ICANN Considers Seeking International Immunity
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In the wake of several actions that have garnered very bad press and left the organization feeling beleaguered and bullied, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is looking for a way out. It’s not going to be easy, and its proposed solution may not be the right answer.
The whole matter is discussed in a nine-page report released in March from ICANN’s President’s Strategic Committee. Halfway through the report, the Committee encouraged the organization “to consider…the benefits of the international private organization model and its related potential immunities to limit liabilities or instabilities.” What exactly is being proposed here? It’s nothing short of putting ICANN out of the reach of U.S. law.
This would mean most civil lawsuits couldn’t touch the organization, making it a lot more difficult to sue ICANN. Likewise, it would be immune to police searches and wouldn’t have to pay taxes. Its employees would enjoy some of the same privileges as diplomats, such as bringing items into the U.S. without having to pay customs duties.
There are a number of other international private organizations, including those that operate quite freely in the U.S. The one that is most familiar to most people is the Red Cross. But this is a humanitarian organization. ICANN may be a not-for-profit, but it’s hardly trying to save lives (at least not directly). It’s enabling commerce.
There’s a different international private organization that ICANN more closely resembles, according to Burke Hansen writing for The Register. He held up the International Olympic Committee (IOC), “famous for its opaqueness and arrogant lack of accountability” as having a mission closer to ICANN’s. “The IOC, too, is engaged in commerce, which is marketing the Olympics and extorting stadium facilities out of local communities.”
The potential lack of accountability would certainly be a major issue with this kind of situation moving forward. Though the ICANN report notes that “The Board should ensure…that appropriate accountability and review mechanisms are established, including utilizing international arbitration panels,” one ICANN watcher noted that the IOC’s lack of accountability “created a climate for scandal and peculation.” What hope do we have that ICANN would be any different?
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