LOS ANGELES, CA—The Markle Foundation is committing more than $1-million to improve Internet governance, including several major initiatives designed to make ICANN, the Internet’s first international oversight body, more accountable to all users of the Internet, it was announced in a statement today by Zoë Baird, President of the Markle Foundation.
After a year of initial activities, the first elected Board of Directors of ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is now being selected; nine of the 19 Directors have already been elected by three supporting organizations representing technical and commercial interests. Users of the Internet at large will elect an additional nine Directors, and Markle is helping to ensure that this election process is representative, fair and credible.
Markle’s first initiative—a $200,000 grant directly to ICANN to initiate this process—will enable the organization to hire staff, conduct outreach (including easy-to-understand educational materials), create technical mechanisms for global voting, translate key documents into several major languages for the benefit of all potential ICANN members worldwide, and initiate the voting process.
Ms. Baird also announced that Markle had enlisted the support of, and is providing funds for efforts by, The Carter Center, Common Cause, the American Library Association and other organizations from around the world to help establish the election process, to reach out to Internet users, and to monitor the elections. These efforts are designed to encourage the greatest participation by the broadest geographic base of individuals and non-commercial users.
Ms. Baird said, “Global institutions are beginning to oversee Internet activities. The decisions they make will determine whether the Internet achieves its potential as a powerful weapon for democratic values and aspirations. Management of the Internet by a private entity will not be stable or legitimate if that entity does not adequately include the public voice. So it is essential that ICANN—which is establishing rules that impact individuals and organizations alike—be accountable to all Internet users everywhere. Specifically, that means building a legitimate way for individuals to vote and create an authority they can trust. We are bringing in experts who can make this happen.”
Ms. Baird added, “The public must be aware of what is going on, understand what is at stake and have a meaningful opportunity to express its opinion. President Jimmy Carter and the Carter Center, which has overseen scores of elections worldwide, and Washington, DC-based Common Cause, under the leadership of former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, give the Internet community the expertise of leaders who understand how to build and protect democratic institutions. They—and our other partners—will help us forge essential ties between the Internet community and established democracy advocates here and abroad.”
Esther Dyson, Interim Chairman of ICANN’s Initial Board of Directors, said, “We’re just delighted that Markle will make such a substantial contribution to ICANN’s At-Large Membership program. Markle’s commitment to broad public participation in setting policy for the Internet infrastructure is evident in the size of the grant and the attention to the issues that come with it. Although ICANN’s specific mandate is limited, we hope its activities will be a key foundation for Markle’s initiatives in building public interest and participation in the global medium. We plan to use the money to move quickly in public outreach, so that we can have broad and informed public input as we move forward in the design and implementation of the At-Large membership structure, which will ultimately produce 9 of our 19 directors.”
Initiatives announced today
The initiatives announced today include a $200,000 grant to ICANN, to fund the first phase of ICANN’s At-Large Membership Implementation Program. This program is designed to build ICANN’s At-Large Membership so that any Internet user in the world can participate. In addition, this grant will support the development of standards to ensure a fair, legitimate voting process and technical mechanisms for global voting. ICANN’s At-Large Membership will ultimately select nine of ICANN’s 19-member Board of Directors (nine additional directors have already been elected by the three Supporting Organizations; the President/CEO is the 19th member).
Markle is also partnering with a wide range of independent entities to improve ICANN specifically and Internet governance generally:
- The Atlanta-based Carter Center, the world’s leading election monitoring organization, will help the Internet community create an adequate mechanism to monitor the ICANN at-large membership elections in order to evaluate whether they are open and free of fraud. The Carter Center will also work with other leading experts in voting and democracy to determine standards for a fair election.
- Common Cause, a 200,000-plus member, nonpartisan organization promoting open, honest and accountable government, will create and lead an international group of experts in governance and public accountability to advise ICANN about how to build bona fide membership and voting processes.
- The American Library Association (ALA), the world’s oldest and largest national library association, will distribute educational materials about ICANN and individual membership, including those produced by ICANN and others, in the United States and, in partnership with international library groups, throughout the world. In addition, the ALA has agreed to create virtual “voting booths” at libraries in the United States—and work with library organizations abroad to do the same thing—for the At-Large elections.
- The Center for Democracy and Technology(CDT), a leading civil liberties organization based in Washington, DC, will produce a pamphlet on why the public should care about ICANN and the decisions its makes.
- The Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School—a research program founded to explore cyberspace, share in its study, and help pioneer its development—will explore mechanisms for open governance and deliberation online. In addition, Markle and the Berkman Center co-hosted a public workshop on ICANN and pressing public interest issues in Los Angeles on October 31st.
Markle also intends to take other steps to assist leaders from around the world to participate in meetings of ICANN.
Said Scott Harshbarger, President of Common Cause, and former Attorney General of Massachusetts, “Throughout our 30-year history, Common Cause has been a leading voice for citizens on issues of democratic process, civic participation, and openness and accountability in American government. We look forward to drawing on this experience to promote democratic values in Internet governance through work with the Markle Foundation.”
“Libraries are the cornerstone of democracy,” said ALA President-Elect Nancy Kranich. “They provide the information people need to be well informed, and they provide access to millions of users. No place is better suited than libraries to foster democracy in action on the Internet.”
Jerry Berman, Executive Director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, added, “Control over Internet names could ultimately impact vital public interest including free expression, personal privacy, and the structure of tomorrow’s Internet. An open and accessible domain name system makes it possible for anyone to stand on a street corner in cyberspace and speak to the whole world. We need to make sure that domain name governance is consistent with our fundamental civil liberties. Public interest participation in and oversight of this governance system is essential to preserve those liberties.”
“Deliberation is at the core of both open education and open governance: a chance for views to evolve and to be refined, rather than simply summed,” said Jonathan Zittrain, Executive Director of the Berkman Center. “We are seeking to build a kernel of open source tools to facilitate broad-based online discussion, deliberation, and closure on issues that concern large and diverse groups of people and institutions.”
ICANN Initiatives are Centerpiece of Markle’s Internet Governance Project
The initiatives announced today at ICANN’s first annual meeting are part of Markle’s recently-launched Internet Governance Project (IGP). Markle has committed more than $1 million to the Internet Governance Project, which is designed to promote the public interest in nontraditional, international venues where decisions are increasingly made and standards are set that affect the Internet. These venues—non-governmental organizations such as ICANN and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and intergovernmental or regional organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization—consider such issues as electronic commerce standards, intellectual property, consumer protection, privacy, content regulation, taxation and online jurisdiction.
An important component of Markle’s Policy for a Networked Society program, the Internet Governance Project will promote the public’s interest in a number of ways, such as:
Increase awareness among public interest leaders about how the decisions of non-traditional policy-making entities are affecting their constituencies;
Provide useful, cutting-edge policy analysis from scholars and professionals from the law, political science, public policy and other relevant disciplines;
Assist in institution building by working with nontraditional policymaking entities to make them more accountable and democratic as they remain efficient and goal oriented.
Markle Foundation works to improve health and national security through the use of information and technology. Markle collaborates with innovators and thought leaders from the public and private sectors whose expertise lies in the areas of information technology, privacy, civil liberties, health, and national security. Learn more about Markle at www.markle.org.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a non-profit, international corporation formed in September 1998 to oversee a select set of Internet technical management functions currently managed by the U.S. Government, or by its contractors and volunteers. Specifically, ICANN is assuming responsibility for coordinating the management of the domain name system (DNS), and other important features of the Internet.