ARTICLE 19 proposes ICANN reform

How should ICANN be reformed to ensure good governance and respect for fundamental rights? Today, ARTICLE 19 will be presenting our response to this vital question at a conference organised by Non-Commercial Users Constituency, a sub-group of ICANN which represents civil society organisations.

ARTICLE 19’s is calling for reform of one of the main players in the internet governance world – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Whilst it is relatively unknown, ICANN is in charge of areas which are vital for the functioning of the internet. It is responsible for creating an internet address book – assigning each computer a unique number (or “IP address”) so that computers can identify each other and converting these numbers to word based website addresses that are easier for people to remember (“domain names”).

As well as performing this important technical function, ICANN also makes decisions that have a big impact on public policy in the areas of taxation, intellectual property and competition.  ICANN’s decisions also have a highly significant impact on the ability of internet users to access information and therefore, the meaningful exercise of the right to freedom of expression. For example it is ICANN who must decide whether market retailer amazon can use the domain name .amazon despite the objections of several South American states who want to use the name to advance environmental protection and indigenous rights in relation to the river.

However, concerns have been raised about ICANN’s lack of independence from the US government and the limited representation of developing countries within the organisation. ARTICLE 19’s submission puts forward recommendations with a view to improving ICANN’s current governance structure and accountability, as well as ensuring human rights are protected within ICANN and in the governance of the internet more generally.

ARTICLE 19’S submission along with a list of signatories can be found here and the full policy paper here.