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?’
>>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.
>>PETER DENGATE THRUSH: Thank you.
I think another warning that we should take account of.