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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.

ABCs of a community .gay

dotgay LLC, and the application for a community run .gay domain name, has been through the wringer in the last years. The ICANN process is challenging for anyone, especially a small team on a limited budget.  The process ICANN built is not easy for small enterprises and is hostile to community applicants.  ICANN built a process, contrary to the policy recommendations, to satisfy the interests of large corporations with buckets of money which put smaller players and communities at a disadvantage.  The dotgay LLC team has persevered, and despite having been cheated once in its effort to get the prized Community designation, appealed that decision, prevailed, and has been given another chance at evaluation.  This second Community Priority Evaluation (CPE) is ongoing and we have every hope that this time they will get it right.

While the second CPE is ongoing, dotgay has initiated a effort to remind ICANN and the community of the work done by the gay community and dotgay LLC together over the last years to establish the .gay gTLD.  In the midst of the struggle with ICANN, some of the promise of dotgay LLC has been pushed into the background.  While this is normal when struggling for survival, it is important to remember the reasons we are trying to survive.

In the series starting this week, which starts with a piece on The Future of .gay, dotgay will “recap the journey and explore some of the unique features a community .GAY offers, starting with the unprecedented opportunity to create a trusted and gay-friendly Internet space for the gay community.

While we continue the struggle to get recognition for the gay community as the authority for its own TLD – its own safe place on the net, let’s remember all the reasons for doing so.


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.

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.

Notes on ICANN 50: Human rights and community applications.

The Council of Europe (COE), an intergovernmental organization that focuses on human rights, published a report entitled ICANN’s procedures and policies in the light of of human rights, fundamental freedoms and democratic values (COE-gTLD).  The human rights implications of ICANN’s procedures is an important topic that is just beginning to be discussed in ICANN.  This report is a major admonition to ICANN to fully consider the human rights implications of  ICANN discussions.  Its introduction at ICANN 50 in London was a significant event.

This report is relevant to the gay community, not only because of the centrality of the human rights discussion,  but because the report uses the dotgay LLC community application as a case study.  This case study shows how ICANN and the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) it hired to evaluate community status as part of the Community Priority Evaluation (CPE) may be violating the rights of the gay community.  The report has been put on the table for future Government Advisory Committee (GAC) and other ICANN discussions and can be sure to figure into all discussions of community rights going forward.  As such, the report represents a milestone for ICANN.

While this report is written from the perspective of European law and norms, it has general applicability to any discussion of ICANN and the human rights implications for domain names, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related international covenants and treaties including “The promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet” from the Human Rights Council.

But before getting to the case study on dotgay’s community application, some of the introductory content from the report is worth quoting:

As ICANN expands and its mechanisms and procedures affect more and more individuals, the living instrument doctrine might suggest, for example, that vulnerable groups that did not merit special protection in the past may now deserve specific protection under, for example, the national regulation of hate speech online. This might be the case for homophobic hate speech which has recently been examined by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Finally, the positive obligations doctrine implies that states have a duty to take reasonable steps to ensure that the rights of, for example, Roma, homosexuals and other vulnerable groups are in fact protected. Indirectly, this implies a commitment of the governments to also defend this in the ICANN and GAC context. The ICANN expansion process means that more multi-stakeholder dialogue is necessary to ensure that it operates in the public interest. With this expansion comes increasing responsibility and accountability. (COE-gTLD para 14)

The quote feeds into a general discussion that is building in ICANN of the importance and relevance of human rights.  While the Non Commercial Stakeholder Group (NCSG) has worked for years to have human rights impact analyses added to the policy development processes for gTLDs, this takes the discussion to a new level.  In a general sense, this report feeds into a proposal to create a permanent ICANN Human Rights Advisory Committee to work along side other ICANN Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees (SOAC) to ensure that human rights considerations are always front and center when ICANN develops policy or makes decisions.

It is also material that these introductory remarks make specific reference to the plight of the gay community worldwide.

… the concept of ‘pluralism’ plays a prominent part in the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). That is to say that pluralism is an important factor determining the scope and impact of a number of fundamental rights, such as the right to freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of religion. The ECtHR decided that, in the context of granting broadcasting licenses, states may have to be guided by the importance of pluralism. It also expressed the view that the exercise of power by mighty financial groupings may form a threat to media pluralism as well as far-reaching monopolization in the press and media sector. By using the concept of pluralism, the Court adds to the importance of individual and associational fundamental rights. Council of Europe states and the GAC thus should, in the same line of thinking, take care in ensuring that ICANN’s mechanisms includes and embrace a diversity of values, opinions, and social groups and avoids the predominance of particular deep-pocketed organizations that function as gatekeepers for online content. (COE-gTLD para 20)

This quote perfectly express some of the concerns of the dotgay community for the community application for .gay that has been under constant attack by deep-pocketed organizations.  .lgbt is already lost to the LGBT community; its domain names will be offered to the general domain profiteering community, known as domainers,  who seek to profit by first capturing and then reselling desired names at a high profit margin.  If dotgay LLC does not prevail in its Community Priority Evaluation, the community may lose its opportunity to ensure that some part of the Internet domain remains safe and hospitable for the global gay community; that is, if the dotgay community application does not get a community rating from the CPE, it will be forced to compete in an auction with those deep pocketed organizations – and even if it prevails in an auction, it will do so at a cost to the community.

After its discussion of the general human rights principles at play in ICANN discussions in general, the report digs into the specific human rights issues related to the new gTLD program in section 2. Sections 2.1 and 2.2 of the COE-gTLD report give a very good high level synopsis of the ICANN application and are worth reading for this reason alone.

