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Why ICANN should stop taking the “Malvinas” issue seriously [RANT]

Kevin Murphy, November 24, 2013, 19:36:01 (UTC), Domain Policy

Here in the UK, we have something not very nice called the British National Party.

It’s a perfectly legal political party but, as the name may suggest, it has an overtly racist manifesto, garners few votes, and holds next to no power.

Voting BNP is frowned upon in polite company. Don’t expect too many dinner party invitations if you’re a supporter. It’s even legal here for employers to discriminate against card-carrying members.

The most unpleasant manifesto promise of the BNP is to “encourage the voluntary resettlement” of “immigrants”.

Britain, the BNP says, should be for its “indigenous people”, which it has described as “the people whose ancestors were the earliest settlers here after the last great Ice Age”.

That’s about 10,000 years ago. It’s basically the BNP’s way of rationalizing its racism with a cut-off point for what constitutes an “immigrant” that falls well before anyone with brown skin showed up.

None of this has anything to do with domain names, of course.

I only mention the BNP because its ludicrous views always spring to my mind whenever I hear an Argentinian activist raise the issue of the Falkland Islands at an ICANN meeting.

This happened quite a lot at the Public Forum of the ICANN 48 meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina last Thursday.

It wasn’t the first time the Falklands have been discussed at an ICANN meeting but, on home turf, many locals who would not otherwise consider attending decided to show up to make their views known.

Argentinians call the Falklands archipelago, a British Overseas Territory situated in the southern Atlantic about 500km to the east of Argentina, the “Malvinas”.

Originally settled by France in the late 18th century, Britain has controlled the islands more or less continuously since 1834 and at intervals as far back as 1765, before Argentina existed.

Spain was in charge for a few decades from 1767 and then Argentina, after its independence, had a hold for a few years from 1829.

The only time Argentina has had a claim recently was during a two-month period in 1982, when Argentina invaded, starting a pointless war that claimed the lives of 255 British and 649 Argentinian service personnel, wounding a few thousand more.

In case this history lesson is new to you, I should point out that the Falklands are not and have never in living memory been in any way “occupied” by the UK.

The islanders are all British citizens and have the right of self-determination: they want to be British. According to the 2013 electoral roll, only 18 Argentinians live there, of a population of almost 3,000.

So it really boils my piss when I have to listen to Argentinians take to the mic at ICANN meetings to demand — demand — that ICANN transfers the Falklands ccTLD, .fk, to Argentina’s ccTLD operator, Nic.ar.

It turns my piss to steam when members of the ICANN board of directors humor these demands — vowing to take their concerns seriously or, even worse, agreeing with the use of terms like “occupation”.

This happened quite a lot on Thursday.

The ring-leader of the Argentine position is a guy called Sergio Salinas Porto. He’s president of Internauta Argentina, an organization of Argentinian internet users.

He seems to be a bit of a one-trick pony when it comes to public statements at ICANN meetings. The Latino Paul Foody, maybe. It’s possible that I’m giving him more credibility than he deserves.

He made similar demands at the ICANN meetings in Senegal in 2011 and Costa Rica last year. This time, however, he seems to have managed to drag some of his supporters with him.

The real-time interpretation provided by ICANN is not good enough to quote from directly at any length, but Internauta published its list of demands on its web site after the Public Forum. Among them (machine-translated from the original Spanish):

That the Argentine authorities (legal and technical secretariat – NIC.ar) will deliver the administration of ccTLDs .fk and .gs.

That all ccTLDs involving debate on issues of sovereignty and further promote colonialist acts or harboring or see these acts are protected from any administrative or factual act by ICANN are reviewed.

It also wants the Falklands referred to as the “Malvinas”, alongside “Falklands”, in ICANN documentation, and for .fk to fall into the Latin-American, rather than European, ICANN region.

But the key demand here is that control of a ccTLD that is currently delegated to a territory’s government — the Falkland Islands Government in this case — is transferred to the government of another country, based on emotive arguments such as “occupation” and “colonialism”.

At the mic, Salinas Porto reiterated these points almost word for word, judging by the ICANN interpreter’s translation — asking for the redelegation and using the same emotive arguments.

The demand was restated by multiple Argentinian commenters.

It was restated so many times that session moderator Bertrand de La Chappelle — who had graciously allowed Salinas Porto to jump to the front of the queue for the mic — took no small amount of flak from Internauta’s supporters for trying to hurry people along in the interests of timing.

One talked of “a dark and colonial power”, another talked of “decolonization”, one said he felt “invaded” by ICANN, a fourth said that “the Malvinas islands were taken by a colonial power by force”.

This is pure chutzpah.

