by: Jamie Baxter
As most of you know the .GAY initiative has been a passion of mine for the past 5 years. Unfortunately, the globally coordinated LGBTQIA efforts to secure .GAY as a domain that operates in the interest and benefit of all LGBTQIA have once again hit a road block with the governing body of the Internet – ICANN.
The dotgay community application for .GAY was designed over years of engagement, discussion and endorsement from LGBTQIA’s on every continent, including the organizations that serve them. Despite these years of thoughtful planning to ensure protection and benefit for all those commonly included in the umbrella of “gay community,” ICANN evaluators have raised the bar beyond ICANN established requirements for community applications like .GAY and suggested that the homosexual male and female segment of the community should have excluded our trans, intersex and ally community members in order to succeed.
Why you might ask? Well using the words of the ICANN evaluators, the TI&A are not “gay” and have no association to the word “gay.” So what is the harm with inclusion and why are the evaluators working against the united approached requested by the community. Our community is founded on inclusion and we find our strength and voice by operating, advocating and supporting each other as a cohesive community. ICANN is forcing our community to be divided when it has clearly asked to be considered as ONE community for the implementation and operation of .GAY.
In the end this really needs to be brought back to the issue at hand – domain names (i.e. website addresses). The dotgay community model simply provides for the inclusion of all LGBTQIA who may want to register a .GAY domain name (acknowledging that some may not) and that all LGBTQIA segments will have a say in how .GAY operates so as to ensure that no harm comes to any segment through the use of .GAY domain names. In the end all LGBTQIA segments will benefit from the contractual commitment made by dotgay to return 67% of domain name profits back into the community. It’s that simple.
ICANN’s acceptance of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) grading of dotgay’s application disregards the 250+ community organization expert opinions on how .GAY would best serve the LGBTQIA and perhaps signals that ICANN lacks respect for their own mandate to “serve the public interest,” or at least the significant LGBTQIA portion. The gay community’s “interests” are clearly not being served by forcing the community to compete in auction with the other three non-community applicants for .GAY. None of the other applicants have any community rooting, nor do they have any commitments to operate .GAY in a manner that avoids harm to each and every community segment like dotgay’s community model does.
Its unfortunate that ICANN has created a hostile environment that is not unlike the battle that endangers the LGBTQIA and our advocates around the world in their daily struggle to be recognized and treated fairly in the pursuit of equality. The community, a protected class, has spoken clearly and collectively on the issue of .GAY and it is blatantly being denied recognition and respect by ICANN.
Make your voice heard using the hashtag #Yes2dotgay
One of the important facts about the dotgay LLC community application for the .gay domain name is the guarantee to give 67% of profits from the sale of domain names back to the community in the public interest. Another important fact is that they have not waited for the domain name to be allocated to give to the public interest. They have been giving to the Internet public Interest since day 1.
For the past years, dotgay LLC has been one of those helping to support efforts in Internet governance oriented around human rights and empowerment of users on the Internet. One component of their generosity involves my work. Together with several NGOs, they have contributed toward my independent work on human rights, Internet rights and technology to support human rights concerns.
Among the activities which they helped to fund:
- Extensive participation in ICANN activities, including work on human rights impact, and accountability.
- Participation in World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) activities that involve Freedom of Expression and ICT for Development.
- Participation in US delegation to World Summits on ICT issues advising the US delegation on non commercial issues including those of LGBTQIA community users.
- Support of early work on research to discover protocol considerations that affect the use of the Internet for freedom of expression and of assembly. This work has led to the creation of HRPC a candidate research group in the Internet Research Task Force.
Beyond this, dotgay LLC supported grants for LGBTQI individuals from countries where the gay community is endangered, to attend international fora.
dotgay LLC is one of the funders that enabled me to do the work that brought me the first annual ICANN Multistakeholder Ethos award in 2014 while still being able pay my mortgage and put food on the table. Without their support, I would have been hard pressed to continue at times.
All of this was done without any quid pro quo; done without any sort of policy ‘guidance’ or special requests. This is a rare form of generosity and commitment to the cause of the public interest. It is time that I recognize this and thank Scott Seitz, the leader of dotgay LLC, for his approach to the public interest.
