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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.


Accountability at ICANN

The issue of accountability has certainly been a topic of great discussion and debate at ICANN over the past few years, but is the overseer of the Internet’s naming system truly ready to embrace accountability into the organization’s DNA at the levels being requested by the US government and the ICANN community?

Since the proposed IANA transition was first announced, amazing work by the Internet community has been initiated to beef up accountability at ICANN and make it a top priority. This means not only accepting the changes, but actually implanting and living up to an obligation for greater transparency.  Whether it is in the new gTLD implementation or in transparency processes necessary for accountability, like DIDP requests, there are too many examples of where ICANN does not live up to current standards. Most readers will be able to recall their own most painful experiences with the lack of accountability by corporate ICANN.

One instance that is painful to the gay community is ICANN’s lack of attention, desire or ability to prevent Community Priority Evaluation (CPE) infractions, or even hold the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) accountable for their evaluations. This has exposed many shortcomings with the process. Basic and reasonable oversight by ICANN designed to ensure process compliance that protects the interests of all applicants and the communities they represent, has clearly not been a priority for ICANN.

Let’s be reminded that community TLDs by design require and provide for community accountability, an especially important attribute for strings that are linked to vulnerable populations prone to abuse. Such accountability requirements also heighten a reciprocal expectation from the community and its stakeholders should the EIU choose to fail a community endorsed application in CPE. Instead, ICANN has refused to honor basic principles of transparency. In the process ICANN is putting at risk the very accountability efforts that communities have sought from community applicants.

Not only has the EIU shown it was not 100% willing or competent to follow its own published guidelines to achieve consistency goals, it has also been shielded by ICANN from having to provide proof of its work or nuanced data used in CPE. Despite asking for research evidence and documents referenced by the EIU, ICANN has refused to pass the request onto the EIU or make them produce materials cited in their results. ICANN’s resistance delivers a stronger “lack of confidence vote” in the EIU’s methods than it does to highlight the organizations commitment to transparency.

In stark contrast to ICANN’s handling of the EIU, the .GAY community application has provided a strong focus on accountability to the gay community and end users since well before reveal day. In fact, it is the only application for .GAY that commits to ongoing oversight and accountability to the LGBTQIA in a manner that extends beyond any letter verification or vague test around reciprocal representation awareness of the community’s largest organization, as conducted by the EIU.

When you step back and look at the bigger picture, what you quickly realize is that ICANN’s issue with accountability is perhaps greater than even the concerns of the US government. Without accountability being part of the fabric and culture used to operate and make decisions as an organization, it will always be pulled into question in moments of crisis. This is exactly what has happened with the gay community’s second CPE, despite prior and numerous concerns elevated around the EIU’s handling of the CPE process.

Offering dotgay LLC a second CPE and calling it accountability was ICANN’s response to having their third party evaluators drawn into question. Perhaps naïve on ICANN’s part, but not unexpected by the gay community, round two of CPE has resulted in further and more serious issues with the same root problem – The EIU and the way they fulfill their responsibilities. Hopefully ICANN sees that more clearly now.

Accountability is not just a thing to measure; it is THE thing to measure in an organization like ICANN whose mandate is to play a leading role in serving the public interest.


The LGBTQIA are getting screwed by ICANN

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

A new predictability for the gay community online

The gay community world-wide is subject, day in and day out, to a life that is predictably discriminatory and cruel. While there may be some opening up to the gay community is some countries, the majority of the global gay community, whether LGBTQI or A, lives in a world of pain and degradation.  A world where they either hide who they love and who they are, or they are bullied, pursued, tortured or imprisoned.  A handful of us are lucky enough to live in places where the gay community is coming into its own and getting the privileges of every other citizen.  Most live in a word that is predictably unjust and unequal.  Unfortunately the gay community online has been beset by the same problems as the gay community in general society.

dotgay LLC, with the support of over 250 gay organizations from around the world, has applied for the community run top level domain (TLD) .gay in order to build a place on the Internet that can be predictably safe.  ICANN, ostensibly, offered the world a chance to bring communities online, to use a TLD to establish a place where the members of a community would be free to exercise their right of association and peaceful assembly.  By relying on criteria for those who run domains and on public interest commitments guaranteed by contract,  community TLDs, can create online spaces that are predictably safe and accepting of a community.  The dotgay LLC intends to bring this new predictability online for the gay community.

