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ICC and the U.N. Takeover

Editor’s Note: Upon further review of issues related to topics discussed in this article, the title “ICC Seeks U.N. Takeover While Excluding ICANN, U.S. Government from Meeting” has been replaced (Revision Date: December 12, 2003).

An organization which purports to be “the voice of world business” is proposing a de facto U.N. takeover of ICANN. The proposal by a senior official of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) would place ICANN under the U.N. umbrella and give a strong role to U.N. agencies and to various national governments, including those that suppress free speech and free enterprise. In a move of breathtaking arrogance, the ICC refused to even invite ICANN or U.S. government representatives to the meeting at which they are presenting their proposal. As reported here by Jennifer Schenker:

“Paul Twomey, the president of the Internet’s semi-official governing body, Icann, learned Friday night what it feels like to be an outsider. Mr. Twomey, who had flown 20 hours from Vietnam to Geneva to observe a preparatory meeting for this week’s United Nations’ conference on Internet issues, ended up being escorted from the meeting room by guards. The officials running the meeting had suddenly decided to exclude outside observers. Mr. Twomey’s ejection may underscore the resentment of many members of the international community over the way the Internet is run and over United States ownership of many important Internet resources. Although Mr. Twomey is Australian, Icann - the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers - is a powerful nonprofit group established by the United States government in 1998 to oversee various technical coordination issues for the global network. Icann and the United States government are expected to come under heavy fire at the conference, which begins Wednesday in Geneva and will be one of the largest gatherings of high-level government officials, business leaders and nonprofit organizations to discuss the Internet’s future.”

Any proposal or process for overhauling ICANN’s governance that excludes key stakeholders is a major step backwards for the goals of openness and transparency. Furthermore, for a business group to propose giving a strong role in managing the infrastructure of the international information economy to the United Nations, an organization best known for unwieldily, costly, ineffective, and unaccountable bureaucracies, is downright strange. Corporations that contribute to the ICC may want to reconsider how best to use their shareholder’s resources.

More on this issue at ICANNfocus.org.

Filed Under


Bryce Corbett  –  Dec 11, 2003 8:15 AM

Dear Sir/Madam

I am the Director of Communications of ICC - the International Chamber of Commerce.

This story is factually incorrect - on many levels.

Before I refute them, allow me to direct you to the real story, “Business confirms support for ICANN”, which you will find by logging on to either www.businessatwsis.net (the business portal at WSIS) or www.iccwbo.org (ICC’s website).

Now, the facts:

1. ICC has not endorsed any plans for ICANN to be taken over by the United Nations.

The internet coordination proposal to which you are referring was conceived in its entirety by prominent Jordanian businessman, Talal Abu-Ghazaleh.

It is his own personal initiative. It is not official ICC policy.

It is nothing more or less than a contribution to the debate on this issue - designed to provoke discussion.

We carried it on our website out of a courtesy to members of the responsible media who were interested in Mr Abu-Ghazaleh’s proposal.

The story carries a large disclaimer which clearly states it is not an ICC policy statement.

Mr Abu-Ghazaleh IS a member of ICC - he is the chair of our Commission on E-business IT and Telecoms.

He is also the Vice-Chair of the UN ICT Task Force - the UN-coordinated umbrella group which features members from governments, business and civil society.

2. ICC did not exclude ICANN or the US government from any meetings here at the World Summit on the Information Society.

The meeting to which you refer was called by the Swiss President, Pascale Couchepin.

President Couchepin sent the invitations. ICC was not even invited.

Finally, you lace your website article with the inference that ICC has acted in this affair with “breathtaking arrogance”.

Might I submit that wilfully printing mistruths without checking their veracity displays a certain amount of breathtaking ignorance?

The internet is a wonderful tool for the spread of information. Conversely, and as is the case with your article, it is also extremely adept at spreading misinformation. 

I look forward to seeing a retraction or correction on your website soon.

And in future, should you ever require clarification on a story which involves ICC, I suggest you start by visiting our website (http://www.iccwbo.org) or picking up the telephone.

Bryce Corbett
Director of Communications

Ali Farshchian  –  Dec 11, 2003 6:28 PM

Dear Bryce Corbett,

Thank you for your comments above and on behalf of all the readers, I’d like to thank you for the additional clarifications you have provided. Please also note that we are not a typical news publication; CircleID is an open communication hub among a very large community of independent professionals around the world most of whom are personally involved in matters they write about. As a result, it is not a single piece of article, but all opinions, analysis, and comments (including yours above) that collectively give a reader a fair sense and understanding of issues at hand. It should also be noted that we do review all posts made to CircleID and enforce the Codes of Conduct throughout the site.

To submit further comments regarding issues discussed on this page (or all other article pages), readers may use the submission box at the end of every article.

To submit a new article such as an opinion piece, interview, analysis, etc. please use the submission area—see details here.