- Reconsideration Requests – Method by which decisions of the Board of Directors or action of the staff can be appealed to the Board of Directors
- Independent Review Panel (IRP) – Method by which decisions of the Board or actions of the staff can be appealed to external reviewers.
The current mechanisms are very limited.
Reconsideration requests will only be considered if they involve a process problem; for example if they have a conflict with established policy or are based on incomplete or false information. It does not matter if they conflict with ICANN mission or core values. This has led to a situation where very few decisions are ever overturned after reconsideration.
The Independent Review Panel is administered by an international dispute resolution provider and is empowered to review any decision of the Board, which runs counter to the Articles of Incorporation or the Bylaws and that causes direct harm to an appellant. IRP recommendations are not binding on the Board. While the review panel is selected by the dispute resolution administrator, the ICANN Board of Directors must approve their selection and any operating rules and procedures the panel may establish. The current IRP may only establish its recommendations based on Board behavior; for example did they employ independent thought, engage in due diligence, and were they free of conflict of interest. The current IRP does not take into account issues where decisions made, even with the best of intentions and due diligence, run counter to the Articles or Bylaws. Additionally the current IRP uses a loser pays methodology which requires a substantial pre-payment by any prospective appellant, a deposit that can be as high as a million US dollars or more. Finally the current IRP does not allow for third party action, such as third party requests for review by the Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees of the ICANN community on behalf of public interest. In order words, very little can actually be brought to an appeal, very few have standing to use the IRP, and even fewer can afford it.
The current redress mechanisms also include an Ombudsman’s office that is responsible for making non binding recommendations based on independent evaluation of claims of ICANN unfair actions.
The proposal, which is still in review and open to comment, is proposing a set of improvements.
The most important improvement is that the mechanisms have been retooled to serve accountability to the community, to the mission and to the values of ICANN as expressed in the Articles of Incorporation and the Bylaws. The redress mechanisms will no longer focus just on errors, omissions and bad behavior. When the accountability recommendations are approved and implemented the tools will exist to hold the Board and ICANN Staff to a standard that includes respecting ICANN’s core value of serving the global public interest.
The recommended scope of the Reconsideration Process would expand to include requests concerning Board and Staff actions or inactions that contradict ICANN’s Mission or Core Values. Among the improvements in the reconsideration process are that the ICANN Ombudsman will be responsible for the initial evaluation for all reconsideration requests, instead of being done by the ICANN legal team as is the case with current reconsideration requests. Additionally, provision will be made for the requester to rebut a proposed resolution before it is approved by the full Board of Directors.
The new Independent Review Panel will consist of a group of at least 7 members who will be selected for expertise, diversity and independence for a five year non renewable term which can only be terminated for an enumerated cause such as corruption or other malfeasance. In order to keep the expenses lower for those requesting an IRP review, the IRP will be paid for by ICANN, with appellants generally responsible only for their own legal expenses. Standing will include not only parties who have been harmed, but the ICANN community in cases where ICANN mission or core values or the powers of the community have been abrogated. While cases will be reviewed by a 3 member decisional panel, appellants will have the opportunity to make a process-based appeal to the full panel if needed. In cases where the IRP determines that the ICANN Board or Staff violated the Articles or Bylaws of ICANN, their decision will be binding on the ICANN Board.
In addition to changes in scope and process, each of the mechanisms will also have transparency provisions requiring the publication of reasons for decisions and dismissals.
If approved and implemented properly, these new redress mechanisms will provide a vast improvement in ICANN accountability. All readers are invited to participate in the current review, and are encouraged to submit comments supporting these changes. The ability to have reconsideration requests that are fair and can take substantive issues of ICANN mission, core values and global public interest into account is important. A financially accessible IRP that can make binding decisions represents the opening of a new age of ICANN accountability.
dotgay has been enduring in its quest to obtain its deserved community status, the community status that enables the Gay community to finally get the contract on our community TLD, .gay. After having been the victim of a faulty first Community Priority Panel (CPE) evaluation, they are undergoing a re-evaluation. The results of this evaluation will have a strong effect on whether the Gay community gets its domain name .gay – they wait, and they wait and they wait … Keeping our fingers crossed and hoping for the decision that recognizes and supports the Gay community of LGBTQIA individuals and organizations.
dotgay has also continued its work at ICANN on other important issues. As the years in the struggle to gain the community TLD have shown, there are two serious deficiencies at ICANN: respect for communities and accountability. dotgay is engaged in efforts in both areas.