The .gay domain should be a place where a gay community member living under a repressive regime, could go on line to find reliable information and assistance in dispelling the despair of being alone in the world. The .gay domain should be a place where the outreach of a community center could be trusted and not end up a trick for outing someone and making them a target for violent attack.  Even in countries were the repression and abuse has started to recede, a .gay domain should be a place where a member of the gay community could go to find gay friendly businesses.   Even those living in gay accepting countries need such a new predictability.  Anyone who has ever brought a workman into the house who treated a  female couple as damaged and in need of cure, or any of countless other similar incidences, knows the importance of a new predictability that gives us safety online. A .gay domain can only become such a predictably safe space if it is under gay community control.

dotgay LLC is still being reviewed by ICANN’s deputies, the community evaluation panel at the Economist Intelligence Unit, to determine whether it is gay enough and community enough for the straight world. As we wait week by week for the determination of this evaluation, we continue to hope that the dotgay LLC community cause  will be recognized and that they will be allowed to build a corner of the Internet where we can be predictably safe.

More on the new predictability  #yes2dotgay

ICANN Policy Update Webinar 2 October

The ICANN Policy Development Support Team will provide a Policy Update Webinar on Thursday 2 October 2014 at 10:00 UTC and 19:00 UTC, summarizing policy activities across the ICANN policy development community and the ongoing Transition of Stewardship of the IANA Functions and the ICANN Accountability track efforts.
Please RSVP by 26 September 2014.
Remote participation details will be sent to those who RSVP the week of 29 September 2014.

The presentation is relatively painless and an excellent way to become introduced to the range of issue ICANN is facing at this moment in time.

I recommend it to anyone who wants a quick intro to ICANN issues.

The URL for the RSVP <https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1IGHH52kS_kRTJ83kytdaK4M3BswtiiMFbcxR39NiYJI/viewform>

Discussion Group on new gTLD Subsequent Rounds

Quite a mouthful that one is.

I have recently joined the GNSO‘s (Generic names supporting organization) Discussion Group on New gTLD Subsequent Rounds (DGNGSR). It is a large group, lots of members and lots people who will just be mailing list observers. Observers are welcome.

This is the first formal GNSO discussion group I know of. It was initiated by the GNSO to start collecting issues that should be dealt with before there is another round. I don’t think any of us know yet what a discussion group does other than discussion, and report back to the GNSO about the discussions. Staff is going to collect the issues and we are going to fill out templates about the issues. These will be input to whatever Policy Development Process (PDP) the GNSO may initiate in the future to establish the policies for these subsequent rounds.

My first contribution of issues to the groups discussion were:

  • We, those of us at ICANN, did a terrible job of outreach to and inclusion of developing economies in the current round and there must be remediation.
  • We did a terrible job of support for communities in the current round and there must be remediation.
  • We now have seen emergent categories of gTLD have been well established, e.g. brand tld, city tlds, community tlds, exclusive tld, public service related tlds &c.  We need to develop different application procedures per type. And if we are doing rounds, perhaps different rounds for each type.
  • We must avoid reusing many of the processes that we are currently defined as they are confusing and they do not meet the first principle of the original new gTLD recommendations – predictability.
  • There should not be another general round but rather specific focused rounds.  For example the remedial rounds should happen before anything else.  And there perhaps other focused round for cities or for brands.  Beyond that, I think we should be heading toward a rolling application process, or perhaps rounds of a day to avoid digital archery effects (i.e.. the process by which the applicant with the most technical prowess get there first in a first come first serve situation)
  • When there is name contention, the contenders should have the opportunity to negotiate among themselves to take different related tlds: my example being if 3 applicants apply for .bear, one can have .grizzly, one can have .panda and one can have .babybear.  This could replace much of the pain that we are seeing in a situation where approximately a third of the applicants still in processing are in contention processing of one sort or another.

As the discussion develops and as I know more, I will write more.

Incidentally, At-Large, the users group at ICANN,  also has a group talking about this, and I am participating in that group too. But I just joined last week, so do not know much, other then they seem to care about issues dealing with developing economies and communities too.   I will report on that group’s activity here as well.

May seem a bit ironic and painful to already be talking about the next round while the dotgay community waits on pins and needles for the results of the Community Priority Evaluation for dotgay, but that is the way it goes in policy development. If the community wants to be ready when it is time for the next round and we want that round to be supportive of community needs, we need to start working on it now.