One of the applicants for .gay has won a significant battle in the fight for the controversial new gTLD.
In a shock move, a committee of ICANN’s board of directors has overturned the rejection of dotgay LLC’s Community Priority Evaluation, ordering that the case should be re-examined by a new panel of experts.
As you may recall, dotgay’s CPE was kicked out in October after the Economist Intelligence Unit panel decided that the company’s defined community was too broad to be described by “gay” as it included a lot of people who aren’t gay, such as straight people.
The decision — which I thought was probably correct — caused an uproar from dotgay’s myriad supporters, which include dozens of international equal rights and gay community organizations.
dotgay filed a Request for Reconsideration, ICANN’s cheapest but least reliable form of appeal, and today found out it actually won.
ICANN’s Board Governance Committee, which handles the RfR process, this week ruled (pdf):
The BGC concludes that, upon investigation of Requester’s claims, the CPE Panel inadvertently failed to verify 54 letters of support for the Application and that this failure contradicts an established procedure. The BGC further concludes that the CPE Panel’s failure to comply with this established CPE procedure warrants reconsideration. Accordingly, the BGC determines that the CPE Panel Report shall be set aside, and that the EIU shall identify two different evaluators to perform a new CPE for the Application
The successful RfR appears to be based on a technicality, and may have no lasting impact on the .gay contention set.
Under the EIU’s process rules: “With few exceptions, verification emails are sent to every entity that has sent a letter(s) of support or opposition to validate their identity and authority”.
It seems that the EIU was sent a bundle of 54 letters of support for dotgay, but did not email the senders to verify they were legit. The BCG wrote:
Over the course of investigating the claims made in Request 14-44, ICANN learned that the CPE Panel inadvertently did not verify 54 of the letters of support it reviewed. All 54 letters were sent by the Requester in one correspondence bundle, and they are publicly posted on ICANN’s correspondence page.36 The 54 letters were deemed to be relevant by the EIU, but the EIU inadvertently failed to verify them.
If an applicant wins a CPE it means all the other applicants are automatically excluded, and the door is now open for the EIU to rethink its earlier decision.
So do competing applicants Rightside, Minds + Machines and Top Level Design now have genuine cause for concern? Not necessarily.
CPE applicants need to score at least 14 out of 16 available points in order to win, and dotgay only scored 10 points in its original evaluation.
Crucially, the EIU panel said that because the “community” as defined by dotgay included transgender, intersex, asexual and straight “allies” of equal rights, it was too broad to score any of the available four points on the “Nexus” criteria.
The BCG could find no fault with the EIU’s determination on Nexus, so even if dotgay’s letters of support are verified according to procedure, it would not necessarily lead to dotgay picking up any more Nexus points.
The BCG wrote on Nexus: “Requester’s substantive disagreement with the CPE Panel’s conclusion does not support reconsideration”.
However, given that the EIU is going to do the entire CPE all over again with new panelists, it seems entirely possible that dotgay could win this time.