April 21, 2014

Questions of Transparency Heading into NetMundial Internet Governance Meeting

Eli Dourado

Former Senior Research Fellow
Summary

With Congress debating the Commerce Department’s plans to gradually relinquish its administrative control of the Internet’s domain name system, policymakers and stakeholders from around the world are headed to Brazil’s NetMundial conference to discuss the future of Internet governance.

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With Congress debating the Commerce Department’s plans to gradually relinquish its administrative control of the Internet’s domain name system, policymakers and stakeholders from around the world are headed to Brazil’s NetMundial conference to discuss the future of Internet governance.

Mercatus Center research fellow Eli Dourado will attend the meeting and wrote the following blog post previewing the event on Friday:

This is the first meeting of its kind, so it’s difficult to know what to expect, in part because it’s not clear what others’ expectations are. There is a draft outcome document, but no one knows how significant it will be or what weight it will carry in other fora.

The draft outcome document is available here. The web-based tool for commenting on individual paragraphs is quite nice. Anyone in the world can submit comments on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis. I think this is a good way to lower the barriers to participation and get a lot of feedback.

I worry that we won’t have enough time to give due consideration to the feedback being gathered. The meeting is only two days long. If you’ve ever participated in a drafting conference, you know that this is not a lot of time. What this means, unfortunately, is that the draft document may be something of a fait accompli. Undoubtedly it will change a little, but the amount of changes that can be contemplated will be limited due to sheer time constraints.

Time will be even more constrained by the absurd amount of time allocated to opening ceremonies and welcome remarks. The opening ceremony begins at 9:30 am and the welcome remarks are not scheduled to conclude until 1 pm on the first day. This is followed by a lunch break, and then a short panel on setting goals for NETmundial, so that the first drafting session doesn’t begin until 2:30 pm. This seems like a mistake.

Speaking of the agenda, it was not released until yesterday. While NETmundial has indeed been open to participation by all, it has not been very transparent. An earlier draft outcome document had to be leaked by WikiLeaks on April 8. Not releasing an agenda until a few days before the event is also not very transparent. In addition, the processes by which decisions have been made have not been transparent to outsiders.