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Iran rep reported to ICANN Ombudsman, again

Kevin Murphy, August 3, 2017, Domain Policy

Iran’s Governmental Advisory Committee representative has found himself reported to ICANN’s Ombudsman for alleged bad behavior for the second time in just a few months.

Outspoken GACer Kavouss Arasteh was referred to Ombudsman Herb Waye by consultant John Laprise, according to posts on mailing lists and social media.

Both men serve on an ICANN volunteer working group that is looking at matters related to the jurisdiction in which ICANN operates.

The group’s discussions have recently become extremely fractious, largely due to a series of combative emails and teleconference interventions from Arasteh.

Laprise eventually said on the list that Arasteh was being a “bad actor”, adding that “his tone, manner, and insinuations are detrimental and indeed hostile to the process.”

He later said on Facebook that he had reported the matter to the Ombudsman.

The spat centered on an August 1 teleconference in which members of the so-called WS2-Jurisdiction working group heard a briefing from ICANN lawyers on the Office of Foreign Assets Control, which oversees international trade sanctions in the US.

As well as enforcing sanctions against countries including Iran, OFAC maintains a list of people and organizations, many of them Iranian, that American companies are forbidden from doing business with.

It impacts ICANN because the organization in its normal course of business is often obliged to deal with ccTLD registries in sanctioned nations, for which it needs to apply for OFAC licenses.

Arasteh initially complained multiple times that the meeting had been rescheduled for August 1 — apparently with his initial consent — which is a national holiday in his home nation of Switzerland.

He also fought for ICANN lawyers to be asked to provide, at very short notice, a written briefing paper on OFAC, answering the group’s questions, prior to the teleconference taking place.

On neither issue did he receive support from fellow volunteers, something for which he seemed to blame group chair Greg Shatan, an intellectual property lawyer.

Arasteh’s criticisms of an increasingly weary Shatan sometimes seemed to border on conspiracy theory. All other working group members who publicly expressed an opinion said Shatan was doing a fine job herding this particular set of cats.

During the teleconference itself, Arasteh ate up the first five or six minutes of allotted time with a rambling, barely comprehensible complaint about the format of the meeting, compelling Shatan to eventually ask for his mic to be cut off.

In emails over the next 48 hours, the GAC rep continued his tirade against what he perceives as Shatan’s bias against him and called again for ICANN legal to provide a formal set of written answers to questions.

Some fellow group members believe Arasteh’s defensive and confrontational approach is merely a clash of cultures between his usual style of government diplomacy and the staid, tediously polite style of ICANN working group interactions.

Others are less charitable.

Still, the question of whether the latest WG friction has infringed any of ICANN’s “Expected Standards of Behavior” now appears to be in the hands of the Ombudsman.

Arasteh was also reported to Waye back in May, when he accused the chairs of a different ICANN working group of trying to exclude governmental voices from new gTLD policy-making by scheduling teleconferences at times he found inconvenient.

Waye subsequently reported that the complaint had been resolved between the parties.

In June, he said he was proactively monitoring a third working group mailing list after receiving allegations of harassment. That was unrelated to Iran.

Iran reported to Ombudsman after new gTLD conspiracy theory

Kevin Murphy, May 17, 2017, Domain Policy

ICANN’s Ombudsman has stepped in to resolve a complaint from the Iranian government that it was being “excluded” from discussions about the next phase of the new gTLD program.

Kavouss Arasteh, Iran’s Governmental Advisory Committee representative, earlier this month accused the leadership of the New gTLD Subsequent Procedures Working Group of deliberately scheduling teleconferences to make them difficult for him to attend.

He said the 0300 UTC timing of a meeting made it “painful” for European volunteers to participate (though it’s 0730 in Tehran).

When WG co-chair Avri Doria said that the time had been selected to avoid clashes with other working groups and declined his request, Arasteh said in an email: “If you insist, I interpret that this is an effort to EXCLUDE GAC TO ATTEND THE PDP.”

In other words, he was accusing the WG leaders of trying to exclude governments from helping to develop the rules of the new gTLD program.

Doria responded that she took the tone of the remarks as “abusive”, adding:

since my motives have been attacked and since I have been accused of trying to prevent GAC participation, I have no choice other than to turn this issue over to the Ombudsman.

The only other alternative I can think of is to accept the fact that I am incapable of co-chairing this group and step down.

Fellow co-chair Jeff Neuman chipped in with a detailed explanation of how, in the global ICANN community, there usually isn’t a time of day that is not inconvenient to at least some volunteers.

