The Election Is Over

Yeah, you thought there were weeks to go yet. But you missed it. The election of 2000 has ended, the votes have been cast, and the winner is…

Karl Auerbach. Auerbach works at Cisco Systems. But he is better known as CaveBear, and he’s a fierce critic of what the Internet Association for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organization he’s now on the board of, has been doing.

Auerbach beat Larry Lessig and Barbara Simons (she also stood against ICANN’s enforcing trademark laws) in a complex, multipart system of vote counting designed to avoid a runoff. In fact, Auerbach got the most votes, 1,075, against 771 for Simons and 725 for Lessig.

Auerbach’s new position is legislative in nature. He’s one of five new ICANN directors elected last week from different regions of the world. The African winner, Ghana Internet Corp. Chairman Nii Quaynor, got a grand total of 67 votes. But before you go around feeling we’re superior lovers of democracy, know that the Asia-Pacific winner, Masanobu Katoh, drew 13,913. (Katoh, by the way, is actually based in Washington as general manager of Fujitsu Ltd. USA.)

This is going to be a very interesting legislative body. Katoh is an advisor to governments, Quaynor speaks at World Bank conferences, but European winner Andy Mueller-Maguhn of Berlin is a member of the infamous Chaos Computer Club. (His page pledges he will “defend public space and free flow of information against commercial and governmental interests.”) The fifth winner, Ivan Moura Campos, is a professor of computer science at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil and a former government official there.

Auerbach has quite a growl. He writes in his “Growl of the CaveBear” that ICANN was created in secret, that its “openness” was a masquerade, that it’s the undemocratic product of the U.S. government’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in the Department of Commerce. He strongly supports the creation of more root servers and, thus, more top-level domains to join .com, .org, and .net, built in free competition. One big advantage of this, he notes, is that you could then subscribe to a root system that filters out pornography (or anything else) without disturbing anyone’s rights to have access to pornography.

Most important (to me, at least) is that Auerbach understands that ICANN is a governmental body and that, at present, it is actually very undemocratic. In a speech at Harvard’s Kennedy School in May, he was clear-headed and forthright. “ICANN’s organic documents – its Articles of Incorporation and By-laws – are apparently not worth the paper they are printed on,” he said. “ICANN ignores those documents at its pleasure and uses twisted logical syllogisms to interpret them to reach desired results.”

The guess here is that Auerbach and Mueller-Maguhn will represent a minority within a minority, two critics chosen from among five winners to sit as a minority of the ICANN board. But I can also guarantee this: Those meetings are about to get much more interesting.

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