Governments, Privatisation and ‘Privatisation’: ICANN and the GAC

Abstract: This paper examines the changing relationship between ICANN and national governments. ICANN was born out of a self-contradictory attempt to “privatize” domain name governance; its relationship with national governments has been fraught ever since.

Notwithstanding that national governments, over the past five years, have been increasingly well-organized and involved in ICANN processes, ICANN’s relationship with them today is incoherent, ill-functioning, and unstable. The paper tries to explain why. It roots the problem in an institutional structure carried over from ICANN’s formation, when it was thought that (non-U.S.) world governments should play a role only at the final stages of the privatized regulatory process.

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