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ICANN to publish board meeting transcripts

Kevin Murphy, May 20, 2016, Domain Policy

In a surprising move towards further transparency, the ICANN board of directors has decided to start publishing transcripts and possibly recordings of its meetings.

It passed a resolution during a meeting in Amsterdam this week stating:

the Board directs the President and CEO, or his designee(s), to work with the Board to develop a proposed plan for the publication of transcripts and/or recordings of Board deliberative sessions, with such plan to include an assessment of possible resources costs and fiscal impact, and draft processes to: (i) ensure the accuracy of the transcript; and (ii) for redaction of portions of the transcript that should be maintained as confidential or privileged.

Transcription services can be picked up dirt cheap, so I can’t see money getting in the way of this proposal becoming a reality.

A question mark of course hangs over the “confidential or privileged” carve-out, of course. ICANN is sometimes over-generous with what it considers redactable material.

Still, it’s great news for the ICANN community, which has been calling for greater board transparency for years.

When I started covering ICANN back in 1999, board sessions at the then four-times-a-year public meetings were conducted in the open; all the thinking was done aloud.

At some point in the early 2000s that stopped, however, and the board’s public sessions became a case of rubber-stamping resolutions that had already been debated behind closed doors.

Minutes, staff-prepared briefing materials and broad-stroke narrative reports have been published, but they give limited insight into the depth of the discussions.

Chair Steve Crocker has even stated in recent years that its goal was to make these public sessions “as boring as possible”.

That’s obviously no good for those of us who’d like to know how top-level decisions at ICANN actually get made.

The plan is for new CEO Goran Marby, who starts on Monday, to come up with a proposal before the Helsinki meeting next month, with a view to start publishing transcripts not long thereafter

ICANN diverts from Puerto Rico to India to avoid Zika

Kevin Murphy, May 17, 2016, Domain Policy

ICANN has confirmed that its 57th public meeting will not be held, as originally planned, in Puerto Rico.

Instead, it is asking community members to instead head to Hyderabad, India, this November.

Those Las Vegas rumors turned out not to be true. However, on the up-side, those Las Vegas rumors turned out not to be true!

The decision was to relocate made to the a “state of emergency” being declared in Puerto Rico due to the Zika virus.

Zika is spread by mosquitoes and male sexual partners and can cause devastating birth defects in kids.

Latest figures from the US Center for Disease Control put infections in US territories at 701, three of whom were travelers.

ICANN said in a blog post this evening:

This decision was based on available research and information and the fact that Puerto Rico has declared a state of emergency due to the ongoing Zika virus outbreak. We believe that the Zika virus poses a significant enough threat that we need to postpone going to Puerto Rico for the health and safety of our community and our ICANN team, just as we had to postpone ICANN52 and relocate from Marrakech to Singapore due to the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014.

It’s the second of this year’s meetings to be relocated due to Zika. June’s Panama meeting has been moved to Helsinki.

ICANN said that the new venue for ICANN 57, which takes place from November 3 to 9 this year, is the Hyderabad International Convention Centre.

It’s said that ICANN will take a seven-figure hit to its bank balance in order to cancel the PR meeting.

ICANN pimps new sexual harassment rules

Kevin Murphy, May 17, 2016, Domain Policy

ICANN has proposed new anti-harassment guidelines for its community that would ban “unwelcome hostile or intimidating behavior”.

It wants your comments on the changes to its longstanding “Expected Standards of Behavior” document, which applies to both its in-person meetings and online discussions and mailing lists.

The proposed addition to the document reads like this:

Respect all members of the ICANN community equally and behave according to professional standards and demonstrate appropriate behavior. ICANN strives to create and maintain an environment in which people of many different backgrounds and cultures are treated with dignity, decency, and respect. Specifically, participants in the ICANN process must not engage in any type of harassment. Generally, harassment is considered unwelcome hostile or intimidating behavior — in particular, speech or behavior that is sexually aggressive or intimidates based on attributes such as race, gender, ethnicity, religion, age, color, national origin, ancestry, disability or medical condition, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

The definition of harassment has been borrowed almost directly from the Internet Engineering Task Force’s policy on harassment, which was signed off in 2013.

ICANN has added the words “ethnicity” and “medical condition” to the IETF’s list of protected characteristics, but has not included the IETF’s list of examples:

the use of offensive language or sexual imagery in public presentations and displays, degrading verbal comments, deliberate intimidation, stalking, harassing photography or recording, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention.

