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Update on communities and accountabilty at ICANN

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.

Is ICANN failing our community?

This blog has taken a hiatus the last few months.  With recent setbacks in the dotgay community application, concentration switched to how to save the community application for .gay.  A lot has happen in many areas since the last blog entry. In this entry I want to focus on the issue of ICANN’s Community Priority Evaluation (CPE) treatment of the gay community’s application for .gay.

The community application submitted by dotgay LLC was given a failing evaluation.  One I believe was in error. With strong community support, dotgay LLC has filed for a reconsideration of this evaluation.  This reconsideration request  has been supported by a significant segment of the gay community including: ILGA, NGLCC, Gay Games, and IGLTA.   Because of ICANN bylaws, reconsideration can only be based on the process issues.  dotgay LLC has built a very good case against a process replete with errors and omissions that justify overturning the evaluation. As an optimist, I sit here looking forward to an ICANN which in 2015 will use its abilities to right a wrong by declaring a passing evaluation. Anything less will compound the injury that is being done to the gay community.

One of ICANN’s greatest deficiencies is the absence of an appeals mechanism that can adjudicate on the merits of a case.  The Board has long been asked to create such an mechanism and it has been recommended by the Accountability and Transparency Review Team.  The ICANN Board has not yet delivered on this agreed upon goal.

The dotgay LLC case against the ICANN Community Priority Evaluation has merit.

The ICANN CPE judgement argues that the LGBQTIA community overreached when it picked the name .gay. The decision argues that the dictionary says only homosexual men are gay.  The ICANN CPE panel decided that L-BTQIA individuals do not belong to the gay community, even though the LGBTQIA community has identified itself, and been identified by others, as the gay community in so many ways.  The ICANN CPE evaluation ignores the reality of our community. Beyond the ubiquity of the references to the gay community in the world’s press, we speak of anti-gay legislation, gay rights, gay persecution and gay marriage. The ICANN CPE decision ignores the fact that ‘gay’ is the word recognized in many languages beyond English, where it stands for far more than just homosexual men. It is a name of our community – the minority who are outside of society’s prevalent hetero-norms. It is a name we know ourselves by and a name we are known by. It is the name a confused child looking for help, searches on throughout the world. It is a name that should be used to create a safe and secure environment for our community instead of being exploited for all the profit it could bring.

dotgay LLC has a strong case to make on the merits.

In arguing the merits of the gay community’s case, the community could further remind an appeals panel that the community provisions of the recommended TLD policy were for the support of communities not as a way of defending against communities.  The procedures in the Application Guide Book (AGB) that guide every step of the application procedures, did not follow the policy recommendation for support of communities.  Rather, the AGB provided methods for those who want to exploit and profit from communities to attack those very communities.  The rules were perversely written to give advantages to standard applications that focused on profit and nothing but profit. As members of a endangered community trying to create a safe space for the LGBTQIA community on line, we should expect support from global public interest institutions such as ICANN, not roadblocks.

I expect the Board to overturn the ICANN CPE decision based on the current process based reconsideration request. But if the ICANN Board does not do so, I encourage the community to continue arguing along side dotgay LLC on the merits of our community case in any venue where the case can be heard.

ICANN’s processing of applications

Update

It has been a while since I updated this web site. The processing of applications went into a lull, but is now moving ahead full force. To catch up, it has been madness at ICANN. But the dotgay LLC crowd has been busy keeping up with the changing procedures.

