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Taliban seizing domains to silence journalists

Kevin Murphy, October 5, 2022, Domain Registries

The Taliban is attempting to close down independent media outlets in Afghanistan by deleting their .af domain names.

The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology tweeted that the sites of Hasht-e Subh Daily and Zawia News were “taken down” for publishing “unbalanced reports and fake news”.

.af’s registry is government-run.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the two sites have been reporting by Afghans in exile since the Taliban retook the country over a year ago.

Both outlets have now switched domains to TLDs based in the US — Verisign and Identity Digital, where presumably they’re pretty safe from the Taliban’s reach. They’re now using zawiamedia.com and 8am.media instead of the original .af names.

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McCarthy wins Nominet director election

Kevin Murphy, October 5, 2022, Domain Registries

Kieren McCarthy, the former reporter who has spent much of his career bashing .uk registry Nominet in the pages of The Register, has been elected to its board of directors following a sometimes fractious campaign.

He won despite placing second to lawyer Jim Davies in the first round of voting, which saw CentralNic lawyer Volker Greimann eliminated. The vast majority of Greimann’s votes transferred to McCarthy in the second round. The results can be found here (pdf).

Turnout was a miserable 15.1%, almost 10 percentage points lower than it was in last year’s non-executive director election.

McCarthy is executive director of the International Foundation For Online Responsibility, the non-profit set up by .xxx registry ICM to hack around ICANN’s rules and give the illusion of legitimacy in the 2003 “sponsored” gTLD application round.

As such, he’s paid indirectly by GoDaddy, ICM’s current owner, which can’t have hurt his prospects in the election. Under Nominet’s controversial voting system, larger registrars get more votes, capped at 3% of the total.

With McCarthy standing on a platform of increased transparency, some Nominet members had pointed out the irony that IFFOR hadn’t published any board minutes in several years. He also faced criticism for using Nominet’s logo, apparently without permission, in his election mailshots.

McCarthy replaces Anne Taylor, whose three-year term is up.

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Nominet “gaslighting” members over fees, candidate claims

Kevin Murphy, October 4, 2022, Domain Registries

Nominet has been accused of “gaslighting” its members over the issue of whether its membership fees are lawful by one of its non-executive director candidates.

Jim Davies is one of four signatories of the latest missive from the WeightedVoting.uk campaign, which is trying to get Nominet to address both its voting system and the fees it charges members.

Following the news last week that lawyer Ian Mitchell KC, hired by the campaign, had concluded that Nominet’s Articles haven’t technically allowed it to charge membership fees for the last 25 years, the registry issued a statement saying its own legal advice disagreed.

“That advice identifies significant flaws in the [Mitchell] advice that has been published. We remain confident in the legality of Nominet’s long-standing voting and membership arrangements,” Nominet told us last week, while declining to provide that advice.

It seems the same statement was provided to Nominet members, though only WeightedVoting was provided the new opinion.

Now WeightedVoting has published Nominet’s opinion, written by Andrew Thornton KC, which concludes that the weighted voting system Nominet uses — in which bigger registrars get more votes — is “entirely lawful and enforceable”.

What Thornton’s opinion does not address is the membership fees problem, despite Nominet’s suggestion that it covers both issues.

Now Davies and his supporters have written to Nominet’s current non-executive directors, asking again for the company’s annual general meeting, still apparently due to go ahead on Thursday, to be delayed.

They call Nominet’s statement “manifestly false” and call for the NEDs to exercise their legal duties or face “personal liability”.

Davies is one of three candidates to fill a vacating NED seat at the AGM this week when the results of a recently concluded election are announced.

His rivals are former reporter Kieren McCarthy and CentralNic lawyer Volker Greimann.

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ICANN dodges bullet as American elected to ITU top job

Kevin Murphy, October 3, 2022, Domain Policy

The International Telecommunications Union has elected Doreen Bogdan-Martin as Secretary-General, comfortably defeating a Russian candidate who could have caused serious problems for ICANN’s legitimacy.

