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Conflict of Interest Mingled Into ICANN’s DNA, Says Insider

“ICANN ethical conflicts are worse than they seem,” says Beau Brendler, chairman of the North American Internet user advisory committee to ICANN (NARALO), in an op-ed post published today. Brendler writes: “Whatever might be said about outgoing ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom, Internet users worldwide should be thanking him. Last week in Costa Rica, at the organization’s 43rd meeting, Beckstrom blew a harsh blast of cold Arctic reality into the room about the board’s conflicts of interest. ... But I am surprised it took an outgoing CEO to point to the hundreds of conflicts of interest, both real and potential, mingled into ICANN’s DNA.”

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ICANN was designed this way Karl Auerbach  –  Mar 27, 2012 7:07 PM

If there is one word you hear in conjunction with ICANN it is “stakeholder”.

But if one stops to consider what that word means it becomes quite clear why ICANN is a bundle of conflicts.

A “stakeholder” is one who has a “stake”, and interest, in the outcome; typically a financial or business interest.

ICANN was designed to give “stakeholders” enhanced roles in ICANN’s processes.

So is it any wonder that those participating in ICANN’s processes, even at the Director level, have a “stake” in the outcome of their decisions?

And with “stake” being such a fundamental aspect of ICANN’s structure why should one be surprised if Directors and others within ICANN tend to overlook conflicts?

There will always be some people with conflicts - and they should step away during discussions and votes.  But with ICANN’s tight embrace of stakeholderism, conflicts are far more common than would be the case with a democratically selected Board of Directors.  Thus if ICANN as currently structured were to fully recognize its conflcits with recusals there might be difficulty in garnering a quorum for many of meetings of the board of directors.

Most people within ICANN hold the concept of “multistakeholder” as something to be admired.  I don’t agree with that. Rather, I consider stakeholderism to be in conflict with the democratic ideal of an ICANN in which every person has an equal voice.

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