  • The most important bit of news is that the dotgay LLC application has passed its initial evaluation.  While this does not mean all is ready to go, it does mean dotgay LLC’s .gay is qualified to go live.  Briefly, the steps that still need to be climbed  include:
    • The Objection period needs to run its course.  A list of objections and an explanation of the process is available from the International Chambers of Commerce Dispute Resolution Center.
      • dotgay LLC received one objection from  the Metroplex Republicans of Dallas.  dotgay LLC is currently engaged in the dispute resolution process and is attempting to resolve Metroplex’s issues.
      • Each of the standard applications for .gay, and the application for  .lgbt, also received an objection from ILGA, which was submitted on behalf of several global LGBTQIA, i.e. gay, community organizations.
    • The standard applications competing with dotgay’s application still need to complete their initial evaluations.  It will be several months before they have completed the process.
    • If any of the standard applications complete initial evaluation successfully, and the probability is that they will, then dotgay LLC’s application for .gay will need to undergo review by the Community Evaluation Panel (CEP) to determine whether the dotgay application trumps all the other applications and can complete its way to registration unhindered.  The CEP is a very grueling test, and as no one has ever taken this test yet, it is uncertain how any applicant will do.  dotgay LLC has every confidence that it will succeed in this evaluation.  Should dotgay fail to trump the standard applications in the CEP, however, then there would be a auction to see which of the applicants was wom the contract for .gay.  While this community, the dotgay community has shown great support for dotgay LLC’s application with over a 150 letters of support, we may come back to the dotgay-community asking it to show its support again when the CEP occurs. CEP processing is scheduled to begin in September.
    • Assuming that this is successful, then .gay, as a community TLD, will negotiate its contract with ICANN and prepare to go live.
  • A new Trademark Clearing House (TMCH) has been created by ICANN to assist Trademark holders in gaining priority for  obtaining their trademark as a second level domain name.  Members of the dotgay-community who have trademarks and who wish to take advantage of the TMCH will need to submit their trademarks to the TMCH.  Members of the dotgay-community who register trademarks with the TMCH will be able obtain domain names during the Sunrise period once the .gay has been approved.
    • For members of the dotgay-community who do not have trademarks, dotgay LLC will hold a Sunshine period where any dotgay-community member that has had a domain name obtained before May 1, 2012 on an IANA-recognized TLD will be able to register before open registration for other dotgay-community members.
    • Note any members of the gay community that wants to protect their trademarks in other of the 1900 possible new TLDs, should also consider registering in the TMCH.
  • An Interest group of Community TLD applicants has been formed within ICANN and is working to try and help ICANN to understand how community TLDs are different from standard TLDs.  This group is called Community TLD Applicants Group (CTAG).  And interview with the author of this blog on the history of community TLD was published by the CTAG on CircleId.

Detailed news on the minutia of the New gTLD process at ICANN is available.

It is my intent to update this website on the process weekly going forward.

The Independent Objectors letter

The Independent Objector’s letter

The Independent Objector (IO) is empowered to file Community Objections on the part of any community that has filed comments indicate that an application might cause harm to a community.  The IO is bound by a set of rules established in the Applicant Guidebook.

Recently the IO published a set notes covering his view on the Controversial Applications. “Controversial Applications” were defined as those strings, such as .gay, that had received many comments during the comment period.  .Gay was one of the strings that had received a fair number of comments.  The IO has decided not to file an objection against the string .gay or .lgbt at this time.

This is important because there were several objections from Saudi Arabia and other arab countries that condemned the idea of a .gay TLD on the Internet because they believed that everything gay was immoral and a threat to their way of life.   The IO could have undertaken an objection on their behalf against all of those applying for .gay or .lgbt, including the community application by dotgay LLC.

I am grateful to the IO for his decision not to file against any use of the string .gay or .lgbt.  In refusing to do so, he acknowledged that the existence of gay and lgbt terminology was no an offense against humanity.  We do not know yet whether the commenter from Saudi Arabia will be willing to pay for the objection himself, but at least the IO won’t be doing it.

There was another option the IO could have taken.  He could have objected to specific applications.  For example, several comments had mentioned the community harm that could come from a non-community delegation of .gay.  He decided not to because he argued that it wasn’t his job to decide on whether a particular application was a Community application was a bona-fide community application or not.

In one sense he is right, it is not his decision; it is the community’s.  However, with over 150 letters from significant global gay community organizations declaring that they supported dotgay LLC as the Community applicant, he perhaps could have taken a clue from the community. Rather, he indicated:

“comments made on the community ground do not tend to prove the existence of such a community and do not necessarily pretend to express an opinion in the name of a delineated community.”