In terms of respect for communities, we are still suffering though a system that puts any community through an ordeal to prove itself to a group of so-called experts who know nothing about our communities. We are working together with other community applicants in the Community gTLD Applicant Group (CTAG) on appeals to the Ombudsman for fairness. The Ombudsman is investigating the complaints from the CTAG and we are awaiting his final determination and recommendations. We can only hope at this point that the evidence of unfairness that community applicants have presented are heeded. CTAG presented evidence on the injustice inherent in the way a program that was meant to support communities was transformed by ICANN into a program that punishes communities.
Beyond the problems in the current new gTLD program, work has begun on follow-on gTLD program. If we want to see community applications respected in the future we will need to make sure this program is designed to help communities, especially those from developing regions and endangered communities. There was a discussion group over the last year that came up with a set of issues that needed to be resolved before any further new gTLDs applications were opened. Members of the CTAG, including from dotgay, participated in this group to advocate support for communities in the future. There will be many opportunities to get engaged in the working group that designs the next set of policies and implementations over the next few years.
The other issue critical for the gay community, as well as the rest of the Internet, is ICANN’s Accountability. Over the last year, dotgay has been involved in a process meant to improve ICANN Accountability. That accountability process is one part of the process – currently under review – of transitioning oversight of ICANN from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the the US Department ot Commerce to the stakeholders of the Internet, including the Names operations (ICANN), the Numbers operations (NRO) and the Protocol operations (IETF). In terms of accountability, a major part of the focus has centered on ICANN’s redress mechanisms including:
- The Reconsideration Requests – when an appeal goes to the Board to request reconsideration of a staff action or a Board decisions
- The Independent Review Panel (IRP) – when an appeal goes to an external appeals panle
- The Ombudsman – who can take appeals based on the fairness of treatment by ICANN of its stakeholders
As gTLD applicants, dotgay has experience with the Reconsideration Requests and with the Ombudsman. Whether dotgay will need to appeal to the IRP remains to be seen based on the results obtained from the the latest CPE. The Cross Community Working Group on ICANN Accountability has now released a second draft of recommendations for improvements, including improvements in the various redress mechanisms. These are important improvements that need to be supported and included in the bylaws of ICANN. The recommendations are currently undergoing review, and the dotgay-community is encouraged to comment.
If there is interest in the dotgay-commuity in any of the subject discussed in this update, a webinar can be arranged to explain the process and the changes.
Since the Gay Community began its coming out and formed human rights (Gay Rights are Human Rights) organizations in the 19th century, the community has known that we were responsible for our own survival. This means that for over a century the gay community has required funding from the gay community in order to meet social service functions and human rights needs. In most of the world, for most of the global gay community, this remains the case today.
In the same way that the Gay Community needs to provide its own support in physical world, so too on the Internet. The digital freedom and safety of the gay community depends on the support, financial and otherwise, of the Gay Community. No one is going to fund that for us. The digital opportunities for the Gay Community are also dependent on the support of the Gay Community. No one is going to fund that for us!
dotgay LLC has 3 standard application competitors for the .gay top level domain name. These competitors have little or no relationship with the Gay Community. As investor based organizations, they have ho clear plans to support the gay community as part of their public interest obligations. Nor can they be expected to serve the Gay Community as they have financial investors they must keep richly fed.
As a community registry applicant, dotgay LLC has put its guarantee in its binding application with ICANN.
The Gay Community is intimately familiar with struggles around funding, often excluded or delayed in accessing resources because of discrimination, non-inclusive policy or lack of statistics. The struggles are widespread in the community and the challenges vary country by country based on governmental and cultural influences. In response, the Gay Community has looked to its own community members to financially support programs and services that emerge as priorities. An example of this is the immediate response of the community to the HIV⁄AIDS crisis in the 1980’s, funding programs and services well before any external support was provided.
dotgay LLC will channel funds back into the Gay Community using two methods. The first is to compensate all Authentication Partners in the community for each confirmed name registration or renewal. Secondly, dotgay LLC has also committed to giving a minimum of 67% of the profits from domain name registrations to the dotgay Foundation for redistribution back into the Gay Community.
