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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.

Philanthropy, the Gay Community and .gay

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.

Giving Back

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 struggle for Gay Community visibility online.

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

Further information on the dotgay LLC campaign for gay community visibility.

The new predicatabity as an enabler for innovation within the gay community.

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.

More information on dotgay LLC and its plans.

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

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.

Feminist Principles for the Internet

In April 2014 the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) in collaboration with activists in Malaysia, which included a number of local  LGBTQI activists, created a set of principles for a feminist Internet.

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1. A feminist internet starts with and works towards empowering more women and queer persons – in all our diversities – to dismantle patriarchy. This includes universal, affordable, unfettered, unconditional and equal access to the internet.

2. A feminist internet is an extension, reflection and continuum of our movements and resistance in other spaces, public and private. Our agency lies in us deciding as individuals and collectives what aspects of our lives to politicize and/or publicize on the internet.

3. The internet is a transformative public and political space. It facilitates new forms of citizenship that enable individuals to claim, construct, and express our selves, genders, sexualities. This includes connecting across territories, demanding accountability and transparency, and significant opportunities for feminist movement-building.

4. Violence online and tech-related violence are part of the continuum of gender-based violence. The misogynistic attacks, threats, intimidation, and policing experienced by women and queers LGBTQI people is are real, harmful, and alarming. It is our collective responsibility as different internet stakeholders to prevent, respond to, and resist this violence.

5. There is a need to resist the religious right, along with other extremist forces, and the state, in monopolizing their claim over morality in silencing feminist voices at national and international levels. We must claim the power of the internet to amplify alternative and diverse narratives of women’s lived realities.

6. As feminist activists, we believe in challenging the patriarchal spaces that currently control the internet and putting more feminists and queers LGBTQI people at the decision-making tables. We believe in democratizing the legislation and regulation of the internet as well as diffusing ownership and power of global and local networks.

7. Feminist interrogation of the neoliberal capitalist logic that drives the internet is critical to destabilize, dismantle, and create alternative forms of economic power that are grounded on principles of the collective, solidarity, and openness.

8. As feminist activists, we are politically committed to creating and experimenting with technology utilizing open source tools and platforms. Promoting, disseminating, and sharing knowledge about the use of such tools is central to our praxis.

9. The internet’s role in enabling access to critical information – including on health, pleasure, and risks – to communities, cultural expression, and conversation is essential, and must be supported and protected.

10. Surveillance by default is the tool of patriarchy to control and restrict rights both online and offline. The right to privacy and to exercise full control over our own data is a critical principle for a safer, open internet for all. Equal attention needs to be paid to surveillance practices by individuals against each other, as well as the private sector and non-state actors, in addition to the state.

11. Everyone has the right to be forgotten on the internet. This includes being able to access all our personal data and information online, and to be able to exercise control over, including knowing who has access to them and under what conditions, and being able to delete them forever. However, this right needs to be balanced against the right to access public information, transparency and accountability.

12. It is our inalienable right to choose, express, and experiment with our diverse sexualities on the internet. Anonymity enables this.

13. We strongly object to the efforts of state and non-state actors to control, regulate and restrict the sexual lives of consenting people and how this is expressed and practiced on the internet. We recognize this as part of the larger political project of moral policing, censorship and hierarchization of citizenship and rights.

14. We recognize our role as feminists and internet rights advocates in securing a safe, healthy, and informative internet for children and young people. This includes promoting digital and social safety practices. At the same time, we acknowledge children’s rights to healthy development, which includes access to positive information about sexuality at critical times in their development. We believe in including the voices and experiences of young people in the decisions made about harmful content.

15. We recognize that the issue of pornography online is a human rights and labor issue, and has to do with agency, consent, autonomy and choice. We reject simple causal linkages made between consumption of pornographic content and violence against women. We also reject the umbrella term of pornographic content labeled to any sexuality content such as educational material, SOGIE (sexual orientation, gender identity and expression) content, and expression related to women’s sexuality.