Should representatives of Facebook, Orange, Thomson Reuters, BT and the movie industry have thousands of ICANN dollars spent on their travel to policy meetings?
Angry registrars are saying “no”, after it emerged that ICANN last month spent $80,000 flying 38 community members to LA for a three-day intersessional meeting of the Non-Contracted Parties House.
It spent roughly the same on the 2015 meeting, newly released data shows.
ICANN paid for fewer than 10 registries and registrars — possibly as few as two — to attend the equivalent Global Domains Division Summit last year, a few registrars told DI.
The numbers were released after a Documentary Information Disclosure Policy request by the Registrars Stakeholder Group a month ago, and published on Friday (pdf).
It appears from the DIDP release that every one of the 38 people who showed up in person was reimbursed for their expenses to the tune of, on average, $2,051 each.
The price tag covers flights, hotels, visa costs and a cash per diem allowance that worked out to an average of $265 per person.
ICANN also recorded travel expenses for another two people who ultimately couldn’t make it to the event.
The NCPH is made up of both commercial and non-commercial participants. Many are academics or work for non-profits.
However, representatives of huge corporations such as Facebook and BT also work in the NCPH and let ICANN pick up their expenses for the February meeting.
Lawyers from influential IP-focused trade groups such as the Motion Picture Association of America and International Trademark Association were also happy for ICANN to pay.
One oddity on the list is the CEO of .sucks registry Vox Populi, who is still inexplicably a member of the Business Constituency.
MarkMonitor, a corporate registrar and Thomson Reuters subsidiary that attends the Intellectual Property Constituency, also appears.
Despite $80,000 being a relatively piddling amount in terms of ICANN’s overall budget, members of the Contracted Parties House — registries and registrars — are not happy about this state of affairs as a matter of principle.
ICANN’s budget is, after all, primarily funded by the ICANN fees registries and registrars — ultimately registrants — must pay.
“CPH pays the bills and the non-CPH travels on our dime,” one registrar told DI today.
One RrSG member said only two registrars were reimbursed for their GDD Summit travel last year. Another put the number at five. Another said it was fewer than 10.
In any event, it seems to be far fewer than those in the NCPH letting ICANN pick up the tab.
It’s not entirely clear why the discrepancy exists — it might be just because fewer contracted parties apply for a free ride, rather than evidence of a defect in ICANN expenses policy.
The NCPH intersessional series was designed to give stakeholders “the opportunity, outside of the pressures and schedule strains of an ICANN Public Meeting to discuss longer-range substantial community issues and to collaborate with Senior ICANN Staff on strategic and operational issues that impact the community”, according to ICANN.
ICANN is expected to be heading to Helsinki, Finland, for its next meeting.
Director Chris Disspain dropped the name of the host city during a session at the ICANN 55 meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, today.
Apparently it’s common knowledge among attendees that the Finnish capital is being lined up as a replacement for the original ICANN 56 venue, Panama City.
Panama was cancelled due to fears about the baby-deforming Zika virus, which is running rampant in South and Central America right now.
There’s no word yet on whether ICANN 57, currently planned for San Juan, Puerto Rico in October, is going ahead.
Puerto Rico is reportedly having its own Zika problems right now.
ICANN 56 is scheduled to kick off June 27 this year. Helsinki is expected to be confirmed by the ICANN board in a resolution tomorrow.
ICANN’s Ombudsman has received what is thought to be the first complaint of sexual harassment at an ICANN meeting.
The allegation emerged during a meeting between non-commercial stakeholders and the ICANN board of directors yesterday.
During its sessions with constituency groups yesterday, the ICANN board had pushed participants for their views on geographic and gender diversity in the ICANN community.
“Two days ago I was sexually harassed at this meeting,” the complainant, who I’m not going to name here, told the board.
She said she discovered the best way to address her grievance was by reporting it to the ICANN Ombudsman.
“I was amazed that the Ombudsman told me that I was the first registered complaint of sexual harassment in the history of ICANN,” she said.
No details of the incident or alleged perpetrator were given.
The complainant said that ICANN should have a policy in place to deal with such behavior.
The organization has written expected standards of behavior, but they don’t specifically cover harassment.
While I’m aware of multiple incidents of women feeling sexually harassed at ICANN meetings — even witnessed a couple first-hand — this is the first time I’ve heard about a formal complaint being made.
A few years ago, the Ombudsman stepped in quickly to resolve an issue of sexist paraphernalia at a exhibitor’s booth, but that complaint was made by a man and did not amount to “harassment” as such.
The Governmental Advisory Committee failed to reach consensus on proposals to improve ICANN’s accountability, but has raised “no objection” to them going ahead as planned.
After burning the midnight oil in a tense series of meetings at ICANN 55 in Marrakech last night, the GAC finally agreed to the text of a letter that essentially approves the recommendations of a cross-community accountability working group.
