The board voted to reject the application 9-5 and the there was a good amount of contention among the members on the decision. And, if you have followed the history of ICANN, even knowing this is a pretty remarkable thing. The organization has been long dogged by Internet activists for being secretive, unaccountable and opaque in its decision making process. By contrast, the transcript of the .xxx debate was almost immediately posted to the new ICANN blog. On top of that, one of the board members, Susan Crawford, posted her own objections to the decision on her blog. Another board member in the minority echoed her perspective on his blog.
Yet, obviously, it's the decision here that is really important and not how it was disclosed. And, in reading the transcript, it's a pretty interesting exploration in the current state of Internet governance, how governments interact with ICANN (or not) and the impending pressures related to content and "community" norms that are hitting the Internet as it becomes more mainstream in diverse cultures around the world.
Much of the debate had to do with whether or not the board was unduly influenced by governments to make this decision. Clearly, a February 28 letter (pdf) from Australia's Minister of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Helen Coonan, was a big sticking point for some. In the letter, Coonan, who has called mobile phones "pipelines for perversion" wrote:
Looking behind the headline a bit, you'll learn that the US dropped from its number one perch in the 2005 rankings and that the Nordic countries dominate the top-10. Our future overlords in India and China come in ranked 44th and 59th, respectively. All 122 ranked countries are listed after the jump. And, please don't get me started on how on earth the Kyrgyz Republic finished behind Burkina Faso.
Why did the US drop six spots? Not because of our environment for innovation, access to capital, and university systems. All those were ranked as the best in the world. No, we slipped because of a "deterioration of the political and regulatory environment." What exactly this means, I don't know for sure. I'll have to wait to read the full report that you can buy online for 65 pounds. Yet, one can assume that our backward and self-defeating H-1B and skilled immigration policies, lack of of emphasis science and math education, and Congressional dithering on innovation policies played a big role. I would also be curious to know why (or if) the US regulatory environment was deemed more favorable in 2005 when the country finished in the top spot.
Patent reform is a rare tech policy issue that can even make Net Neutrality seem sexy. But, quite often, it's the issues that make your ears bleed and eyes tear with legalese and regulatory arcana that carry the biggest stakes. Patent reform is no exception.
Today, Drew Clark at GigaOm does a helpful job in laying out the current politics of patent reform and the impact of a Democratic Congress on the debate.
Something profound is happening when those over 80-years-old are embracing the Nintendo Wii and holding video game bowling tournaments in senior homes. AP has a story on this trend today (photo of man playing Wii baseball from AP).
While Larry Lessig gets a lot of flack in some quarters for being too extreme on Internet policy issues, I've got to say that at the very least he focuses on trying to find solutions instead of voicing repetitive rhetoric. Case in point is his "modest proposal" to code/codify the inclusion of an invisible tag in indecent Web content as harmful to minors (or H2M). Naturally, this raises all sorts of nettlesome issues regarding what really is indecent; whether this only hastens Web censorship; and, how folks can get around the rule.
However, Lessig's point is that unless someone comes up with a middle ground solutions that is less bad than filtering software that, he says, over-censors non-objectional content without any checks and balances or less bad than a free-wheeling Web where kids can easily see bad stuff, than this is a way to bring technololgy and policy together to protects kids while maintaining free speech on the Web.
Indeeed, Lessig concludes that doing nothing would ultimately harm free speech.
His idea came out a day after a federal court struck down the 1998 Child Online Protection Act (COPA) that made it a crime for Web sites to allow children to access material deemed "harmful". The judge who struck down COPA said that there were less restrictive measures to prevent kids from accessing harmful material including software filters.
While, the decision will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court, the ruling will only increase pressure on Congress to do something about protecting kids online with a rule that will make it through the courts unscathed. CDT says should do something and suggests:
Congress should promote education and the availability of filtering technology to empower parents to protect their children, allowing parents to tailor what they do to their individual child's situation. As courts and experts have repeatedly found, this approach will be far more effective at actually protecting kids.
Speaking of Net Neutrality, somehow this blog has missed heralding the hire of ex-MCI regulatory lawyer Rick Whitt to the DC team even though we saw him with a hand-written Google badge at the Internet Caucus conference back in early February. Yesterday, Whitt re-explained Google's Net Neutrality position as covered by GigaOm's Paul Kapustka and as dissected by tech policy watcher Drew Clark. Clark also shames this site's occasional Google-obsession by taking the time to comment under the GigaOm piece about the "different cultures" and backgrounds that exist on the Google government affairs team and says that this will be will be "one of the more interesting stories in Internet policy for months or even years to come."
Yes, fascinating times, indeed. I can just see a reality-TV producer pitching the can't miss show of the season...
"It's the perfect office conflict reality show. We've got a Harvard Law School guy who helped run a quasi-Internet regulatory body mixing it up with a guy, who, get this went to Yale Law School!!! And, the Yale Law School guy worked at an Internet policy advocacy think tank! I know, it's pretty crazy, but wait, it gets even better. The leading lady role goes to ..... drum roll, please .... a Republican! And, she even worked in the White House.... Okay, you really need to get off the floor so I can finish this pitch.... You good? Need water? Okay. Finally, in walks a guy from a telecom company and he went to Georgetown Law! I know. Whoa...
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