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Words matter … sometimes?

Slide1.jpgFollowing another inconsistent evaluation of the gay community and their global effort to secure the right to operate .GAY on the Internet, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has once again been caught exempting themselves from adhering to explicit words and language used in defined process. Unfortunately this time ICANN appears to be turning a blind eye to the EIU’s double standard and blurring the lines on when explicit and vague words matter.

In an aggressive response to dotgay LLC’s latest reconsideration request, ICANN appears to be playing smoke and mirrors around the facts, barking back that reconsideration isn’t warranted simply because the gay community is unhappy with the EIU’s evaluation. Sure the LGBTQIA are displeased with how the EIU further marginalized the community and its efforts to secure .GAY, but it’s the Board Governance Committee’s (BGC) responsibility to ensure that process is followed and applicants are evaluated based on a transparent process and published rules. This includes strict interpretation of the uncompromising words used in the EIU authored Community Priority Evaluation (CPE) Panel Process Document.

According to the facts, the EIU has once again gone rogue on the implementation of their self-scripted CPE Panel Process Document. The documents clearly indicate that an “evaluator” is responsible for the verification of support/opposition letters, which also includes contacting the organizations, yet it has been proven by dotgay LLC and acknowledged by ICANN that it was not the evaluator who verified the letters in either .GAY CPE. Seemingly and without any transparent permission, the EIU has changed their own process and inexcusably ICANN now appears paralyzed or unwilling to protect the interests of the community and applicant. Has ICANN really drawn this line in the sand?

It should be noted that dotgay LLC has already exposed, and ICANN has already acknowledged, the EIU violating a published rule in the first .GAY CPE. ICANN’s acknowledgement of the violation resulted in dotgay LLC receiving a new CPE in 2015, but at the time the BGC refused to address other allegations against the EIU. It remains a concern of dotgay LLC and other applicants that the lack of transparency at the EIU has become a breeding ground for larger and more gratuitous violations of fairness for community applicants. ICANN has refused to look beyond the EIU’s front door or seek any third party verification of the EIU’s research and findings in cases where community concern has been raised. ICANN has also ignored global government advice on such concerns for the current round of TLDs.

In a rather condescending approach to examining the link between the term gay and the LGBTQIA population during CPE, the EIU suggests the gay community should have magically known how the EIU would eventually interpret vague language like “overreaching substantially” from the applicant guidebook. Despite the gay community’s well-reasoned interpretation of such vague language, not already explicitly defined by ICANN in the guidebook, the EIU has shown resistance to giving the LGBTQIA a fair shake as an inclusive community. Nor has the EIU been applying a consistent measure of “overreaching substantially” among other applications, with the gay community being among the most disadvantaged. In the same breath however the EIU is granting itself plenty of flexibility reinterpreting explicit statements describing the CPE process in their self-authored CPE Panel Process Documents.

In the end, accountability mechanisms exist to ensure fairness and provide protection against a variety of process violations, but if ICANN is unwilling to allow the mechanisms to work properly, ensuring there is one standard and not two, then what is the point. It’s clear that ICANN has its reputation, third party contractors and threat of litigation to protect, but is that more important than ensuring that a marginalized population like the gay community isn’t further marginalized in an unfair and non-transparent process.

The message currently being sent to the gay community is that words only matters when it benefits ICANN. The ICANN process is using words to divide the gay community, while the LGBTQIA are simply asking that a commonly-known and utilized word for our community be used to further unite us. When will the interests of the LGBTQIA finally matter?

#Yes2dotgay because #AllWordsMatter

dotgay LLC has filed a new reconsideration request with ICANN to have the BGC’s latest decision reviewed for inaccuracies and inconsistencies. The filing can be viewed at https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/reconsideration-16-3-dotgay-request-2016-02-18-en

How Will ICANN Handle The Issue Of Faulty Community Evaluations?

It’s a little déjà vu this time of year awaiting another response from ICANN’s Board Governance Committee (BGC) on the latest reconsideration request filed by dotgay. After receiving another failing score from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) on the all-important Community Priority Evaluation in October 2015, dotgay has once again caught the EIU not following their self-scripted ICANN approved processes to ensure consistency among all evaluations. ICANN is expected to make a ruling on the reconsideration request in early January 2016.

In what will likely be an easy task for the BGC to call out the EIU on their violations, hides the solution that they might offer to the gay community. Considering the EIU has mishandled the .GAY application twice now and not followed ICANN’s direct instructions to provide new panelists during the second evaluation, dotgay has called for ICANN to overturn the EIU decision and award a passing grade to the .GAY community application. If ICANN chooses to force a third evaluation then dotgay has requested that the EIU have no role in the proceedings.

In ICANN’s own words, they adamantly deny having any information on who at the EIU evaluated the dotgay application on the second attempt when asked.

“With respect to Item No. 3, seeking detailed information on the CPE Panels, to help assure independence of the process and evaluation of CPEs, ICANN does not maintain any information on the identity of the CPE Panelists. ICANN (either Board or staff) is not involved with the selection of a CPE panel’s individual evaluators who perform the scoring in each CPE process, nor is ICANN provided with information about who the evaluators on any individual panel may be.” – DIDP Request 20151022-1 (page 7)

Contained in dotgay’s reconsideration request is evidence that if the EIU was properly following their own ICANN approved processes for conducting evaluations then at least one of the panelists for the first evaluation also participated in the second evaluation. This is not only a slap in the face to the gay community for disadvantaging the community application in such a crucial evaluation, but it is a big middle finger to ICANN and the Board Governance Committee who have provided very clear instructions on how to proceed following the EIU’s original mishandling of .GAY.

In the end it’s the gay community and the contributing efforts of the 250+ LGBTQIA organizations around the world that get the short end of the stick because of the EIU’s actions. Passing the community evaluation would avoid the extortionist-like price tag expected of the community to claim .GAY at auction. The EIU’s actions contradict all common sense and can only be understood as the outcome of a hostile environment or the product of sheer incompetence by ICANN or the EIU.

The BGC not only has the opportunity right now to right the EIU’s wrongs and maintain integrity in their new gTLD program, but they also have the opportunity to properly serve the public interest by resetting the path of .GAY in the direction of community status. Community operation is the only option that truly ensures community benefit and protection.