ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee is seriously annoyed with domain name registrars over what it sees as a failure to take the demands of law enforcement seriously.
The first official day of ICANN’s 42nd public meeting in Dakar, Senegal, was highlighted by a fractious discussion between the GAC and the Generic Names Supporting Organization.
Governments are evidently losing patience with the industry over what they see as incessant foot-dragging and, now, halfhearted bone-throwing.
The US, which is easily the most influential GAC member, was harshly critical of recent efforts by registrars to self-regulate themselves some law enforcement cooperation policies.
US GAC representative Suzanne Radell, saying she was speaking on behalf of the GAC, described a registrar move to start publishing legal service addresses on their web sites at some point in the future as as “paltry”, “mind-boggling” and “silly”.
She heavily implied that if the industry can’t self-regulate, the alternative is governments doing it for them. She was backed up by her counterparts from the UK, Australia and the European Commission.
Registrars have been talking to law enforcement for a few years about how to more effectively work together to prevent crime online.
In October 2009, agencies including the FBI and the UK Serious Organised Crime Agency publish a set of 12 recommendations about how to clean up the industry.
A lot of it was pretty basic stuff like a prohibition on registrar cybersquatting and an obligation to publish an abuse point of contact.
Despite a lot of talking at ICANN meetings, up until a couple of weeks ago there had not been a great deal of tangible progress.
The GNSO passed a resolution, proposed by registrars, to ask for an Issue Report to discuss whether registrars should be forced to post on their sites: a physical address for legal service, the names of key executives, and an abuse contact.
In ICANN’s world, an Issue Report usually precedes a Policy Development Process, which can take a year or more to produce results.
While the GNSO motion passed, it was opposed as inadequate by factions such as the Intellectual Property Constituency, which has close ties to the US government.
As the IPC seemed to correctly predict, the GAC was not amused.
“It is simply impossible for us to write a briefing memo for our political managers to explain why you need a policy to simply put your name on your web site,” Radell told the GNSO Council yesterday. “It is simply mind-boggling that you would require that.”
She pointed out that at a session during the Singapore meeting, registrars had indicated a willingness to address more of the law enforcement demands.
“That’s the context in which we are now coming to you saying this looks pretty paltry and actually it looks a little silly,” she said.
Mason Cole from the registrar constituency denied that they were “roadblocking” law enforcement’s demands, saying that a PDP is the fastest way to create a policy binding on all registrars.
“I think law enforcement was very clear when they made their proposals to us that what they were looking for was binding, enforceable provisions of policy that could be imposed on the registrars,” he said. “A code of conduct or a voluntary method would not arrive at binding, enforceable policy and therefore probably wouldn’t achieve the outcomes that law enforcement representatives were seeking.”
The debate didn’t end yesterday. Radell said she intends to take it up with the ICANN board of directors, presumably at their joint meeting tomorrow.
The implicit threat underlying the GAC’s protest is a legislative one, and Radell and other GAC members made it pretty clear that their governments back home regard domain names as a crucial tool in fighting online crime.