The nonprofit community’s grave concerns about this deal manifested into a town hall gathering at IGF in Berlin today, showing the importance that this issue has for organizations big and small. We call on ISOC to stop the sale of .ORG until we get answers to the important and fundamental questions this agreement presents. For instance:
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- Did the parties involved consider the potential human rights impacts of this sale?
- What safeguards exist to protect against the exploitation of the non-profit .ORG domain registrants?
- What type of oversight will ICANN engage in to help protect against bad behavior by Ethos and ensure the business respects human rights?
- Will there be complaint mechanisms to allow for non-profit registrants to challenge decisions by Ethos?
A public process would allow the relevant stakeholders to ask and answer these questions, yet ISOC have so far refused to engage in such a process. The lack of information and transparency around the sale has contributed to its perception as corrupt and shady.
.ORG domains are civil society’s own space on the internet, it is where many of us were born and grew out of. There are over 10 million .ORG domain registrations worldwide, and our community has spent decades building trust in our brands and in the .ORG domain. To disrupt that space would be to cause significant harm on entities least able to handle it. A change in ownership and practices of the registry could be very disruptive, nonprofits may have to migrate their websites, email addresses, and their entire online presences to other TLDs and would likely cause chaos.
Taken together, the removal of price caps and this opaque sale process reinforce the marginalization of civil society, who are already facing restrictions and shrinking space to operate, online as offline. We create the value of .ORG daily through our dedicated attention to our web spaces and the security and health of our online communities. Many organizations using .ORG belong to communities at risk, and it appears, with the least voice. By excluding us from the decision process, ISOC ignored and alienated us.
As core actors and defenders of the open and free internet, civil society deserve better than this disrespectful back-door deal. We urge Internet Society to open a dialogue with civil society, publicly assess and address the potential human rights impacts of this proposal, and find a common way forward. Until this has happened, ISOC must halt the transfer of .ORG. Should ISOC fail to halt the sale, ICANN must engage in proper due diligence and use its powers to prevent the transfer of PIR from happening.
This statement was amended at 6.30pm CET to clarify the role of ICANN.