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ICANN’s number two Cyrus Namazi quits. Probably due to sexual discrimination claims.

Kevin Murphy, April 1, 2020, 00:32:57 (UTC), Domain Policy

The head of ICANN’s Global Domains Division, Cyrus Namazi — arguably ICANN’s number-two exec — has resigned from the organization, according to multiple sources. I believe it’s related to allegations of sexual discrimination.

ICANN staffers were told this evening that he’s resigned “effective immediately” and that a public announcement will follow.

Long-time ICANN staffer Theresa Swinehart, currently senior VP of multistakeholder strategy and strategic initiatives, will run GDD while a replacement is sought.

While I don’t expect ICANN to announce the reasons for Namazi’s departure, I believe it’s related to allegations of sexual indiscretions.

I’ve been aware for a few months of allegations against Namazi for sexual discrimination and/or sexual harassment, but I’ve been unable to get sufficient on-the-record information to run a story.

What I do know, from digging around on court web sites, is that ICANN was sued about a year ago by a former staffer called Jennifer Gore for alleged disability and gender discrimination, allegedly carried out by Namazi.

Gore’s complaint can be read here (pdf). ICANN’s response can be read here (pdf).

I’ve also been made aware of a few other female ICANN staffers who have quit allegedly due to Namazi’s behavior.

And I gather he’s been on-leave recently. Anyone who was at ICANN 67 will have noted his absence.

I’ve not heard of any allegations that could be described as remotely criminal. We’re just talking about allegations of inappropriate comments and actions at work.

I have absolutely no idea how many of the allegations, if any, are true. None. I just know that there are a lot of them.

I do know that ICANN’s PR team have been banned from talking to me for the last few weeks, since I learned about these allegations — by senior VP of global communications Sally Newell Cohen — because I talked offensive smack about Namazi to him and to another senior staffer on social media messaging channels.

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Comments (22)

  1. James says:

    Verisign probably thought this was getting too close for comfort, so decided it was time to sever the relationship. After all, Verisign is who pulls the strings over at ICANN.

  2. James Bladel says:

    Given the seriousness of these accusations and the lack of any official confirmation, I think it’s irresponsible to post this story.

    It may in fact turn out to be true, or not. But either way, an article like this linked to your name is a career-killer.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      I’ve been looking into this for some time mate. If I did not believe it to be true, I would not have posted it.

      Perhaps you could ask ICANN if it’s true or not, then post their response here.

      ICANN staffers are still allowed to talk to you, right?

  3. Camino Manjon says:

    Dear Mr. Bladel,
    Had you ever been affected by a harassment case you would know that regardless of any “official confirmations” coming from a company or a public institution, harassment and sexual harassment actually happens. It simply takes a big burden on the victim to prove it, and very cumbersome legal proceedings. Kevin Murphy has done the right thing in bringing to light this serious matter. He mentions at least one official complaint and links to it. You call this article a “career-killer” but at least he had the courage to write it and publish it. From my experience when I was EU GAC representative, Namazi crossed a number of red lines with several young/beautiful women, not only within ICANN’s staff but within the ICANN multistakeholder community. He would also act in a discriminative way with others that did not accommodate to his behavior. I believe his behavior was not appropriate for an ICANN VP and for anyone inside and outside the working environment, and moreover, whoever turned him down would get plenty of shit over her shoulders: job interviews cancelled, agreements reached during meetings that never came true… He was however very involved in the US tech bizz community and therefore he may not be resigning due to this particular reason, but no doubt there is plenty of his inappropriate behavior to talk about if affected parties would take the step to tell their story. No doubt there are plenty of ladies who also prefer to let this issue go, particularly if he’s finally gone. Also, do you think he is the only big fish in ICANN leveraging his position to “harass” or to display sexual power over females? Wake up!!

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      Thanks very much for this comment, Camino, I very much appreciate it and the courage it took to put it on the record.

  4. Peter Vergote says:

    April’s fool???

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      No, sorry.

      I did spend most of Tuesday writing an hilariously funny April 1 article, but a considerable portion of it relied on sexual-harassment-related jokes.

      So I spiked it.

  5. Ted says:

    This article took a tremendous amount of courage to pursue and publish. I don’t necessarily agree with all of this blogger’s views, but I appreciate his willingness to take a stand and speak the truth.

    I believe based on his track record that he has done an extreme amount of research and has deliberated extensively about publishing this story, and would only proceed to do so if he truly felt beyond a doubt the details to be accurate.

