Thoughts from ICANN 55 in Marrakech: Accountability is the watchword for 2016 and beyond


Christopher Wilson is vice president of government affairs at 21st Century Fox.

Having just returned from the ICANN 55 meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, I can attest that the overwhelming attention of attendees was on ICANN’s future. The meeting was a watershed meeting in the organization’s history, as it was during this time that the ICANN community and the ICANN Board agreed to a comprehensive set of accountability reform proposals to be sent to the U.S. government for final approval before the last ties between ICANN and the U.S. government are cut this fall. In light of this, 2016 will arguably be the most important in ICANN’s history.

Under the management of a new CEO, Goran Marby, ICANN will soon be embarking on a new chapter in its history as it goes out on its own free from U.S. government oversight, a topic I discussed on a panel this morning at the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation. And as is the case with any young adult breaking away from his or her parents, such independence brings additional responsibility. In this vein, 2016 will serve as the starting point for the implementation of new accountability mechanisms within ICANN – mechanisms that empower the multi-stakeholder community to ensure ICANN works for it and not the other way around.

Born in the mid-1990s, the commercial Internet is close to reaching the “age of majority.” Alongside the commercial Internet’s development and growth has been that of ICANN, which was created in 1998. Indeed, ICANN is where the commercial Internet, for all intents and purposes, begins.

It is for this reason that 21 Century Fox takes seriously how ICANN is accountable to businesses that rely on a safe, secure, reliable, and trustworthy Internet to engage in expression and commerce. Whether it’s general policy or other matters within ICANN that greatly affect our business model, such as mitigating Domain Name System abuse, 21st Century Fox is a leading voice among likeminded companies at ICANN. This level of engagement will certainly continue this year, as vitally important policy matters will be discussed, including the next-generation Registry Directory Services, application of all Rights Protection Mechanisms for all gTLDs and the use of ICANN’s gTLD auction proceeds.

As Chair of ICANN’s Business Constituency, I know that the general concerns 21st Century Fox has with ICANN remaining accountable to its community are shared by businesses large and small all over the world. Indeed, these concerns were expressed before and during the ICANN 55 meeting and they resonated.

However, notwithstanding the hard work done to finalize an accountability reform proposal that has now been submitted to the U.S. government for review, much remains to be accomplished.

To learn more about the accountability reform work underway, please see ICANN’s Stewardship and Accountability page.