(It’s sometimes possible to hear snoring on these calls, but that’s not always due to the time of day.)

Today, Ombudsman Herb Weye responded to Doria’s complaint, saying that it has been “resolved” between the two parties. He wrote:

Without going into detail I am pleased to advise the working group that this complaint has been resolved and that I can bear witness to a unanimous demonstration of support for the leadership of the working group.

I would like to highlight the professional, “human” approach taken by all involved and their willingness to communicate in a clear, respectful and objective manner. This cooperative atmosphere allowed for a timely discussion and quick resolution.

Aratesh has for some time been one of the most vocal and combative GAC reps, noticeably unafraid to raise his voice when he needs to make his point.

He recently publicly threatened to take his concerns about ICANN’s policy on two-character domains to the International Telecommunications Union if his demands were not met.

.sexy may be blocked in Iran

Kevin Murphy, September 16, 2015, Domain Tech

Some networks in Iran appear to be systematically blocking Uniregistry’s .sexy gTLD.

That’s one of the conclusions of a slightly odd experiment commissioned by ICANN.

The newly published An Analysis of New gTLD Universal Acceptance was conducted by APNIC Labs. The idea was to figure out whether there are any issues with new gTLDs on the internet’s DNS infrastructure.

It concluded that there is not — new gTLDs work just fine on the internet’s plumbing.

However, the survey — which comprised over 100 million DNS resolution attempts — showed “One country, Iran, shows some evidence of a piecemeal block of Web names within the .sexy gTLD.”

The sample size for Iranian attempts to access .sexy was just 30 attempts. In most cases, users were able to resolve the names with DNS, but HTTP responses appeared to be blocked.

The survey did not test .porn or .adult names, but it might be safe to assume similar behavior in those gTLDs.

APNIC also concluded that Israel’s .il ccTLD, included in the report as a known example of TLD blocking at the national level, is indeed blocked in Iran and Syria.

The study also found that there may be issues with Adobe’s Flash software, when used in Internet Explorer, when it comes to resolving internationalized domain names.

That conclusion seems to have been reached largely because the test’s methodology saw a Flash advertisement discretely fetching URLs in the background of web pages using Google Ads.

When the experimenters used HTML 5 to run their scripts instead, there was no problem resolving the names.

The study did not look at some of the perhaps more pressing UA issues, such as the ability for registrants and others to use new gTLD domain names in web applications.

Judge blocks seizure of Iran’s ccTLD

Kevin Murphy, November 13, 2014, Domain Policy

ICANN has won a court battle, and avoided a major political incident, over an attempt by terrorism victims to seize ccTLDs belonging to Iran, Korea and Syria.

A District of Columbia judge ruled this week that while ccTLDs may be a form of “property” under the law, they’re not “attachable” property.

Attachment is a legal concept used when creditors attempt to seize assets belonging to debtors.

The ruling overturns a request by a group of terrorism survivors, led by attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, to have .ir, .sy, .kp, سور, and ايران. transferred to them in lieu of payment of previous court rulings.

Darshan-Leitner has previously secured US court judgments amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars against the three nations. Because the nations have not paid these penalties, she’s been using the courts to seize state-owned assets in the US instead.

But US District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled (pdf) earlier this week:

the country code Top Level Domain names at issue may not be attached in satisfaction of plaintiffs’ judgments because they are not property subject to attachment under District of Columbia law.

However, he added in a footnote:

But the conclusion that ccTLDs may not be attached in satisfaction of a judgment under District of Columbia law does not mean that they cannot be property. It simply means that they are not attachable property within this statutory scheme.

Drawing on “sparse” case law, Lamberth’s rationale appears to be that domain names are not a product, they’re a service. He wrote:

The ccTLDs exist only as they are made operational by the ccTLD managers that administer the registries of second level domains within them and by the parties that cause the ccTLDs to be listed on the root zone file. A ccTLD, like a domain name, cannot be conceptualized apart from the services provided by these parties. The Court cannot order plaintiffs’ insertion into this arrangement.

The ruling, which may of course be challenged by the plaintiffs, helps ICANN and the US government avoid a huge political embarrassment at a time when the links between the two are being dissolved and relations with Iran are defrosting.

dotShabaka Diary — Day 15, Iran and Name Collisions

Kevin Murphy, October 3, 2013, Domain Registries

The fifteenth installment of dotShabaka Registry’s journal, charting its progress towards becoming one of the first new gTLDs to go live, written by general manager Yasmin Omer.