I think that the gay community knows it is a community.  And I think that many of the comments did indeed express an opinion as members of the ‘delineated community’, for example Centerlink, ILGTA, Out&Equal, and many others. Perhaps he needs some further argument and evidence.  The opportunity to comment is still open.

In reading his response, it then becomes clear that he is not concerned with the harm Standard non-Community applications might inflict on the community by their applications.  He is concerned, instead, about the harm a .gay might inflict on various religious or national communities.

But what about the harms that the standard non-community applications might inflict on the gay community itself.  Several of the community organizations who commented on community harm, such as ILGA, COC Nederlands, National Gay and Lesbian Chambers of Commerce, and others, stated that Standard non-Community applications would cause harm to the gay community. These do not seem to have made an impression on the IO; at least not as of yet.

As it stands, if the IO is not convinced to file an objection on behalf of gay community members with standing, then each objection that needs to be filed will cost approximately £30,000 UK (or approximately $50,0000 USD).  The gay community has until the end of February to convince the IO of the reasons for filing objections in order to prevent the harm that will be caused to the gay community by Standard non-Community applications, such as the applications filed by the following companies that are trying to obtain .gay without involving the community:

 Or the following company that is trying to obtain .lgbt without involving the community:

 The ICANN Independent Objector, the IO, can file an objection against these efforts, but only if he is convinced that they will cause the community harm. But he can only be convinced when the organizations with standing from the gay community tell him that  these would harm the community.

What about all the other applicants for Gay Community names?

What about all the other applicants for Gay Community names?

Types of Application for .gay

There are two types of applications for new top level domains (gTLD): Standard and Community.  In this round, dotgay is the only community applicant, the other three applications for .gay and the one application for .lgbt are all standard applications.  The primary difference between community applications and standard applications is that community applications are contractually bound to meeting commitments made to the community about how the gTLD will be run in support of the community and that standard applications were pretty much free to do anything with the name they pleased (though both are bound to same operational rules.)

The primary reasons for submitting a community application is service to the community.  The primary reasons for submitting a standard application is business, which in the Gay, i.e. LGBTQIA…, Community is sometimes known as the pink dollar.

The following companies are trying to obtain .gay without involving the community:

 The following company is trying to obtain .lgbt without involving the community

At the recent ILGA-2012 conference in Stockholm, dotgay LLC maintained a booth where it discussed the ICANN New gTLD process and dotgay’s application for .gay.   A topic that came up as much as any other was:

Can anything be done to protect the community from exploitation by those who just want to use the name for making money?

The answer is yes, under certain conditions.

Objections

ICANN provided several basis for filing a formal objections against applications.

 Community Objection – There is substantial opposition to the gTLD application from a significant portion of the community to which the gTLD string may be explicitly or implicitly targeted.

The four tests described here will enable a DRSP panel to determine whether there is substantial opposition from a significant portion of the community to which the string may be targeted. For an objection to be successful, the objector must prove that:

• The community invoked by the objector is a clearly delineated community; and

• Community opposition to the application is substantial; and

• There is a strong association between the community invoked and the applied-for gTLD string; and

• The application creates a likelihood of material detriment to the rights or legitimate interests of a significant portion of the community to which the string may be explicitly or implicitly targeted. Each of these tests is described in further detail below.

Further excerpts from the Objection Process

Who can object to the standard applications for .gay and .lgbt

One of the questions that comes up when the process of objections is explained to the dotgay community is whether dotgay LLC had any intention to file an objection.

ICANN has defined criteria for standing to object.  In order to object an institution must have a longstanding relationship with the community and cannot be a group created to apply for the .gay.  There are a set of strict conditions that must be met in order for an organization to  have standing to object. Not all organization will meet the threshold that ICANN has set.

Clearly while many of the members of the community who have given support to dotgay’s community application may have standing to object to the non community applicants, dotgay LLC itself does not have standing.

