a decision has been made

within ICANN under the processes, that then there’s going to be some

kind of additional separate evaluation, perhaps external evaluation,

as to whether or not that particular decision is, quote-unquote, in

the public interest.


I see that as an opportunity that’s ripe for abuse when somebody

didn’t get what they want in the internal process to then go forward

and try to get another bite at the apple and say, Well, yes, I know

that the decision came out this way but it is really not in the public

interest and so you shouldn’t do it.


So I have concerns that it is just too ripe for gaming and abuse.  And

so I think we want to make sure we talk about principles, about what

“public interest” actually means.  And I’m glad we are having this

conversation.  I’m really glad.  I’m also concerned if we try to

decide amongst ourselves right now what is the public interest, or in

the future, that we will miss the boat on that.  Thank you.



I think another warning that we should take account of.