Thursday 3 October 2013

At a time when ICANN has hit the ‘pause’ button on the new gTLD program in order to assess the impact of “name collisions” on the security and stability of the DNS, we were surprised to see the ICANN Board approve the delegation of ایران., the IDN ccTLD for the Islamic Republic of Iran. While we understand the many distinctions between a ccTLD and a gTLD, the DNS does not make any such distinction.

As we’ve heard from Paul Mockapetris and John Crain recently in their interviews posted on the ICANN website, name collisions (or, more accurately, NX Domain responses) is not a new phenomenon; they have been evident with the introduction of any TLD and with existing TLDs in the root. Experience has shown that steps have been taken to successfully resolve the issues. We understand that ICANN is concerned that the use of NX Domain responses has the potential to create confusion with the introduction of new TLDs into the DNS.

As a contracted party with ICANN, شبكة. (an IDN gTLD) is unable to be delegated as we wait the outcomes of ICANN’s deliberations on name collisions. We have paid our $185,000 application fee, we have undertaken a very resource intensive exercise to ensure a compliant application, we have passed Initial Evaluation, we have signed a registry agreement with ICANN, we have passed pre-delegation testing and yet we sit and wait.

Our understanding of the IDN ccTLD fast track process is that it is much less rigorous, the application fee is voluntary, there is no requirement to enter into a contract with ICANN, the TLD can develop a launch strategy that is not restricted by ICANN mandated rights protection mechanisms, and any contribution to ICANN’s budget is voluntary. But because this is a ccTLD and not a new gTLD, the Board has seen fit to approve this delegation request at this time despite the serious conversation going on in the community about name collisions.

As we said previously, the DNS does not distinguish between a ccTLD or a gTLD, or for that matter an IDN ccTLD or an IDN gTLD. We would appreciate an explanation as to why we sit and wait for delegation while the IDN ccTLD is approved.

Read previous and future diary entries here.

Iran warns on 29 new gTLD bids

Kevin Murphy, December 21, 2012, Domain Policy

The Iranian government has filed late Early Warnings against 29 new gTLD applications, mostly on the basis that the applied-for strings are un-Islamic and “unethical”.

Bids for .gay, .sex, .wine, .bet, .poker and others relating to sexuality, alcohol and gambling are “in conflict with ethical standards” in Iran, according to the submissions.

We hear that the 29 warnings were filed with ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee December 10, well after the November 20 deadline that most other governments on the GAC stuck to.

We understand that problems obtaining visas for ICANN’s meeting in Toronto this October may have been blamed for the delay.

The initial batch of Early Warnings for the most part overlooked “moral” problems with gTLD strings, focusing far more on consumer protection, defensive registration costs and geographic sensitivities.

Not so with the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is much more concerned about words it believes promote anti-Islamic behavior or represent Islamic concepts without the required community support.

The government says in its opposition to .gay, for example, that the gTLD would be responsible for:

Agitation and irritation of the humanity and faith; and spread of hatred and hostility in the society.

Encourage people to perform non-religious, Unethical and Non-rational actions in the society.

Encourage people on doing unlawful actions according to Islam religion in the society.

Getting away society from healthy environment for doing daily activities.

Several other Early Warnings use the same or similar language. Iran suggests that the applicants could remedy the problem by banning registration in Islamic nations.

Not all of its warnings are related to sex, drink and gambling, however.

It’s also objected to .krd, which has been applied for to represent the Kurdish community in the region, saying it could “raise serious political conflicts” and lacks support.

The .eco applicants have also been hit with warnings on the grounds that ECO is an acronym for the Economic Cooperation Organization, a regional intergovernmental organization focused on trade.

ECO meets the criteria for IGOs to register .int domains, according to Iran, which is the GAC’s current proposed method of creating a list of protected second-level domain names for IGOs.

The full list of Iran’s objections is published here.

Nuclear Iran campaign group sends ICANN list of demands (and they’re really, really stupid)

Kevin Murphy, September 19, 2012, Domain Policy

The campaign group United Against Nuclear Iran has called on ICANN to switch off internet access to Iran, due to an apparent misunderstanding of what it is ICANN does.

In a letter sent earlier this month and published yesterday, UANI told ICANN to “immediately cease and desist” from providing “ICANN/IANA access” to Iranian entities covered by US and EU sanctions.

The group is worried that these organizations are using the internet to help Iran with its goal of creating nuclear weapons.

