In August 2009 the ICANN board decided to give its At Large community a voting position on the board. This change was hailed by many advocates of democratizing ICANN. It seemed to be a small but significant step toward improving ICANN's accountability to the public. Ideally, the new board position would be democratically selected by the world's Internet users to represent the voice of the public in ICANN.

Before this, the At Large Advisory Committee, a group of 15 people which is supposed to advise the board on the interests of all the world's internet users, was simply allowed to select a non-voting liaison who could attend and speak at board meetings, but not vote.

Last week, ICANN's At Large Advisory Committee released  its proposed process for the selection of a Board member.  It has issued a call for public comment on its proposals, and it appears as if you comment at the same link as noted above.

Don't get too excited. The proposed process is a joke. It looks like this board member will be nothing more than an ALAC liaison with a vote. In designing its process, the only question the small group of 5 people appointed by ALAC to design the process seems to have asked themselves is: what process will maximize our own chance of getting one of ourselves a voting position on the Board?

The biggest flaw in the proposed process comes from the way it restricts the nomination process. The ALAC-proposed process does not allow any individual internet user to run for the Board. Indeed, it doesn't even let any individual member of the At Large community run for the board.  Instead, it creates a Politburo of 11 people, who decides for the rest of us who can even be considered for the board post. That committee sits behind closed doors and comes  up with a list – perhaps as small as 2 or 3 names.

As if that weren't bad enough, the electorate for this representative of the over 1 billion individual internet users consists of 20 people: the At Large Advisory Committee itself, and the Chairs of the Regional At Large Organizations.

So: a tiny group of ALAC insiders controls both who is nominated, and who is the electorate. The public at large, the individual internet user, has no channel into this process.  This is a recipe for ensuring that only people well-known and well-liked by the insiders who already comprise ALAC will ever have a chance to get on the Board.

Why can't every member of an ALS have a vote? Why can't anyone in the world who is an Internet user be eligible to run? Why shouldn't those who want to be on the Board be required to build real support for themselves among real internet users, rather than the small group of a dozen or so who dominate the ALAC? Wouldn't it be healthy for ALAC – and for ICANN – to open up a bit?

You can comment on the proposed process here. We'd advise you to tell ALAC to go back to the drawing board.

We are not the only ones disappointed. The process has received significant criticism from the public; it has not generated any support from anyone not directly associated with the two dozen people who are most active within ALAC and the North American RALO.

10 thoughts on “The At Large Board seat should represent the public

  1. it was always disappointing and frustrating that as individual I cannot join ALAC through AFRALO (and no way to try through APRALO too). I am not sure, maybe they afraid of individual involvement as they can be more active and reactive than those hundreds of ALS.
    maybe that is an opportunity for ALAC to reform itself for more real inclusiveness?
    are you sure that there is censorship and comment filtering? sounds so usual for me 🙂

  2. This is to inform you that EURALO decided at its last monthly call (Tuesday 19 January) that we will include and consult our European ALSes in the Board member selection process. We consider this as a unique opportunity to include and involve our member ALSes in the decicion-making process for the At-Large Board seat and hope this will strengthen the empowerment or our members.
    Wolf Ludwig
    EURALO Chair

  3. Actually as part of the recent ALAC -At-Large Review's Recommendation Implementation processes all RALO's will be asked to look to the matter of Individuals as Members (as you note not all RALO's have that capability under their current ROP's) so this issue is indeed being addressed and proactively, of course NomCom appointments (2 year terms) for each region represented on the ALAC (so 1/3rd of the 15 person AC) are individuals appointed to bring individual as opposed to consensus built Regional ALSes( via their RALOs) views directly to the ALAC… And as all WG's and activities that form and inform our input into PDP's etc., are open to all you should not feel inhibited or obstructed from getting involved in this very direct mechanism to influence, change and for At-Large views… SO please all Individuals interested you can get involve regardless of whether your Regional Structure currently has individual Membership please do so…

  4. From the above article I'd like to make a few clarification points (which for those of you who read not just the White Paper but the outcomes of the Public Comments Process associated with the WP and who wish to follow the development of the At-Large Selection Process development for seating an ICANN Board Member will no doubt already realize)…
    Where it states => “…The ALAC-proposed process does not allow any individual internet user to run for the Board. Indeed, it doesn't even let any individual member of the At Large community run for the board. Instead, it creates a Politburo…” It is in fact specifically designed that calls for Statements of Interest in being considered as a Candidate for At-Large Selection does encourage and desire then individual internet users (inclusive of individual members of the At-Large community) to respond to the call(s) when they are made and put in SOI's (the parallelism to the NonCom mechanisms here are also from the process documents drafted clear I would have thought) The role of the 11 person BCEC which for this inaugural activity set is two reps from each RALO who are NOT either associated with ALAC or Regional Leadership roles but who come from rank and file of ALSes so N=10 and a NON voting Chair appointed by the ALAC = 11 are tasked with ensuring that any SOI applicants who are 'slated' for selection fit the desired criteria outlined in the WP and documentation and established by the At-Large Community, so that selection is made from candidates that have the required skills set(s) and experience to (if selected) best perform the role…

  5. Milton,
    this suggestion has been made many times and has been debated within At Large. In order to answer this, let me refer you to history, neatly described on:
    Whilst, by choice, I was not around “inside” the ICANN structure at the time, I was part of a concerted effort within other circles, to push for a specific candidate. I lived being out-trumped by a militant organisation that got their candidate through, not because of legitimacy of that candidate, but as a direct result of guerilla tactics to get that person on the board, whatever the cost, and in whatever ways, including using fake accounts, fake IDs, etc.
    In my opinion, the sole purpose for designing the election process as it is today, is to avoid capture. I have the firm belief that this is what we're doing today.
    Kind regards,

  6. …and if I may say, I am an example of that.
    I am not part of any ALS, yet, I have participated in many working groups, and eventually been voted onto the EURALO Board.
    It is sometimes hard, volunteer, thankless work, though, and that's often what puts people off. That's why we need more people to take part in the working groups, to spread the load, and not always need to rely on the same people.

  7. That is good news, Cheryl (allowing individual membership). Hopefully all RALOs will take this small but important step forward.

  8. Olivier:
    Within ICANN the notion of “capture” is repeatedly used by defenders of undemocratic selection methods. I must confess I have trouble understanding the argument. Are you saying that allowing a small group of already-selected insiders to select “representatives” does not pose any risk of capture? Are you saying that all forms of election must be dominated by “guerrilla tactics,” “fake IDs” and fraud? If so, what are the implications for democracy in other contexts? Are you saying that the Parliament of France should be chosen not by voters but by a special group? Are you saying that the existence of systematic election fraud in Iran, for example, means that no country should ever attempt to have a valid, democratic election?
    If you are talking about the European At large seat in the 2000 elections, then the “militant group” you are talking about is obviously the Chaos Computer Club. And frankly, it seems to me that you are just complaining because your candidate lost and clearly did not have the widespread public support they did. If you are claiming that CCC won those elections by stealing it through fraudulent means, I think that is factually wrong (their candidate won by a large margin and there was no documentation of fraud in the European region), and even if it were correct the solution is to design better eligibility verification methods not to abolish elections.
    As far as I can tell, the idea of capture, when used in this way, means nothing but this: “people I like are already in control (i.e., capture already exists) and democratic methods would threaten that control, therefore we must not have any semblance of democracy.

  9. Milton: wrt “insiders”, Cheryl's message below already answers that assertion.
    As for the rest of your message, it's your opinion. My question is: as an “insider”, are you going to apply?

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