It may be true that the Falklands were seized militarily by Britain. My history is not good enough to pass comment. Whatever happened, it was 180 years ago. Everyone involved is long dead.

Argentina indisputably seized the islands militarily during my lifetime. The records on this are pretty good. Living servicemen on both sides today bear the physical and emotional scars of Argentina’s folly.

Now consider that Argentina was among a coalition of Latin American nations that recently used the Governmental Advisory Committee to kill off the application from Patagonia Inc for the new gTLD .patagonia.

That was based on the governments’ claims that Patagonia — a region that covers areas of Argentina and Chile — should be a protected term in the domain name system. They have sovereignty, they claim.

Yet the Patagonia region was claimed by Argentina during the so-called “Conquest of the Desert”, an act of “colonization” that involved the “genocide” of over 1,000 indigenous people and dislocation of 15,000 more. That’s even more people than killed in 1982.

And Argentina did this act of colonization in 1870, three decades after the British took over the Falklands, which had no indigenous peoples (if you’re not counting the penguins).

If there’s a serious question about the ownership of .fk, shouldn’t the same logic should apply to .patagonia? Argentina can’t have it both ways, can it?

If the cut-off point for ownership of a territory is pre-1834, then Argentina can have no claim over .patagonia.

It’s a ludicrous thing to say, I know. I can barely believe I’m making the argument, it’s so silly. I feel almost Amish, or BNP, or one of the Conkies, to try to use an arbitrary cut-off date like that.

That’s probably why nobody from the UK took the mic at the ICANN Public Forum on Thursday to respond to Salinas Porto and Internauta’s supporters.

Maybe they didn’t want to provide oxygen to the illusion that there is a real debate here (in which case they’re smarter than me), or maybe they were far too polite to risk insulting their host nation by joining in on the trivialization of a political conflict that has resulted in the death and maiming of so many (in which case I’m embarrassing myself here).

But at least three members of the ICANN board did address the issue, vowing to treat the issue seriously and therefore compelling me to respond, regardless.

Notably, CEO Fadi Chehade, who grew up in Beirut, Lebanon, said it was a “very worthy question”, adding:

This was a chance for us to hear your views and appreciate your feelings about this. I must tell you on a personal basis, unlike living the history of colonialism I lived under a colonizer, personally, so I’m personally familiar with how you feel. But this is a very serious matter that requires some review and some thinking. I can assure you that we have listened to you and we will take your input as great learning for us.

Now, it’s quite possible that this was just the latest instance of Chehade “doing a Chehade” and telling his perceived audience what he perceived they wanted to hear.

His predecessor, Rod Beckstrom, was similarly accommodating to Salinas Porto during the Costa Rica meeting in 2012.

Chehade did not actually commit ICANN to address the issue.

But the Brits were in the audience too. And I think it’s fair to say that when we hear Argentinians bang on about the “Malvinas” — and we hear the ICANN board pay them heed — we either a) get angry or b) shake our heads and tut.

At the start of this article I compared the Argentinian argument to the BNP. To avoid doubt, I’m not saying that it’s racist. I could not begin to construct such an argument. I am saying that it’s silly, and probably based more on Argentinian nationalism than it is on any deficiencies in ICANN policy.

When ICANN in future responds to Argentinian arguments about the Falklands, these are some things to bear in mind:

  • ICANN does not decide, and is not qualified to decide, what arbitrary subdivisions of our planet are or are not worthy of a ccTLD delegation.
  • ICANN long ago decided to take its cues from the International Standards Organization, which in turn looks to the United Nations, when assembling its list of ccTLD identifiers.
  • ICANN, via its IANA department, always pays attention to the wishes of the local populace when it decides whether to redelegate a ccTLD to a new operator.

These three bullet points are the only things an ICANN director needs to know when responding to anyone who uses the word “Malvinas” in a Public Forum statement.

“Taking it seriously” should only be an option if you’re trying to be polite.

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Comments (16)

  1. Drewbert says:

    “The Latino Paul Foody, maybe.”

    That bad?

    “Pablo Fudo”. Heh heh.

  2. Georges says:

    Ok, now I understand that DomainIncite is british.

  3. Enola Gay says:

    Since Argentina apparently understands only the rule of the sword, some well-placed detonations from above, to cease only when all government maps are reprinted to say Falklands (Br.), might be a more expedient—and certainly more satisfying—solution. No need to send a slow boat halfway across the world when an airplane will do. And no, I do not write this in jest.

  4. Keith Teare says:

    I am a Brit and I have to disagree mostly on the history. Britain was a colonial power since the 1600’s. Any Island that close to modern Argentina is certainly not “British” in any sense other than the same way your pen is mine if I steal it. Or think of it this way. South Africa was settled many centuries ago. Does that make the settlers the owners? Or was Nelson Mandela right to want to liberate it? Settlement isn’t ownership….

