Internet Corporation for Assigned names and Numbers (ICANN) is the non-governmental organization that is primarily responsible for making key technical decisions related to the internet. ICANN was established in 1998 in California, United States.
Previously, it was Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), run by US government, which performed these tasks(ICANN,n.d.).ccording to the Joint project agreement between US government and ICANN, the responsibilities of ICANN are to ensure transparency and accountability in matters related to technical coordination of internet addresses, security of root name servers, and taking part in Government Advisory Committee.
For public, what it essentially does is that it takes appropriate steps to coordinate unique addresses of websites.Control of content on internet, stopping of spam, and access to internet do not come under its responsibilities(ICANN,n.d.).
Why is this organization so controversial?
Ever since the IANA’s tasks were transferred to ICANN, the controversy over its workings began. ICANN is mainly criticized for its unaccountability and secretive workings. It is not subject to the kind of accountability that other non- governmental organizations are. Some critics also argue that ICANN has disempowered its employees to challenge it workings through California’s laws(ICANN,n.d.).
In the beginning years, directors were appointed after a community of internet users voted them to positions. But after sometime, that rule was eliminated and now the directors are not appointed through a democratic process. ICANN defended itself by saying that they were restructuring themselves to come up to the expectations of modern internet. But, critics do not agree. So till this day, ICANN is an organization which is subject to minimal accountability.
It is also being criticized for not letting governments, United Nations, and International Telecommunication Union to exercise appropriate level of power.
3. What are one or two recent decisions this organization has recently come under criticism for?
On 25th June, ICANN introduced new rules with regard to website domains. Previously, a website owner could get a website that ended in .com, .org etc. But, now they have more choice. They can buy an address which can end in any way such as, .khi, .apple etc. Many people have criticized this move because they believe that there is no need for more competition in this market. Some also contend that there is no demand for additional domains.
Another major concern regarding this program is the high cost of getting a gTLD. According to ITworld.com, ICANN hopes to get $185,000 from organizations for gTLD and an additional $75,000 per year more to keep it. So, the cost is enormous. Governments of Paris and New York, who plan to get the new gTLD, also say that the cost of getting a new gTLD is way too high (ICANN,n.d.).
4. Why do you think so many people generally are unaware about who controls the internet?
One simple reason for people not being aware of who controls internet is that people are not interested to know about it. Many of the ordinary web surfers are mainly concerned with visiting their favorite websites and not with knowing about the controllers of internet.
Although owners of the website buy domains for themselves yet they do not know about who controls internet. One reason for this can be that many owners of websites are part- timers. So, they do not have enough time to consider these matters.