The changes were prompted by a recent allegation of sexual harassment at an ICANN meeting which divided the community on whether the alleged incident amounted to sexual harassment or not.

ICANN’s Ombudsman, Chris LaHatte, concluded that whatever took place “cannot be considered serious”, but he did not make a formal finding.

LaHatte has already endorsed the proposed change to the expected standards document.

It does not seem unreasonable to me, at first glance, either.

What do you think? ICANN has opened a public comment period that closes June 25, to find out.

With Zika fears, is ICANN dissing Latin America?

Kevin Murphy, May 10, 2016, Domain Policy

Internet organizations in Latin America are pissed off with ICANN for cancelling its Panama public meeting and potentially cancelling its Puerto Rico meeting.

They said that the cancellations will have “a direct negative impact on the participation of our communities in the region, since they view these meetings as favorable opportunities to get together for the development of their respective work agendas, leveraging geographic and cultural proximity.”

“This has a direct effect on the development of the Internet in our regions,” they added.

The comments came in a May 5 letter (pdf) from the Latin America and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (LACNIC) the Latin America and Caribbean TLD Association (LACTLD) and the Latin America and Caribbean Association of Internet Exchange Points (LAC-IX).

Together, they represent IP addressing, ccTLDs and internet exchanges in the region.

ICANN recently switched its ICANN 56 venue from Panama to Finland due to the Zika virus outbreak in the region.

It is also expected to relocate ICANN 57 from Puerto Rico to Las Vegas, for the same reason, though no decision has yet been made.

The letter claims that the LAC region is being under-served in terms of ICANN meeting time.

While ICANN’s goal is to rotate its meetings through its five regions, the letter says that the LAC region only gets one out of six meetings.

But is the region getting fewer meetings than elsewhere? I don’t think the numbers support that assertion.

This is how all the meetings to date break down by ICANN region.

RegionMeetings
Africa10
Asia-Pacific15
Europe12
North America10
Latin-America & Caribbean10

It’s clear that LAC isn’t getting singled out in particular for a dissing, no more than Africa or North America.

In fact, LAC may be doing better than North America, due to the weird way ICANN assigns countries to regions.

The Caribbean island of Puerto Rico (where ICANN met in 2007) counts as North America as far as ICANN is concerned, due to its status as a US territory.

ICANN counts Mexico (where it met in 2009), which is geographically North American, as a LAC nation for some reason.

But the three organizations signing this letter all count both Mexico and Puerto Rico as LAC nations. By that definition, they’ve had 11 meetings to North America’s nine, placing LAC in the middle of the table with exactly one out of every five meetings taking place there.

ICANN chair Steve Crocker did not dissect the numbers in his reply (pdf) yesterday, instead focusing on sympathizing with the LAC groups’ concerns and pointing out that finding suitable locations for ICANN meetings is extremely tricky.

“On rare occasions, due to events outside ICANN’s control, we face challenges sufficiently severe that we feel we cannot proceed with meetings in the venue we have planned,” Crocker wrote.

He continued: “[I]t is our understanding that the Zika virus poses a serious threat to human health. We have consulted extensively on risks and considered whether under the circumstances we can hold an efficient and safe meeting. In this instance we have decided this is a serious risk and decided to go to an alternate venue for the safety of our community.”

.shop lawsuit falling to pieces

Kevin Murphy, April 29, 2016, Domain Policy

Commercial Connect’s lawsuit against ICANN appears to be on its way out, as ICANN claims the .shop applicant has “abandoned” the case.

The company sued ICANN in January in an attempt to prevent .shop gTLD being sold off via an ICANN last-resort auction.

It failed, and the auction raised a $41 million winning bid from GMO Registry.

It transpired that the company didn’t bother telling its lawyer that it had signed an agreement not to sue when it applied for .shop, and the lawyer jumped ship less than two weeks after the complaint was filed.

The lawyer told the court the waiver had been “buried among thousands and thousands of documents on a USB drive” and that he hadn’t noticed it before filing the suit.

In a court filing (pdf) yesterday, ICANN said that Commercial Connect had failed to secure a new lawyer, had failed to formally serve ICANN with the complaint, and had missed its April 25 deadline to argue against ICANN’s motion to dismiss the case.

For these reasons, it said, the case should be chucked.

Commercial Connect applied for .shop in 2000 and again in 2012 and has used every appeals mechanism and legal tool at its disposal in order to disrupt competing bids.

GMO’s .shop is currently in pre-delegation testing.