She won 139 votes out of 172 cast at the agency’s plenipotentiary in Bucharest, the ITU said.​​ She only needed 83. Rashid Ismailov of the Russian Federation, the only other candidate, received 25 votes.

A couple of weeks ago, ICANN CEO Göran Marby took a rare political stance against the Russian’s platform, warning that it could lead to a fragmented internet and the death of ICANN.

Ismailov would have pushed for multilateral internet governance, with the ITU absorbing the functions of ICANN and other multistakeholder organizations.

Bogdan-Martin is American and much more amenable to the status quo.

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Identity Digital publishes treasure trove of abuse data

Kevin Murphy, October 3, 2022, Domain Registries

Identity Digital, the old Donuts, has started publishing quarterly reports containing a wealth of data on reported abuse and the actions it takes in response.

The data for the second quarter, released (pdf) at the weekend, shows that the registry receives thousands of reports and suspends hundreds of domains for DNS abuse, but the number of domains it takes down for copyright infringement is quite small.

ID said that it received 3,007 reports covering 3,816 unique domains in the quarter, almost 93% of which related to phishing. The company said the complaints amounted to 0.024% of its total registered domains.

Most cases were resolved by third parties such as the registrar, hosting provider, or registrant, but ID said it suspended (put on “protective hold”) 746 domains during the period. In only 11% of cases was no action taken.

The company’s hitherto opaque “Trusted Notifier” program, which allows the Motion Picture Association and Recording Industry Association of America to request takedowns of prolific piracy sites resulted in six domain suspensions, all as a result of MPA requests.

The Internet Watch Foundation, which has similar privileges, resulted in 26 domains being reported for child sexual abuse material. Three of these were suspended, and the remainder were “remediated” by the associated registrar, according to ID.

The report also breaks down how many requests for private Whois data the company received, and how it processed them. Again, the numbers are quite low. Of requests for data on 44 domains, 18 were tossed for incompleteness, 23 were refused, and only three resulted in data being handed over.

Perhaps surprisingly, only two of the requests related to intellectual property. The biggest category was people trying to buy the domain in question.

This is a pretty cool level of transparency from ID and it’ll be interesting to see if its rivals follow suit.

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Paraguay to chair the GAC

Kevin Murphy, October 3, 2022, Domain Policy

Paraguayan government official Nicolas Caballero has been elected as the next chair of ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee.

He ran unopposed, in an election that had to extend its nomination period because nobody put themselves forward in time for the original August deadline.

He will replace Egypt’s Manal Ismail, who will leave the chair following ICANN’s meeting in Cancun next March.

The role comes with a non-voting liaison position on ICANN’s board of directors.

Caballero, a technical advisor in Paraguay’s Office of the President, has been on the GAC for about 10 years.

He’s the first GAC chair from South America.

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Nominet may owe its members millions, top lawyer says

Kevin Murphy, September 28, 2022, Domain Registries

Nominet has been charging its thousands of members annual subscription fees unlawfully for the last quarter-century, it has been claimed.

Ian Mitchell KC, who you may recall was hired by a handful of members to opine that Nominet’s voting system may be illegal, has now delivered a follow-up opinion saying that any subscription fees it has collected since 1997 should not have been paid.

Nominet non-executive director election candidate Jim Davies, one of the members who obtained the opinions, is now calling for Nominet to postpone its Annual General Meeting and the election, scheduled to take place next week, while these legal issues are addressed.

Mitchell’s opinion states that Nominet’s Articles allowed it to set a membership fee for members prior to August 29, 1997, barely a year after the company was founded, but that subsequent fees had to be set with a bylaws change approved by 75% of the membership.

That never happened, he says, meaning:

there has been no basis within the terms of the articles for subscriptions to be set and collected from and after 31st August, 1997. It follows, therefore, that the subscriptions which were collected ought not to have been paid.

Nominet has about 2,500 members, each of whom pay a £400 application fee and a £100 per year subscription. Clearly, over 25 years, that could amount to many millions of pounds.