When compared, it is obvious that the gay community loses a lot if dotgay LLC does not get a chance to fulfill it promises to the gay community. The other applicants want .gay because they plan to acquire a bundle of profits from the indiscriminate sale of .gay second level names. Profits that will not fund the Gay Community. dotgay LLC will use 2/3 of its profits to fund projects in the Gay Community.
#yes2dotgay for funding of Gay Community projects.
The coming out of the gay community over the last two (2) centuries has been instrumental in the survival of the LGBTQIA individuals who make up that community. It is good to go back to description in the dotgay LLC application:
While gay individuals have always existed, visibility of these individuals only began in the 19th century. One of the first movements for the human rights of the Gay Community was initiated by Magnus Hirschfeld (Scientific Humanitarian Committee, 1897). In the 20th century a sense of community continued to emerge through the formation of the first incorporated gay rights organization (Chicago Society for Human Rights, 1924). In the ensuing years additional organizations continued to emerge, but it was a watershed event in the streets of New York City that would kick-started what would become known as the modern gay rights movement. At the Stonewall Bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village in June 1969 male and female homosexuals, bisexual, transgendered, intersexed and allied patrons fought back against routine police raids on gay bars in the Village and the events of that evening spiraled into several nights of riots in the streets. The ensuing mayhem helped not only galvanize the Gay Community and moved many individuals out of the dark bars and into the comparatively brighter streets, but resulted in global media coverage that had the unintended effect of both launching the modern gay rights movement and connecting gay individuals around the world to a larger Gay Community. For those gays living in remote parts not only of the US but of the world, knowledge of an angry mob of gays in New York City gave otherwise isolated individuals a community to finally identify with.
To commemorate the anniversary of Stonewall, three American cities organized “gay pride” demonstrations one year later. At this writing hundreds of gay pride celebrations occur around the world and an international organization of Pride Organizers called InterPride has been created.
Many of the descendants of these and other historical organizations have endorsed dotgay LLC to lead the quest to establish a corner of the Internet where the online gay community can achieve a genuine global visibility that is under the communty’s control. This will contribute to a global goal of freedom, safety and opportunity for our community.
Together with the giants of gay community visibility on whose shoulders we stand, #yes2dotgay
The previous entry discussed the the importance of the new predictability for safety on line. The new predictability online is important not only in itself but for the opportunity it allows for innovation by the gay community within its online space: innovation in the social network, innovation in travel services, innovation in business services, and innovation that can’t be foreseen before the community TLD .gay is established
In contrast to non community TLDs that auction off all of the most useful names, like center, sport, lawyer, travel, or repair, dotgay LLc will be reserving names like these in order to build a service that allows for bona-fide gay registrant services and businesses to optionally link their domain names to a set indices that identify the services they offer and, also optionally, help to geo-locate that business for customer convenience. The no-fee optional community index is one of the features that is being planned by dotgay LLC. If the community name is approved, every registration, such as Jills-emporium.gay would be offered the opportunity to register its service and its customer area in a dotgay LLC database. A gay customer, lets say a couple living in Providence RI, who wanted to find an electrician that could be trusted to come into their home, would be able to use a user friendly application to find the gay community electricians in the Providence area, including a reference to Jill’s Electrical Emporium.
Such an index could be created by any TLD, but could one not being regulated or monitored the gay community gTLD registry and its multistakeholder community advisory board ever be trusted? Such a service depends on the trust the community gTLD builds with its community. A trust that will never be found within those gTLDs who sell any name to any one who has the money to pay the price.
This is but one of the service innovations that are being contemplated for a safe .gay domain space, one were we can predict gay community safety instead of anti-gay threat and exploitation. There are more ideas cooking, but they are all held in abeyance waiting for the powers-that-be to decide that we are gay enough and community enough for ICANN.
So, #yes2dotgay for a predictably safe space where the gay community can thrive, can be bold and can innovate the creation of new services and ways for us to interact and thrive.