Will the Internet fragment? Professor Mueller gave a talk about his book “Will the Internet Fragment?” at Clemson University (his talk starts around 4:30). He says the network effects of global compatibility are powerful enough to defeat a technical fracturing of the web. The real threat comes from governments’ attempts to align information flows with their territorial boundaries. A power struggle may loom over the future of national sovereignty in the digital world.

Amazon win sets good precedent

In a victory for fairness and rule-based Internet governance, an independent review panel (IRP) has decided that ICANN was wrong to deny retailing giant Amazon, Inc. the top level domain AMAZON. Key elements of the decision were unanimous, particularly the conclusion that the Board “cannot accept GAC consensus advice as conclusive.” ICANN’s board, in denying the application, failed to provide sufficient reasons for doing so, the panel ruled. The majority of the panel also concluded that the GAC was at fault for not treating Amazon fairly.

We believe the IRP made the right decision, and we hope the ICANN board and the GAC will come to their senses and simply allow the TLD to be awarded to Amazon and be done with it. The main roadblock to this obvious solution is the perception, which we believe to be misguided, that objections from Latin American countries have some merit and therefore some “win-win” solution, most likely involving payoffs to someone, must be found. This will just muddy the waters and prolong the dispute.

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ICANN Jurisdiction Working Group Reaches Critical Juncture

ICANN is a California nonprofit headquartered in the United States. ICANN’s accountability reforms included a discussion of how U.S. jurisdiction affects ICANN’s accountability and domain name users. Not satisfied with ending U.S. control over the DNS root, a few stakeholders wanted to get ICANN out of the U.S. altogether. It is now pretty clear that there is no viable or superior alternative to U.S. jurisdiction. But there are some problems and issues associated with U.S. jurisdiction that ICANN needs to address.

In the last few months, the Workstream 2 Jurisdiction subgroup circulated a questionnaire about how ICANN jurisdiction affects Domain Name System customers and users. It called for identifying problems associated with U.S. jurisdiction. The group has finished analyzing the responses to the questionnaire. During this process, IGP put forward some  issues that demonstrated how ICANN jurisdiction can hamper access to DNS. In this blog post we provide a more general overview of those problems and explain how they can be solved without changing ICANN’s basis in California law. The key jurisdiction issues stem from U.S. sanctions and ICANN’s ccTLD delegation process. Continue reading

How ICANN is manipulating its GDPR discussions

As this blog post shows, ICANN’s management is now thinking about how to comply with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). They’d better be. Everyone knows ICANN’s Whois policies, which require registries and registrars to provide indiscriminate public access to personal data about domain name registrants, violate European privacy laws. In the past, this didn’t matter much, because the data protection laws didn’t have much teeth when it came to ICANN and the domain name industry. But under the GDPR, such violations will result in fines of up to 4% of an organization’s revenue. Not only registries and registrars, but ICANN itself, could be subject to these serious penalties. Real money is on the table.

But even with this huge threat looming over it, ICANN still can’t handle the data protection issue wisely and fairly. All of its efforts to prepare for the crisis reveal the same bias that got it into the problem to begin with. ICANN’s internal efforts involve only registries and registrars – the supply side of the industry – and not registrants. The aforementioned blog says that ICANN has formed an internal task force “comprised of senior leaders and subject matter experts” to focus on this important matter. Who is on this task force? Just contracted parties (registries and registrars), other registries and ICANN staff. There has been no effort to include privacy advocates or noncommercial users in this internal task force. Continue reading