Why might a Gay Community organization object to the non-community applications for .gay and .lgbt

At ILGA-2012 there were also discussions of the various forms of harm, aka material detriment, that the non-community applications could have on the Gay community.  Some of the possible detriments included:

  • Anyone will be allowed to register a .gay or .lgbt name;
  • The community will lose its most precious natural resource – its name;
  • It will enable another method for exploitation of the gay community for profit;
  • The profits from .gay or .lgbt will not be used to benefit the gay community;
  • The community will lose the chance to offer new programs to help LGBTQIA… people;.
  • It will not be trusted by the community;
  • It will not be safe to use to enhance gay community business.
    If you can’t believe that a business.gay or business.lgbt is a community business how can you trust it to be gay friendly;
  • It can be used as a vehicle to incite prejudice against the community;
  • It can be a tool for discrimination against the community;
  • It can be used for fund raising for anti-gay campaigns;
  • It will fail to increase visibility of the LGBTQIA people and instead obscure it as much as it is obscured by com;
  • It will not represent a safe haven on the internet that the community can trust;
  • Names will be sold to the highest bidder with no concern for the well-being of the community;
  • The names will not build on the heritage of the self help by gay community business;
  • It will not be a force to fight discrimination in the workplace, in fact it may be used to foster discrimination;
  • It will not be force to fight discrimination in tourism, in fact it may be used to foster discrimination;
  • It will not be a force to fight discrimination in business, in fact it may be used to foster discrimination;
  • It will not be a force to fight discrimination in sports, in fact it may be used to foster discrimination;
  • It will not be a force to fight discrimination in the media, in fact it may be used to foster discrimination;
  • It will not be a force to fight discrimination in social service, in fact it may be used to foster discrimination;
  • It will not be a force in the fight for LGBTQIA human rights, in fact it may be used to foster discrimination;
  • It will not provide service directed at the gay community;
  • Instead of building relationships within the community it will cause distrust;
  • It will be used to incite violence against LGBTQIA persons;

But mostly because a standard application will exploit the community.

So why wouldn’t a qualified organization file a Community Objection

It is very expensive and the documentation process for an Objection is very complicated.

Will there be a Community Objection to the non-community applications for .gay or .lgbt?

Should there be? 

————–

References

Acronyms

A story about the pink dollar.

Excerpts from the Objection Process

Why .gay and not …

Why .gay and not …

Many people, for example at ILGA-12 in Stockholm, and elsewhere have asked why dotgay choose to apply for .gay and neither .lgbt, or some other similar acronym, nor .queer.  Good arguments could be, and were, made for many applications and it seems important that all of the community’s many names should be under the control of the community and not used by those who wish to exploit the community.  One of the top priorities, regardless of the choice of name, was to also have the ability to become an umbrella to all of the changing areas representing the community, allowing equal voice and strength.  As community members experience decreased risks in Coming Out, we will continue to define the many aspects of the LGBTQIA…, i.e Gay, community.

So why pick .gay first?

From the time the policy discussions in the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) began, it was known that .gay was going to be a test case application because of the division in the world over Gay Rights.  Not everyone accepts that Gay Rights are Human Rights.  Then again not everyone accepts Human Rights.  Gay Community participants in ICANN knew that there would be a .gay application.  We knew that we wanted a .gay application to succeed and we knew that we wanted .gay to belong to the Gay Community.

So, if only one name could be applied for in this round, there will be other rounds, then .gay had to be that name.

But does .gay cover the whole community

Those  at dotgay who wrote the .gay application, and those who advised the writing, were members of the community, who identified with diverse different colors in the LGBTQIA… rainbow. As we reviewed the literature and cross linguistic perspectives, it was clear that the word gay was used, and understood, by all segments of society to refere to the community. This was true for both members of the community as well as those who were not members of the community  While not everyone knows what the letters LGBTQIA or even GLBT stand for, everyone in the digital world knows what Gay means, not matter what language they speak.  We all know that when the media in any country talks about the “Gay Community”, they mean all of us.

Further reading

The dotgay application includes a very long section (section 20d) that explores the use of the word gay as the umbrella term for the community.