The GAC said, in a letter (pdf) to leaders of the so-called CCWG:
While there are delegations that have expressed support for the proposal, there are other delegations that were not in a position to endorse the proposal as a whole.
In spite of this difference of opinions, the GAC has no objection to the transmission of the proposal to the ICANN Board.
This means that one of the barriers to accountability reform, which is inextricably linked to IANA’s transition away from US government oversight, has been lowered.
The GAC said it could not by consensus endorse the full suite of proposals, however.
The main sticking point was the CCWG’s recommendation 11, which essentially enshrines the GAC’s consensus-based decision-making rules in the ICANN bylaws.
A handful of governments — a bloc of South American nations, plus France and Portugal — are still not happy about this.
There is “no consensus” from the GAC on Recommendation 11, the GAC said.
There is also no consensus on the so-called “GAC carve-out” in Recommendations 1 and 2, which would limit the GAC’s ability to challenge ICANN board decisions alongside the rest of the community.
The accountability plan still needs to be formally endorsed by a couple more ICANN community groups, before it is submitted to the ICANN board for approval, which is expected to happen over the next 48 hours.
ICANN chair Steve Crocker has denied that outgoing CEO Fadi Chehade has a conflict of interest with the Chinese government, after US Senator Ted Cruz pressed him for more details on Chehade’s extra-curricular activities in the country.
“There’s no money involved, so there’s no conflict of interest involved at all,” Crocker said at a press conference, in response to a DI question, at ICANN 55 in Marrakech today.
I put the question because presidential hopeful Cruz, along with fellow senators James Lankford and Michael Lee, said in a letter last Thursday (pdf) that Chehade has a “confirmed personal conflict of interest” when it comes to the Chinese government.
That appears to be based on his admission, in a letter to Cruz et al last month, that his travel expenses to the World Internet Conference (aka, the Wuzhen Summit), where he’s agreed to be co-chair of an advisory committee after he leaves ICANN, would probably be picked up by the Chinese government.
According to Cruz, Chehade is in the pocket of the Chinese government because he has accepted or will accept flight-plus-hotel expenses to a Chinese conference, which could distract him from his $900,000-a-year ICANN salary.
Cruz’s most recent letter seeks further information about Chehade’s involvement with Wuzhen and the ICANN board’s response when they found out about it.
It appears to be basically an effort to get as much evidence as possible to support the ludicrous Republican claim that the IANA transition process initiated by the Obama administration risks handing control over internet censorship to the Chinese.
This, while some governments are complaining that the community-drafted IANA transition proposals actually weaken the hand of governments.
“There’s much less there than people are making an issue of, so there’s just no problem from our point of view,” Crocker said at the press conference.
“There are several degrees of separation between matters at ICANN and involvement with the Chinese government,” Crocker said. “[Wuzhen is] not controlled by the Chinese government and it’s intended to facilitate bringing in people from all over the world, it’s a matter of inclusion rather than exclusion.”
While Cruz asks quite a lot in his latest letter, one of the questions that leaped out at me claimed that ICANN does not publish the address of its Beijing office on its web site.
All the other local “Engagement Centers” have physical addresses listed, but not the Chinese one, Cruz said.
It turns out he’s correct.
I asked at the press conference why the address was not published on the ICANN web site and whether Cruz was correct to infer that ICANN is based in the same office as CNNIC, the government-controlled .cn ccTLD registry.
Chehade replied: “As I’m sure you’ve read in our press releases when we opened that office, that office was opened with a very clear press release by us and one by CNNIC indicating that our office would be collocated with CNNIC. So there’s nothing new here.”
He thanked Cruz for pointing out the omission on the ICANN web site and said it would be corrected.
He said that it’s ICANN’s habit to collocate engagement centers with local players, and that Beijing was nothing different. ICANN pays CNNIC for the collocation, he said.
Looking at the ICANN press release (pdf) announcing the Beijing office opening, back in 2013, it seems Chehade was incorrect, however. The press release makes no mention of CNNIC hosting the new ICANN engagement center. It does not mention CNNIC at all.
CNNIC did at the time state in its own press release, in a roundabout way, that ICANN Beijing would be sharing its office.
I also asked whether the outcome of the US presidential election would have a direct bearing on whether ICANN is able to execute the IANA transition. Would the transition happen if Cruz gets elected president of the USA in November?
Crocker gamely waffled for a couple of minutes but didn’t confirm what many take as a given: that Obama initiatives such as the IANA transition are likely to be at risk of a scuppering should a Republican, particularly Cruz, enters the White House.
“As an American I have to say this is one of the most interesting and unpredictable presidential election processes we’ve ever seen,” Crocker said, “but as chairman of the board of ICANN I hope it has no relationship at all to a process that was started in principle when ICANN was initiated in 1998.”