But Mitchell also suspects Nominet could be protected by the UK’s statute of limitations, reducing its exposure to just the last six years and around £1.5 million.

Mitchell’s opinion was paid for by member Dulwich Storage, owned by former director Angus Hanton, as part of the Davies-led WeightedVoting.uk campaign, which is calling for Nominet to scrap its system that gives its members more votes depending on how many .uk domains they have registered.

Davies says he informed Nominet’s board about Mitchell’s latest opinion last week but has not received a response. So he’s now also written to Civica, the election services company that oversees Nominet ballots, to “to step in and adjourn the AGM”.

Postponing the AGM would also postpone the NED election in which Davies, former reporter Kieren McCarthy and CentralNic lawyer Volker Greimann are vying for an opening seat on the board. Voting closes in a couple of days.

While Mitchell called the subscriptions situation a “recipe for litigation”, Davies says he has no intention of suing Nominet. He says he wants, in Mitchell’s words, for “members [to] come together to see if it is possible to find a consensual way out of the mess which has undoubtedly been created”.

It’s not entirely clear what a solution would look like.

Scrapping the voting system in favor of one-member-one-vote would likely disadvantage candidates relying on winning with the backing of a small number of large registrars, which Davies believes is Greimann’s strategy.

Davies’ headline policy has been to slash .uk registration fees back to £2.50, while McCarthy and Greimann have platforms focused on transparency and member engagement.

Nominet has said that it believes its weighted voting system is lawful. The company has been contacted for comment on the latest legal drama.

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ICANN approves ccTLD-killer policy

Kevin Murphy, September 28, 2022, Domain Policy

ICANN has formally adopted a policy that would enable it to remove ccTLDs from the DNS root when their associated countries cease to exist, raising the possibility of the Soviet Union’s .su being deleted.

Last Thursday at ICANN 75 in Kuala Lumpur, the board of directors rubber-stamped the ccNSO Retirement of ccTLDs Policy, which sets out how ccTLDs can be deleted in an orderly fashion over the course of several years.

The policy calls for ICANN and the ccTLD registry to form a “Retirement Plan” when the ccTLD’s string is removed from the ISO 3166-1 Alpha-2 standard, which defines which two-letter strings are reserved for which countries.

Strings are typically removed from this list when a country changes its name (such as Timor-Leste) or breaks up into smaller countries (such as the Netherlands Antilles).

The Retirement Plan would see the ccTLD removed from the root five years after ISO made the change, though this could be extended if the registry asks and ICANN agrees.

In February, I set out the case for why the policy may allow ICANN to retire .su, the thriving ccTLD for the Soviet Union, three decades after that nation was dismantled.

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.br tops five million names

Kevin Murphy, September 28, 2022, Domain Registries

Brazil’s .br ccTLD has topped five million registered domains for the first time.

Stats provided by registry NIC.br show that the milestone was passed around September 14.

The last million names have been added in just the last few years — .br hit four million in late March 2019 and started a steep climb when the pandemic began a year later.

Verisign’s latest Domain Name Industry Brief has .br as the sixth-largest ccTLD, but the most up-to-date statistics have .br actually passing .ru, which has been bleeding regs for the last six months and now has fewer than five million, into fifth place.

NIC.br says that surveys show that seven out of every eight domains registered by Brazilians are .br names.

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ICANN returning to Puerto Rico

Kevin Murphy, September 28, 2022, Domain Policy

ICANN has put Puerto Rico back on its list of future meeting venues after cancelling this year’s trip to San Juan due to the pandemic.

The Org will summon the true believers to the Puerto Rico Convention Center from March 2 to March 7, 2024, for ICANN 79, it announced this week.

That’s two years after the cancelled meeting from this March, which ultimately went ahead online only.

It will be six years after ICANN last visited the island, in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

It will be ICANN’s third visit to the country, a US territory. It first held a meeting there in 2007.

ICANN was forced to cancel a Puerto Rico visit in 2016 due to an outbreak of the Zika virus (remember that?).

Of the in-person meetings canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, now all have been rescheduled or have already taken place.

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