    Another issue entirely is whether it is Argentinian. Like Ireland it really should be independent (but then we Brits have not observed that right viz the Irish for many years).

    BTW, The Malvinas/Falklands is in Latin America, and .fk certainly should be understood to be a Latin American domain.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      Hi Keith.

      Long time no speak. Really quite surprised that this is our first interaction since RealNames died, but fair enough, I’m glad you’re reading DI.

      My view is that the people that live in a place should have the right to determine what happens in that place.

      Like in Northern Ireland. The British fucked over the Irish quite badly for quite a long time. Now, the people who live in Northern Ireland mostly want to be British. So the British give them self-determination. Problem solved. Whatever happens from now on, it’s the fault of their own democracy.

      Same same with the Scots, the Welsh and the Falklands. They have British citizenship, and they have self-determination.

      They could all convert to Argentinian tomorrow if they wanted to. What the hell else could they want?

      Kevin

      • KeDomains says:

        I didn’t know DI Author is such a jingoistic moron. You are as intolerant as the moronic Falkanders who truly behave like BNP members and are fond of taunting Argentines. Simply amazing. You practice what you say you and other Brits in “polite company” detest. Am not sure about the rules of ISO/IANA assignment of country codes in contested territories/domains but if the Falkanders consider themselves British, why don’t they use a .UK domain? Surely, if the Island was in contention, there has to be middle way until there is a resolution. If there will ever be a resolution. Coming from a country that was colonized I truly understand the Argentine position. .Patagonia is simply stretching it too far to rationalize your argument. It is located INSIDE Argentine/Peruvian borders. Neither have I heard another country laying claim to Patagonia as its territory.

      • Keith Teare says:

        Hi Kevin,

        “My view is that the people that live in a place should have the right to determine what happens in that place.”

        So, by that definition all an invader has to do is to “settle” sufficient people to be a majority. Colonialism always went together with settlement – including Scottish and Welsh protestants in the case of Northern Ireland. Stealing and Settling doesn’t make it OK IMHO.

        • Kevin Murphy says:

          Who did Britain “steal” the Falklands from?

          Bear in mind that it was unoccupied when England discovered it, and that we were there for decades before Argentina existed.

  5. Brian Flores says:

    el tema del reclamo de soberanía nosotros argentinos lo dejamos en manos de gobierno .La discusión es sobre dominios web que solo se entregan a países o estados reconocidos y Malvinas /Falklands es un territorio de ultramar en disputa y bajo el comité de descolonizacion de la ONU. ( http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comit%C3%A9_de_Descolonizaci%C3%B3n)

  6. Brian Flores says:

    the theme of the Argentine sovereignty claim we left it in the hands of government. discussion is about web domains only countries or states recognized and delivered Malvinas / Falklands is an overseas territory in dispute and decolonization committee under the UN .

    http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comit%C3%A9_de_Descolonizaci%C3%B3n

  7. Brian Flores says:

    A little story to my friend Kevin Murphy,
    When is Argentina’s independence from Spain?
    In fact, in 1810, formally in 1816.
    Stated?, Then, that the heir to the Falklands was considered?
    It was implicit. In addition, in 1820 took effective control, designating governor.
    When the United Kingdom recognized the independence Argentina?
    In 1825.
    Upon recognizing the independence Argentina, did not the United Kingdom reserve their rights?
    No. Neither did the “Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation” both nations signed the same year. The first English claim is 1829.
    When passed the islands, in fact, to be English?
    On January 2, 1833. Troops under the command of John James Onslow, who arrived in Clio frigate, overthrew the governor José María Pinedo and took possession of the islands.

  8. Marcos Del Fedele says:

    I think its a bit of ignorance and a bit of a populist doctrine that the guy who wrote this article says what he says.
    If the claim if so old, its becouse the british refused to sit to the negotiation table and finish this dispute once and for all. The first argentine protest for the invasion of britain was at the very same moment the british invaded Malvinas in 1833.
    In 2033 there will be 200 since the british invaded. We tried everything to recover our land. What do you suggest? to let colonialism to win?. There is two ways of ending any sovereignty dispute. or both sit down and search a way to end the dispute, or you go to war, making your enemy to sign you their recognition of your sovereignty. None of both options happened.
    And im not suggesting to believe in the argentine point of view. I suggest you to read all United Nations General Assembly resolutions along with all the Decolonization Committe resolutions and while you are there read the non self governing territory list where there are 16 territories under a colonial situation. !0 of them are administered by the uk.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      Perhaps Argentina should return its land to the native Americans. Or should we let colonialism win?

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