The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a non-profit entity based on a multistakeholder multistakeholder structure that aims to coordinate the Internet's names and numbers by engaging in activities such as IP address assignment and mediation of the use of domain names, with the stated mission of seeking to keep the network secure, stable and interoperable.
According to the institution, Brazil fits into the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) macroregion, to which it devotes a formal team of five professionals, including a vice president, a communications chief, a project manager, and of particular interest: one participation manager for the Caribbean and one for Brazil. This demonstrates a particular concern with the Brazilian state that deserves a more detailed analysis.
We can observe that the country was an early host of the regular meetings of the institution, during number 16 in 2003 (Rio de Janeiro) and 27 in 2006 (São Paulo). Since then, Brazil has no longer hosted the events, but this does not reflect an indifference to the country, which has significant privilege at meetings of the institution, where translation services work with the five UN official languages (Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish) plus Portuguese. The Portuguese language is the only one to have such a priority within this ecosystem.
When the 2nd Internet Governance Forum was held in Rio de Janeiro in 2007, Brazil's Extraordinary Minister for Strategic Affairs, Mangabeira Unger, said at the opening ceremony that "ICANN played an important role in the development of the Internet. But it is past time to give that power to a more open and inclusive organization", highlighting a theme of constant back and forth in the relationship between Brazil and ICANN. Actors have demonstrated a combination of contestation, respect and caution at different times.
The institution under the leadership of CEO Fadi Chehadé, strating in 2012, had a particularly intense period of interactions. In 2013, Brazil became the first region outside the United States to have a fixed ICANN representative on its territory – part of Chehadé's plan to make it a more global institution in response to concerns being raised at the time about a monopoly on structural Internet resources from the USA, of which Brazil was once again one of the largest interlocutors. This function was initially headed by diplomat Everton Lucero, but he soon returned to Itamaraty, giving way to business PhD and technology expert Daniel Fink, who was returning from South Korea.
As highlighted in an article by Mueller and Wagner (2013), in the wake of Snowden's revelations, Brazil strongly denounced global digital espionage activities, stirring international fora and leading the most important Internet Governance institutions to call for globalization of the functions assigned to ICANN and a consequent deconcentration of the core Internet functions of the US territory.
This eventually generated an alliance between the Brazilian state and ICANN, which culminated in the creation of the "Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance", better known by the name of NETmundial. According to Chehadé, "trust in the global Internet has been pierced and now is the time to restore that trust through leadership and institutions that can make it happen." The forum was considered important because it established a space in which the principles of Internet Governance were reinforced and objectives set to be followed. Despite working more with recommendations than practical decisions, their symbolic value is high.
It is important to note that the Brazilian delegation retains prominence in the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), an ICANN committee that makes recommendations on issues involving public policy, particularly when an intersection occurs between projects managed within the institution and domestic laws or international agreements. Brazil has been a member of the committee since its first meeting, held in March 1999 in Singapore, being one of the few states represented there – since then, the committee's membership has expanded significantly.
The GAC is consensus-based, so all delegates must either agree to or abstain from the proposal under discussion, and Brazil is rarely in the background of key discussions, sometimes leading the way for consensus building. This stance has as a positive result the prominence of the country within this environment, while at the same time leading to a series of frictions.
Noteworthy was the attempt to register the new .amazon gTLD by international trade giant Amazon.com between 2013 and 2014. Under the leadership of Brazil and with support from Peru, the Amazon Cooperation Treaty countries were mobilized, creating a measure of pressure within the GAC that eventually forced the US delegation to abstain rather than spearheading the veto of the proposal as it had done at ICANN 46, in Beijing.
The continuity of the domain application process was stalled by the Board of Directors at ICANN 47, in Durbin. The main justification used was that guaranteeing this gTLD exclusive rights to a private company would prevent the use of the domain for public interest purposes related to the protection, promotion and awareness of issues related to the Amazon biome and its people.
A series of controversies involving Brazil emerged in 2016 at ICANN 55, Marrakech, making it a particularly heated meeting. The delegation from Brazil joined with Argentina and France to lead a minority group that opposed the change of rules regarding how GAC decisions were made, which were understood to have the effect of somehow minimizing the importance of the committee in the institution's decision-making process. However, the changes were implemented even with this opposition.
Following this episode, ICANN's CEO took advantage of the final letter he wrote to the Board of Directos before leaving his post to comment that he was concerned about "pressure from governments such as Brazil, China, India and Russia to bring IANA functions under United Nations control through a multilateral rather than multistakeholder governance model", meaning that these countries would be seeking a State-led governance model. Ambassador Benedicto Fonseca Filho quickly responded on behalf of the Brazilian government that "we express our deep disappointment at the manner in which the President and CEO of ICANN portrayed Brazil's position on Internet Governance."
Filho went on to affirm the importance of Brazil in Internet Governance for hosting the NETmundial initiative, for deliberating the Marco Civil da Internet (Internet Civil Framework), and for being the only state to have hosted two meetings of the UN Internet Governance Forum. "Our view [on the role of the GAC] may differ from that held by other stakeholders. However, this should not be construed as rejecting the multistakeholder model." Chehadé, known for his conciliatory stance, wrote a note apologizing for possible "misunderstandings" caused by his letter, reinforcing his admiration and the importance of the country as an actor in Internet policy.
In addition to this form of participation, it is relevant to note the inclusion of Brazilians from various sectors in ICANN. In addition to those who participate by their own means and the constant presence of the Internet Steering Committee in Brazil (CGI.br), we can look at the Fellowship program, in which the institution funds the travel of citizens of developing countries to attend its regular meetings, in which 18 Brazilians have already been called to attend since the 29th meeting (San Juan). In addition to these, 10 youth have participated in the recently started NextGen program, with two of them being called into the role of NextGen Ambassadors at subsequent meetings.
In this brief look (which is definitely not exhaustive), we were able to observe a substantial amount of interactions between ICANN and Brazil, and we could still take the analysis in other directions and consider other information that would also lead us to the conclusion that these actors have varied interests with each other, sometimes aligned and sometimes in disharmony. It is certainly a field with fertile material for study and continuous observation.