Summary of Training VI: Diversity & Multistakeholder Participation – Rebecca Lin

On 13 February 2020, Training VI: Diversity & Multi-Stakeholder Participation was successfully concluded with great inspirations and fruitful discussion from three guest speakers, Maarten Botterman (ICANN Board, Chairman), Elisabeth Schauermann (Youth IGF Summit 2019, EuroDIG) and Noelle Francesca De Guzman (Regional Policy Manager, Asia-Pacific).

Ambassadors from working group #3 presented the introduction and relevant cases regarding diversity and multi-stakeholder. The presentation was divided into the following, including multi-stakeholder, diversity and case study.

  • Multi-Stakeholder Participation by ambassador Kai-Fang Lin Rebecca

The ambassador proceeded with a brief introduction to multi-stakeholder being an open, inclusive, balancing, effective and international approach with three important attributes, opened-ended infrastructure, decentralized governance and inclusive participation to bring together stakeholders with direct or indirect interest. Everyone involved thus takes responsibility to come up with solutions with mutual benefits, further leading to a higher rate of compliance with the decision. However, multi-stakeholder is not perfect. There are some concerns and suggestions brought up by the public comments categorized into three parts, such as (1) to strengthen ICANN’s bottom-up approach with effectiveness, including prioritization and precision of the work; (2) to promote active, informed, and effective participation, such as representation and inclusivity; and (3) to foster openness, inclusivity, accountability, and transparency.

  • Diversity and Case Study- Algorithm Bias by ambassador Martha Mai Hatch

Diversity assists in creating a success-oriented, cooperative, and caring community that draws intellectual strength and produces innovative solutions from the synergy of its people. In communications policy, diversity principle is referred to as source, content and exposure diversity. The ambassador illustrated diversity issues in our daily life with the case of algorithms bias concerning how online search results are far from neutral. Instead, search engines replicate and reinforce racist and sexist beliefs that reverberate in the societies. By comparing the search results between keywords of “Asian girls” and “white men,” it is obviously noted that search results for “Asian girls” contain much more sexism and racism. The search results go beyond mirroring society, it can reinforce sexism and racism in the real world about how Asian girls are perceived.

  • Case Study- Age, Gender Diversity and Participation in ICANN by ambassador Amogh Palleri Chettuparambil

The diversity of participants in ICANN’s multistakeholder model is important in how ICANN serves its mission and core values. Age is identified as one of the seven key aspects of diversity in the ICANN community by the Cross Community Working Group (CCWG). The survey was open to the ICANN community from 10 March to 19 April 2019 with 380 individual participants. It was concluded that there is beneficial value in age diversity and inclusive for the ICANN community. On the other hand, younger respondents and females feel the most negatively affected by their age and less aware of the procedures to report ageism. Another survey from Gender Diversity and Participation-ICANN in 2017 conducted between 9 June to 8 July, most agree that all genders are treated fairly and equally in the ICANN community while it is reported that feelings of exclusion, sexism or gender bias are most likely to occur at ICANN meetings.

  • Case Study- Multi-Stakeholder Participation by ambassador Man Hei Siu Connie

Multi-stakeholder participation is widely used among ICANN Asia Pacific regional Internet registries. In LACNIC, such an approach includes working with governments, issuing recommendations, promoting participation and providing discussion spaces and community contributions via webinars and face-to-face public consultations. To facilitate diversity in the Asia Pacific Region, accommodating language and cultural diversity is critical to the economic success of the APAC region. Domain names in different scripts could be introduced without destabilizing the Internet. To accept the use of multiple scripts in domain names, it requires the active participation of multi-stakeholders of local communities to develop the necessary standards and evolve the Internet.

Guest speakers then commented on several points, including (1) diversity can also be achieved via expanding the accessibility for everyone; (2) common goal is critical to the success to multi-stakeholder as well as diversity and public interests without imposing certain kinds of beliefs; (3) the bylaws, the board, and the community are all vital to ICANN policy-making; and (4) multi-stakeholder approach is the best function but still needs to improve.

Ambassadors from working group #3 also prepared the policy questions below for discussion.

  • Have you ever noticed or experienced any notion of oppression on the internet in relation to the topic of diversity?
  • Should the government actively engage in internet governance at the national or international level? What’s the biggest challenge or risk for active government involvement?
  • The multi-stakeholder approach has some flaws, one of which is an unclear definition of consensus. How to determine consensus among diverse groups? 
  • What’s the ideal approach to internet governance? What’s the essential element for the success of internet governance? 
  • Is there any mechanism in the national or international level to facilitate diversity in internet governance?

During the breakout discussion, one ambassador shared about the hate speech, the role of social media and censorship. It gradually becomes a serious issue that big social media usually fails to detect those prejudiced speeches. This kind of incident happens a lot from big tech companies, thus creating a lot of issues between private sectors and public interests.

Nolle further shared the tension between big tech companies’ dominance and public interests. Compared to the traditional top-down, closed-door policy-making processes, the multi-stakeholder approach is necessary for the internet ecosystem to function properly. Nolle concluded that for the future development of multi-stakeholder, it is essential that (1) laying out the governance structure; (2) sharing footprint with everyone and encouraging participation; (3) opening up the venue to include everyone; (4) setting long term goals and agreeing on the fundamentals to move forward with clear directions; (5) reaching out to marginalized groups via different languages and inviting outside experts; and (6) continuously engaging with people and using the initiatives to build something bigger.

The training came to an end with Elisabeth’s presentation on age, gender and stakeholder diversity. Acceptance, opportunity, capacity, advocacy, and inclusion are crucial concerning youth participation in internet governance. Moreover, for gender diversity in technology areas, diversity includes (1) gender balance in steering committees; (2) gender balance in speaking engagements and events; (3) tackling stereotypes; (4) gender-sensitive language and pictures; (5) mentoring and networks with initiatives. As for multi-stakeholder participation, it is further noted that:

(1) Project-based or topic-based participation is more approachable;

(2) Most topics require different perspectives, regardless of structures;

(3) Deliberate action is needed for different stakeholders involvement;

(4) Cultures change at a different speed and with different outcomes; and

(5) Being surrounded by changes can be difficult but reflects an opportunity for creative solutions.

About the writer

Rebecca Lin (NetMission Ambassador 2019/20, Taiwan)
Master’s Degree in Law, National Taiwan University