This discussion in the report references  Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in support of rights related to the gay community within the context of new gTLD applications.  The rights discussed extend to rights of a community to special treatment in order to overcome previous discrimination by virtue of various court decisions.  The report also explains how the rights of redress for discrimination become applicable to the gay community:

while treaties and conventions do not specifically reference  sexual orientation the reports discusses  ECtHR case-law that determines  that discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity is prohibited and must be prevented. (COE-gTLD Para 42)

The case-study on the string contention procedures referencing .gay as an example begins with section 2.4.4 of the COE-gTLD report.  It lays out the ICANN Community Priority Evaluations CPE procedures with a focus on the scope of the definition of  “community” and the “responsibility of states under international human rights law to take positive measures to protect certain vulnerable groups.” (COE-gTLD Para. 62)

The scope of a ‘community’ determines to what extent specific groups deserve protected status. (COE-gTLD para 64). The COE report takes the interpretation of the term ‘community’ back to the broad definition that was included in the GNSO recommendations, which are, or should be, the touchstone for all evaluations.  It points to the manner that following on from the Applicant Guide Book (AGB), the standard appears to have been tightened even more against community interests than the AGB had already done.   The report shows how the association and assembly rights associated with communities are parallel to those granted by the courts to associations.  The report goes on to discuss the impact on human rights a narrow definition of community might have.  For example, a narrow definiton might exclude the LGBT+ community from the community’s rights, while human rights based criteria would include it.  The article shows how the AGB and the EIU interpretation of the GNSO’s recommendations, interfere with the ability of the community to uphold international  human rights norms and laws.

 Community-based TLD’s could take appropriate measures to ensure that the right to freedom of expression of their community can be effectively enjoyed without discrimination, including with respect to the freedom to receive and impart information on subjects dealing with their community. They could also take additional measures to ensure that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly can be effectively enjoyed, without discrimination. (COE-gTLD Para. 63)

The report discusses how the results of the judgement of the International Center  of Expertise of the International Chamber of Commerce decision on the ILGA objections to the non community applications may be prejudicial against the gay community.  As a special action may be required to protect the rights of association for this endangered community, it further states:

Specific action might be required in order to ensure the full enjoyment of the human rights of the LGBT community. The starting point for such measures is the need to combat a high level of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have been discriminated against for centuries and are still subjected to homophobia, transphobia and other forms of widespread and enduring intolerance. This leads to hostile acts ranging from social exclusion to discrimination – all over Europe and in all areas of life, on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. (COE-gTLD para 72)

While the original obligations of human rights are incumbent on states, and thus on the GAC, the report explains that these obligation are become requirements for non state actors such as ICANN and the organizations that are responsible for the reviews.

The content related decisions made by ICANN may result in decisions made on the availability of information on the Internet, and can be regarded as similar to editorial judgements made by the media. (COE-gTLD  para 74)

In other words, denying a domain of its own to the gay community may be seen as an act of editorial censorship.

The COE report recommends that anyone that runs a top level domain for a vulnerable community should have have a plan for how it will protect and assist the community.  No one expects such protection for the gay community from the standard non community applicants of .gay as they have not included any such plans in their application. Only a community run .gay registry can be expected to do its best to protect and assist the gay community.

Finally the report discusses the consequence of failing the CPE, that is the need to compete with the standard applications in an auction for the community’s domain name.  The COE-gTLD report explains that auctions are an inappropriate means for serving the public interest in delegating a community directed gTLD.  As the delegation of .gay is a public interest issue, any auction pitting the gay community against the deep-pocketed organizations of the domain name industry is an inappropriate means of delegating .gay.

The COE-gTLD report’s discussion on new gTLD contention ends with:

In conclusion, gTLDs may include expression or be used as spaces for online association and therefore, entail a human rights and fundamental freedoms dimension which should be considered together with other technical matters. The evaluation of applied-for new gTLDs may involve content-related considerations that need to have the general interest in sight. While ICANN’s judgement should not be interfered with unjustifiably, ICANN should exercise its role with due regard for fundamental rights and freedoms and in full compliance with international standards. In particular, any interference with the exercise of the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of association should be more systematically tested against the requirements of international human rights law and the global public interest. (COE-gTLD  para 80)

ICANN is a corporation in the public benefit, it needs to live up to its obligations to protect the public interest.


In ending this blog entry, I want to point out that one of the standard applicants for gay has again taken to attacking dotgay LLC at the CoE website, instead of taking responsibility for the human rights issues of what the report had to say.  In reference to dotgay LLC procedures for restricting the .gay TLD to the LGBTQIA+ community, one of the specific statements that this standard applicant offers in his comment: “Their barriers to entry will keep out individuals from developing countries as well as young people”  cannot be substantiated.  There is absolutely nothing in dotgay LLC’s application to substantiate this claim – the Authentication Partners, groups from around the world who have served and continue to serve the gay community, that provide the entry point to the community gTLD will cover all regions and will be inclusive of developing economies as well as covering all LGBTQIA+ sectors of the community.  This accusation is one that has been often repeated in the dirty trick campaign waged by some of the standard applicants against the dotgay LLC community application.  This dirty tricks campaign  against the gay community would also make a good case-study, and represents a form of discrimination that the gay community has had to deal with in its application for .gay .  It can only be hoped that the powers-that-be will seriously consider the human rights responsibilities of all actors: including but not not limited to ICANN itself, the EIU and other evaluators, and the registry applicants who compete against communities.