Monday, 17 April 2006

ICANN and I: the saga so far

My reporting on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has gone through several stages over the last 5 years, and is now about a very different, and more fundamental, set of issues than were at the center of my earliest stories about ICANN and Internet domains names for travel.

The details are tedious, but what’s at stake is not just the control of an important global resource — the Internet — but the rights of journalists and the public in a world in which the power to make decisions over such public resources is being transferred by governments to private corporations that lack accountability or transparency. I’m sorry that the story may seem technical, but it’s not just about travel: ICANN’s handling of .aero and .travel epitomizes the larger problems with Internet governance and privatization of decision-making on public policy.

Some of the confusion is a result of the way I backed into the story I’m now involved in. I didn’t set out to write a dissertation on ICANN and Internet policy-making, or to become part of the story myself. I began by writing a series of consumer articles, for my usual audience of travellers, about specific ICANN decisions related to travel.

But what began as an attempt to “get the story” as a journalist, and to advocate for the interests of travellers and consumers, gradually became, of unfortunate necessity, first an attempt to hold ICANN to its purported principles of transparency and then, when that was denied, an attempt to hold ICANN accountable under its purported provisions for independent oversight. My challenge as a journalist to ICANN’s secrecy and failure to follow its own rules has become the test case of both press freedom and democracy in the brave new world of governance by corporation.

It’s still a work in process, but I’ve updated my Web site to include, for the first time, a chronological history of what has happened, from the start of ICANN’s involvement with travel-speicific Internet domain names, as well as a summary of what the issues are, why they matter, what some other people think about it, and what you can do to help. There’s still plenty of room for improvement, and your suggestions are welcome.

Link | Posted by Edward on Monday, 17 April 2006, 07:13 ( 7:13 AM)
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