ICANN or ICANN't Represent Internet Users


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Virginia Tech


The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the organization that provides the technical support for the Internet. ICANN is a nonprofit organization based in California and is under contract to the United States Department of Commerce. It has come under attack from many sides because it is contracted through the U.S. government and it is a private entity. One of the main components of the controversy surrounding ICANN is whether it can represent a global society as a private entity and whether that private entity can represent Internet users. I focus my study on ICANN's Board of Directors. I evaluated the Board on the dimensions of descriptive, substantive, and formal representation (Pitkin 1967). Evaluation of ICANN's descriptive representation focused on the Board members' sex, educational backgrounds, and nationalities and compared the geographic representation on the Board to the global distribution of Internet users. The assessment of substantive representation looked at the Board members' votes to determine if patterns could be viewed based on members' descriptive characteristics. Finally, the evaluation of ICANN's formal representation examined its Bylaws, its 2006 contract with the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporations Code.

The analysis found that the descriptive representativeness was low. The ICANN Board does not mirror Internet users: few women have served on the Board, those with technical educational backgrounds dominated, and the regions were not represented proportionate to their use of the Internet. Analysis of substantive representativeness was inconclusive and further investigation is needed. The formal representation analysis suggests that the ICANN Board has been formally representative.



ICANN, descriptive representation, substantive representation, formal representation, Internet users, ICANN Board of Directors