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ICANN 53 will be in Buenos Aires

Kevin Murphy, December 8, 2014, Gossip

ICANN has picked Buenos Aires, Argentina, for its 53rd public meeting.

The choice of city was approved by the ICANN board late last week.

The meeting will be held June 21-25 next year, sandwiched between February’s return to Singapore and October’s first foray into Dublin.

The BA venue has not been disclosed yet, but it’s possible ICANN will return to the Sheraton hotel and convention center.

It’s the third time ICANN has held one of its public meetings in Argentina. It visited BA last year for ICANN 48 and the sleepy seaside town of Mar Del Plata in 2005.

Having attended both previous meetings, I’ve discovered that it’s possible for a vegetarian to quickly become seriously malnourished in Argentina, so it’s quite likely DI’s coverage of ICANN 53 will heavily leverage the excellent remote participation facilities.

BA’s great if you love steak, however.

ICANN puts .islam and other gTLD bids in limbo

Kevin Murphy, February 8, 2014, Domain Policy

Or should that be Barzakh?

Rather than making the tricky decision on whether to approve .islam and .halal new gTLD applications, ICANN seems to have place both bids into permanent limbo.

It’s also put off calls on applications for .spa, .amazon, .wine and .vin, due to objections from the Governmental Advisory Committee.

On .islam and .halal, ICANN chair Steve Crocker wrote to Turkish applicant Asia Green IT System to say that the New gTLD Program Committee will not address the bids until AGIT has worked out its differences with the Organization for Islamic Cooperation.

He noted that AGIT has expressed a willingness in the past to work with the OIC, but that the OIC has formally decided to object to the two applications. Crocker wrote:

There seems to be a conflict between the commitments made in your letters and the concerns raised in letters to ICANN urging ICANN not to delegate the strings. Given these circumstances, the NGPC will not address the applications further until such time as the noted conflicts have been resolved.

This is not a formal rejection of the applications, but ICANN seems to have placed them in a limbo that will only be resolved when AGIT withdraws from the program or secures OIC support.

There’s also delaying treatment for .wine and .vin, which have become the subject of a raging row between Europe on the one hand and the US, Canada and Australia on the other.

Europe wants these two wine-related gTLDs to be subject to strict rules on who can register domains containing geographic indicators, such as “Champagne”. The others don’t.

ICANN in response has commissioned a third-party study on GIs, which it expects to be able to consider at its Singapore public meeting next month. Again, a decision has been avoided.

The two applicants for .spa don’t have any closure either.

Spa is the name of a town in Belgium, whereas the two applicants — Donuts and Asia Spa and Wellness Promotion Council — intend to use the string in its English dictionary sense.

There was a bit of a scandal during the Buenos Aires meeting last November when it was suggested that Belgium was using its position on the GAC to shake down the applicants for money.

Belgium denied this, saying the city of Spa didn’t stand to gain financially from the deals that it was trying to make with applicants. Some money would go to “the community served by .spa”, Belgium said, without elaboration.

ICANN has now decided to put .spa on hold, but wants to know more about these talks:

ICANN will not enter into registry agreements with applicants for the identified string at this time. The NGPC notes concern about concluding the discussions with the applicants and will request the GAC to (1) provide a timeline for final consideration of the string, and (2) identify the “interested parties” noted in the GAC advice.

Finally, ICANN has yet again delayed making a call on Amazon’s application for .amazon — until at least Singapore — out of an abundance of legal caution.

The GAC recommended that ICANN should reject .amazon because a few Latin American states claim ownership of the string due to it being the same as the Amazon region they share.

Amazon and others claim that it would be in violation of international law that prevents governments interfering with the use of trademarks for the GAC to block .amazon.

ICANN’s NGPC said:

ICANN has commissioned an independent, third-party expert to provide additional analysis on the specific issues of application of law at issue, which may focus on legal norms or treaty conventions relied on by Amazon or governments. The analysis is expected to be completed in time for the ICANN Singapore meeting so that the NGPC can consider it in Singapore.

In my view, the .amazon issue is the one most likely to bring a lawsuit to ICANN’s doorstep, so the organization clearly wants to get its legal position straight before making a call one way or the other.

All these decisions were made on Wednesday. You can read the NGPC’s resolution here and the important details here.

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

Kevin Murphy, November 24, 2013, 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.

ICANN 48 travelers face chaos after plane crash

Kevin Murphy, November 16, 2013, Gossip

Nobody was hurt. Don’t worry.

But dozens of ICANN 48 attendees experienced huge delays, frustration and anger after a plane skidded off the runway at Buenos Aires, temporarily closing the whole of the Ministro Pistarini International Airport and sending travelers off on diversions totaling thousands of miles.

The early-morning “incident involving a plane”, which is what my own flight crew only ever referred to it as, did not cause any injuries and was apparently cleaned up quite quickly.

But there seems to have been barely anyone flying into Ezeiza on the eve of ICANN 48 yesterday that was not in some way affected.

Consider these stories, collected from the conference floor and Twitter, strictly anecdotal.

  • Several flights carrying ICANNers, due to land at around the same time, found themselves diverted to large cities in neighboring Latin American countries. Many found themselves sitting in hot metal tubes on airport tarmacs in Montevideo, Uruguay, Santiago, Chile and Rio De Janeiro, Brazil before finally turning back to BA.
  • One flight, carrying several delegates from Washington DC, was diverted to Santiago — a 2,000-mile round trip — not once but TWICE, leaving passengers ultimately delayed by well over a day. After the first diversion, and sitting on the Santiago runway for two or three hours, the plane returned to BA only to be told by air traffic control to stay in an hours-long holding pattern while the airport cleared up the backlog. Realizing he lacked the fuel (and apparently the foresight) to do so, the pilot decided to return to Santiago instead, where passengers eventually had to spend the night. They finally started rolling into BA this afternoon.
  • Another, diverted to Montevideo, apparently had to divert for a second time when, moments away from landing, the pilot realized the “runway wasn’t long enough” and had to pull up.
  • My own British Airways flight from London Heathrow, carrying at least a dozen ICANNers, was diverted to Rio de Janeiro, a three-hour flight away. After four hours on the Rio runway and another two sitting in the departure lounge without instruction or information we were finally told that we’d have to wait another eight hours before we could leave, on a newly scheduled flight getting into BA in the wee hours, some 17 hours late. Some stayed at the airport and waited it out. Business class passengers (you know who you are) were safely smuggled away to a hotel to avoid the scuffles that almost broke out over the pallets of flavorless refugee-camp MREs the remaining economy class passengers were offered to keep them quiet. Some of us jumped into taxis and hit Copacabana beach instead.

So it all worked out okay in the end.

Bwahahahaha!