The letter states:

Absent access to ICANN/IANA, the dictatorial regime of Iran would be severely impeded in pursuing its illegal and amoral activities. For each day that you knowingly continue to provide Iran sanction-designated persons and entities access to the worldwide web, ICANN/IANA will be increasingly complicit in the IRGC and Iranian regime’s nefarious behavior. ICANN/IANA must stop transacting with such Iranian entities and persons and deny them access to Unique Web Identifiers, and therefore, the worldwide web.”

The letter is stupid on so many levels it’s difficult to know where to begin.

It appears to assume that ICANN has the power and ability to shut down certain individual .ir and .com domain names, which are registered to and used by sanctioned entities.

The letter (pdf) states:

Prominent sanction-designated Iranian entities have acquired .ir Unique Internet Identifiers from ICANN/IANA through the RIPE NCC. For example, Iran’s nuclear brain trust, Malek Ashtar University holds the http://www.mut.ac.ir/ address. Major Iranian banks, including the country’s central bank, maintain active websites (e.g. http://www.cbi.ir, http://www.bank-maskan.ir, http://www.bmi.ir and http://www.banksepah.ir). Further, Khatam al-Anbia, which serves as the IRGC’s engineering arm with over 812 subsidiaries and is heavily involved in the construction of the Qom/Fordow nuclear weapons facilities, holds the web address of http://www.khatam.com. These sanction-designated entities could not gain such web access without ICANN/IANA.

You’ll immediately notice that UANI seems to think that RIPE NCC hands out .ir addresses, which it does not. RIPE is a Regional Internet Registry that deals exclusively with IP address blocks.

ICANN doesn’t have the power to shut down individual domains either. It has powers over the root zone — top-level domains — not second-level domains in individual TLDs.

Nor does ICANN appear to work with any of the organizations on the US list of sanctioned entities.

The .ir ccTLD is delegated to the Tehran-based Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences, which is not sanctioned.

ICANN could, feasibly, shut down the whole of .ir, as long as Verisign and the US Department of Commerce — which have ultimate control over the root — played along, but that seems like overkill.

Is UANI asking ICANN to shut down the whole of the .ir space?

Apparently not. In fact, the group condemns censorship and appears to support the ability of regular Iranian citizens to access a free, unfettered internet. The letter states:

Unfortunately, ICANN/IANA and the Unique Internet Identifiers that it provides are misused by the sanction-designated Iranian entities and persons to facilitate their illicit operations, activities and communications including support for Iran’s rogue nuclear weapons program, Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism around the world, and the Iranian regimes brutal crackdown against its own people. Disturbingly, that crackdown includes the ruthless censorship of the Internet and other communication access, and the use of tracking technology to monitor, torture and kill freedom seeking dissidents.

Simply put, ICANN/IANA should not provide the internet communications means that the Iranian regime and the IRGC misuses to censor and deny Internet freedoms to its people, much less to support Iran’s illicit nuclear program or its sponsorship of terrorism.

A second, more or less identical letter (pdf) sent to RIPE NCC accused the organization of being the country-code manager for .ir, apparently based on a misunderstanding of this web page.

Netherlands-based RIPE has already responded, saying:

The RIPE NCC is in contact with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that we operate in accordance with Dutch law and all applicable international sanctions. Our advice from the Ministry has been that the RIPE NCC is not in violation of these sanctions. However, we will investigate in cases where new information is provided to us and we will ensure that changing circumstances do not place the RIPE NCC in violation of sanctions.

UANI could have avoided embarrassing itself with a couple of phone calls, and I have to wonder why it did not.

Possibly because it can get New York Times column inches simply by throwing around accusations.

Iran’s Arabic domain choice approved

Kevin Murphy, October 16, 2010, Domain Registries

Iran’s choice of Arabic-script top-level domain has passed the string approval stage of ICANN’s internationalized domain name process, making a delegation likely before long.

The manager of Iran’s existing Latin-script ccTLD, .ir, applied for ایران and ايران, which mean “Iran” in Persian. The two look identical to me, so I’m assuming they just use different Unicode code points.

In Punycode, the two strings are .xn--mgba3a4f16a and .xn--mgba3a4fra. Both have been given the stamp of approval, meaning Iran will now have to apply to IANA for delegation.

According to ICANN, there are currently 18 IDN ccTLD strings approved and awaiting delegation, belonging to Iran, India, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Singapore, Syria and Taiwan.

Some of these countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Taiwan, already have IDNs live in the DNS root, but also have multiple backup variants that have been approved but not yet delegated.

So far, of the 33 strings that have been applied for, only two have been rejected. One of those was Bulgaria’s .бг, which was considered too confusingly similar to Brazil’s .br.