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.