Bruce Levinson  –  Dec 11, 2003 10:37 PM

ICANNfocus.org explained to Mr. Corbett that the reference for our story was a news article published in the December 8th edition of the International Herald Tribune (link provided on our website) that noted Mr. Abu-Ghazaleh’s ties to the ICC without explaining that he was acting on his own behalf.  More significantly, we also informed Mr. Corbett that, contrary to his initial claim to us that the ICC website contained “a large disclaimer” stating that the proposal was not ICC policy, such disclaimer was not added until after we published our story, as evidenced by the Google cache of the ICC website.  However, to ensure complete ventilation of the issue, we are publishing the complete text of all communications between ICANNfocus.org and the ICC.  We would also note that, despite our disagreements with Mr. Corbett’s allegations, his rejoinder to our response does raise some interesting issues regarding internet governance that are worthy of deeper discussion.  Please see ICANNfocus.org.

Phil Howard  –  Dec 12, 2003 3:17 AM

Dear Mr. Corbett

In your posting, you refer to articles regarding Mr. Abu-Ghazaleh’s proposal on 2 websites.  Neither provides a link to the actual proposal text.  As they say, “the devil is in the details”.  All too often governments tell people things they want to hear and things that sound good on the surface, but what comes about is sometimes exactly the opposite.  Help me to realize that such a thing is not taking place here.  How about a link to accessing that proposal, and any others, online.

While you are at it, can you also tell us who is responsible for the businessatwsis.net domain name under which the www.businessatwsis.net web site is accessed?  Here is the current information I find by whois:

  11111111111,  1111111

  Registrar: NAMESDIRECT
    Created on: 03-NOV-03
    Expires on: 03-NOV-04
    Last Updated on: 03-NOV-03

  Administrative, Technical Contact:
    STIBBE, DARIAN .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
    11111111111,  1111111
    111111 111111

  Domain servers in listed order:

If this were a legitimate organization of any nation or of the UN, there would be no need for it to hide itself from a standard means to access contact information.

Jane Clinton  –  Dec 12, 2003 6:48 PM

Phil Howard is wrong when he says that the ICC press release has no link to Talal Abu-Ghazaleh’s proposal. It had a link on Dec. 8 when I first saw the press release and it has one now. They would have had no reason to remove the link. And then put it back? Mr. Howard simply missed it.

Similar carelessness was shown by ICANNFocus in writing its article and posting it here. ICANNFocus is supposed to be monitoring regulators. *(&*! They don’t even monitor themselves very well. I for one won’t be visiting their website again for a while!

However, I can also confirm they are correct when they say that the ICC press release was an ICC press release on Dec. 8. The disclaimer was added later.

CircleID has proved its worth by hosting this forum where ICANNFocus could correct its mistakes and ICC’s little cover-up could also be exposed.

I would encourage both of them, and Mr. Howard, to pull their socks up and keep going!

However, on previewing this comment I was struck by the fact that the article headline is still in place. The headline is false. I think Circle ID should put up a disclaimer in front of that headline or else ICC might sue it - and ICANN Fosuc - for libel.

Jane Clinton  –  Dec 12, 2003 6:50 PM

I neglected to add in my earlier post that Phil Howard’s complaint about lack of contact info on the domain name registration is also misplaced. It is not out of the ordinary for someone, even an organization, not to put contact info in order to avoid spammers picking up the email address. The WHOIS info is not handled very well right now. He may not endorse that way of dealing with it, I might not either, but it is certainly no indication of anything sinister.

Phil Howard  –  Dec 12, 2003 7:09 PM

I should point out that there seems to be a problem with the “Business @ WSIS” web site, which sometimes shows no content at all, and sometimes shows incomplete content.  Having FLASH on a website that should be providing information is really more about providing glitz instead.

I should also point out that the contact information for the businessatwsis.net domain did in fact include an email address.  So the spam avoidance argument is misplaced.  Sufficient technology exists to avoid most spam (though at a cost), anyway.  The contact information in this case looks more like that of a spammer, attempting to avoid any sort of jurisdictional or authority determination.  Maybe you can explain why the owner is listed as an individual instead of an international organization by their proper name.  Maybe you can explain why there is no identity of the city name to confirm the appropriate authority is really involved.  There is a country code for Uzbekistan (is that where WSIS operates from?), but no phone number for a contact by voice.  This domain is very suspicious ... even more so than the average spammer domain.

Ali Farshchian  –  Dec 12, 2003 7:20 PM

Thank you Jane for pointing out the issue regarding the “Title” of the article. Although we would not foresee a lawsuit, nevertheless the following revision appears to be appropriate (also added to the beginning of the article):

Editor’s Note: Upon further review of issues related to topics discussed in this article, the title “ICC Seeks U.N. Takeover While Excluding ICANN, U.S. Government from Meeting” has been replaced (Revision Date: December 12, 2003)

Jane Clinton  –  Dec 12, 2003 9:19 PM

My pleasure. Keep up the good work!

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