I’ve lost count of how many time I’ve applied to join the IGF’s Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG), but this year for the first time I’ve actually been accepted. Since I literally wrote the book on the IGF (well, the first such book, anyway), a number of people who supported my previous applications (thank you!) expressed confusion about why I have been turned down so frequently.
Because the MAG is (still, in 2018!) appointed through a “black box” system of selection by the office of the UN Secretary-General, it’s impossible to know for sure, but one factor is certainly that the lack of accountability inherent in that system, which makes it easy for candidates who are known to be troublemakers to be quietly excluded from consideration.
I plead guilty to being such a troublemaker. I’ve made as many enemies as friends since I began my involvement with the nascent IGF back in 2006, hoping that it could become a showpiece of inclusive, deliberative, multi-stakeholder governance that could develop recommendations on global Internet public policy that the Internet community had no other way of developing.
ICANN couldn’t do so due to its limited remit, other international institutions couldn’t do so due to their own democratic deficits, and individual nation states couldn’t legitimately or effectively do so because their borders didn’t map to those of the transnational network that they sought to govern.
So we ended up in the default position, still persisting today, that the Internet would be governed by a hodge-podge of badly coordinated rules, standards, norms, and practices decided largely by powerful companies and governments, on top of a hacked-together legacy technical infrastructure that, due to luck as much as foresight, still weakly favors open and decentralised solutions.
In this context the fact that the IGF has done nothing concrete to change the status quo by developing for itself an influential role in bringing stakeholders together to influence global public policy decisions that lawmakers, technologists, and companies make (or could make) in concert, has been for me personally, and remains, a disappointment.
In case anyone hoped otherwise, I won’t be changing my tune about that now that I’ve been appointed to the MAG. I’m going to be as much of a tiresome, incessantly critical jerk as ever. I don’t suffer fools gladly, but I’m even less accepting of those who lack imagination, backbone, or ambition. The MAG is full of such people. And I don’t really care what they think of me.
It’s going to be a fun year.