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ICANN probing Donuts and Tucows over anti-Jewish web site

Kevin Murphy, November 16, 2018, 17:35:11 (UTC), Domain Policy

ICANN is investigating Tucows and Donuts over a web site that hosts antisemitic, white supremacist content.
CEO Goran Marby said in a letter published this week that he has referred a complaint about the web site to ICANN’s Compliance department.
The web site in question says it is dedicated to documenting “anti-White traitors, agitators and subversives & highlighting Jewish influence.” It appears to be half database, half blog.
Its method of “highlighting Jewish influence” is possibly the most disturbing part — the site tags people it believes are Jewish with a yellow Star of David, mimicking the way the Nazis identified Jews during the Holocaust.
The site is quite liberal in how it applies these stars, going so far as to label UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has been fighting off his own allegations of antisemitism for years, as Jewish.
Over 1,600 people and organizations are currently listed. Posts there also seem keen to highlight its subjects’ sexual orientation.
As far as I can tell, there are no direct calls to violence on the site, and the level of what you might call “hate speech” is pretty mild. It publishes the social media handles of its subjects, but I could not find any physical addresses or phone numbers.
The complaint to ICANN (pdf) came from WerteInitiative (“Values Initiative”), which appears to be a small, relatively new Jewish civil society group based in Germany.
WerteInitiative said “poses a direct threat to the named persons with unforeseeable consequences for them, and especially so for the identified Jews”.
“We want this site banned from the Internet and ask for your help in doing so: can you help us to find out who behind this page is, so we can get it banned in Germany?” the letter concludes.
The domain has been behind Whois privacy since it was registered in 2014, so the registrant’s name was not public even prior to GDPR.
Marby, in response (pdf), says the complaint “raises a serious issue”.
While he goes to some lengths to explain that ICANN does not have the authority, contractual or otherwise, to demand the suspension of any domain name, he said he has nevertheless referred the complaint to Compliance.
Compliance has already reached out to the organization for more information, Marby said.
He also encouraged WerteInitiative to talk to .watch registry Donuts and registrar eNom (owned by Tucows), as well as the hosting company, to see if that could help resolve the issue.
While ICANN is always adamant that it does not venture into content regulation, it strikes me that this exchange shows just what a tightrope it walks.
It comes against the backdrop of controversy over the suspension by GoDaddy of the domain, a Twitter clone largely hosting far-right voices that have been banned from other social media platforms.

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Comments (7)

  1. Dan says:

    I note the domain is now with Namecheap – Did eNom pull the plug?

  2. Good on Goran to not step into that mess. If ICANN’s unelected leadership started adjudicating it would seal the fate of the domain industry.
    As for registries, I will be honest that I am not confident in Donuts right now to optimize for free speech or registrant rights.
    This particular case is also interesting as the timing coincides with the coordinated take-down of at the end of October. The letter to ICANN was dated 10/23.
    It is further interesting because the site in question does not seem to have threat of violence. Rather it is a catalog of powerful people that prefer to not be named.
    Censorship and governance of take-down requests is shaping up to be THE issue of 2019. The Internet Bill of Rights discussion needs more progress soon.

  3. John says:

    “largely hosting far-right voices that have been banned from other social media platforms”
    That is not accurate or true, and is a very misleading statement.
    I also cannot agree more with Rob’s statement, “If ICANN’s unelected leadership started adjudicating it would seal the fate of the domain industry.”
    Freedom of speech is under great and sustained attack in the US, both against the “left” and the “right,” not just the “right” by any means. The Alex Jones affair is nothing but a famous spectacle that belies the reality taking place.
    You (Kevin) live in a country where freedom of speech has already been all but jettisoned, though I know there are those in the UK who are still opposed to this societal debacle.

  4. DDouglas says:

    Sad state we find ourselves in today over the most basic of human rights, Freedom of Speech.
    “My house, my rules” is fine. No one should expect to be able to survive on a pro Leftist site when you’re a conservative nor vice versa.
    But when providers of services are attacked for providing services, a line must be drawn.
    Is the internet not public?
    Is the future P2P secrecy, where thoughts are privatized behind paywalls and cryptology?
    Where is the Freedom in that?
    It may become necessary because people do not like certain ideas, certain speech?
    Where does it end?
    We are finding out.

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