    It is disappointing to hear someone say this is a career-killer. Silencing people, keeping things hidden behind closed doors, and vague threats are not the right way for any industry to do business.

    Where there’s smoke there’s fire. And with the various controversies surrounding handling of the legacy tld contracts over the past year and ignoring/steamrolling of the interests of the registrant community, the public is waking up to the fact that there is a lot of smoke coming from ICANN and the registries it oversees (or who oversee it), So are many influential and powerful politicians and government officials.

    It is almost certain that this is not the end of the story.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      I appreciate your comment, Ted. Thanks.

      I don’t think GoDaddy was trying to “silence” me.

      James had his opinion, which I respect but disagree with.

    • Candle Tender says:

      | “if he truly felt beyond a doubt the details to be accurate.”

      “Feeling” or “believing” details to be accurate does not make them accurate.

      | “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

      So, it’s better to presume guilt and prove innocence?

      And no one is silencing anybody. If anything, you appear to want to silence Mr Bladel.

      • Kevin Murphy says:

        You’re completely correct, Anonymous Coward.

        “Feeling” or “believing” details to be accurate does not make them accurate.

  6. Camino Manjon says:

    GoDaddy’s head of policy James Bladel has simply tried to diminish the value of this research. How do we separate what James says from what GoDaddy’s says? He did not explicitly mentioned if he was speaking in his own behalf. What is clear is that his remarks stress the “lack of official confirmation”, but so far to my understanding there are already 3 harassment cases against C.Namazi. Bladel has one foot on GoDaddy’s, another foot on ICANN (the GDD was his second home…) and another limb on Verisign. I’m sure he’s not happy to see his friend leaving the VP and GDD realms.

    • Rubens Kuhl says:

      Should we read everything you posted as official European Commission positions ? You did not explicitly mentioned if you were speaking on EC’s behalf.

      • Kevin Murphy says:

        Does she even work for the EC?

      • Camino Manjon says:

        Rubens, I no longer work at the European Commission, but I am paid every month by then; as a pensioner I’m free to express myself without the usual public policy “corset”. I’m posting my purely personal views. Therefore I can say whatever I want relying on my experience within the GAC, during negotiations with ICANN and of course, my personal opinion of who is behind the mask that most of you wear during ICANN meetings. The domain name “evangelists” (as you used to portray yourself) are often on equal footing with drug dealers, but with a tie ;). You run the internet, or so you want to believe, taking part in GNSO’s, GNSA’s, GMO’s blah blah blah, but you do it for profit and not for the common benefit of Internet users. And Bladel is just another prostitute in this show (recall: it is my personal opinion and not that of the EC!)

        • Rubens Kuhl says:

          While everything I post is personal opinion, and all reasonable people knows that for every comment here not only the ones I make, I happen to work for a non-profit that works for the common benefit of my country Internet users, and also helps the overall Internet community when we can.

          • Camino says:

            Good for you! We know each other (business with BR) so it’s crystal clear to me what you do for a living. Thank you.

  7. Candle Tender says:

    “Probably due to sexual discrimination”. A person’s name should not be published for such a serious allegation on a “probably.” The insouciance with which you published this title makes me realize you are not a journalist, but a blogger peddling in clickbait. “Talking offensive smack” to your sources is also incredibly unprofessional.

    I read the court documents. There is no evidence to back up the plaintiff’s claims. She “alleges and believes”. You note there’s nothing resembling criminal behavior in the allegations. Her termination may have been a result of sexual discrimination. It may have been a result of other reasonable factors. It also may have been a frivolous and retaliatory suit brought by a disgruntled employee. We don’t know. All we have are allegations and denials.

    Why have you chosen to promulgate one version over the other? Why link the defendant to the claim without proper evidence or a court verdict?

    I encourage you to watch the new film on Netflix, “Richard Jewell” and guess which character I think you are.

    • Kevin Murphy says:


      You are correct.

      This article is terrible.

      But it’s not wrong.

      Literally any PR person working for ICANN could get this article deleted in short order.

      All they have to do is get in touch and tell me why I’m wrong.

      But they can’t do that for two reasons:

      1) The article is completely accurate.

      2) The head of PR at ICANN, Sally Newell Cohen, has decreed that nobody at ICANN is allowed to talk to me, even to deny allegations if they’re not true.

  8. Ron Andruff says:

    My personal view, from experience and observation: This action (resign before your fired) was LOOOOONNNNGGG over due. The man was a blight on ICANN Org.

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