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Cyber-Federalist No. 1 *********************************************************


July 5, 2000

A global electronic publication on Internet governance.

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR)

The Internet Democracy Project



The first elections for cyberspace are being held this summer. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the institution overseeing the Internet's root, will hold elections for its Board of Directors. The elections offer an important opportunity to promote democracy in cyberspace, and CPSR urges you to participate!

Voter registration in these elections will close later this month (July), so you should act now.

To register to vote, you must become an "At Large Member" of ICANN:
Aditional information is available at:


ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is a private, non-profit corporation created in 1998 by the US government to administer the Internet domain name system (DNS). Although often described as a technical body, ICANN has engaged in policy matters that have important public repercussions.

Many groups, including CPSR, have argued that ICANN's rules on domain names (the "electronic signposts" of the Internet) are a form of speech regulation: the rules provide trademark protections in domain names that may exceed what is available under existing law. More importantly, ICANN's management of the Internet root gives it enormous leverage for future regulation. In exchange for a domain name, Internet users have to agree to rules that touch on issues of free speech, taxation, and anonymity.

Beyond questions of substance, ICANN's decision-making style has raised numerous concerns. It is often seen as a closed body that is unresponsive to the public. Its manner of working has even been the subject of a 1999 Congressional inquiry.


For these reasons, it is important that the public interest community participate in the election of ICANN's Board of Directors. When Internet users have a voice in decision-making, hopefully ICANN's decisions can be carefully limited to minimize its regulatory role. Public policy decisions, such as trademark protection, can be referred to duly constituted governments. Technical decisions with inextricable social impacts can be made by a Board of Directors that is representative of all Internet users. At all times, ICANN's decision-making activities can be performed in an open and transparent manner.


This summer five additional members will be elected to ICANN's board. One ICANN Board member will be elected in each of five regions:

  • North America
  • Latin America/Caribbean
  • Africa/Middle East
  • Europe
  • East Asia
The current board members were appointed by corporate and technical councils; the five new members will be elected by a global At Large Membership. There remain four additional seats designated for elected representatives of Internet users, and those seats should be filled by elections next year.


CPSR has been active for years in the debates surrounding the creation of ICANN, submitting policy proposals to the U.S. Department of Commerce and commenting on different draft initiatives. In September 1999 CPSR held a major conference on the topic, "Governing the Commons: The Future of Global Internet Administration." Information on these activities can be found at:

Recently, CPSR joined the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) to launch the Internet Democracy Project to promote voter education and participation in Internet governance. Web sites for this project can be found at:

Additional sites with information on ICANN include:

To register to vote, go to:


CYBER-FEDERALIST is a regularly-published series of analyses and commentaries on Internet governance and ICANN elections. It is produced by CPSR as part of the Internet Democracy Project.


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