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Senator calls for ICANN ethics controls

Kevin Murphy, September 15, 2011, 00:04:00 (UTC), Domain Policy

An influential US senator has called on the US government to impose new ethics rules on ICANN.
In a letter to the US Department of Commerce, which has an oversight relationship with ICANN, Senator Ron Wyden said that new “strict ethics guidelines” should be created.
The letter appears to be in direct response to Peter Dengate Thrush’s move from his role as ICANN’s chairman to a potentially lucrative job with a new top-level domains applicant.
(And, presumably, at the behest of whoever told Wyden about it.)
Dengate Thrush’s last major act at ICANN was to lead the vote to approve its new generic top-level domains program, this June at ICANN’s public Singapore meeting.
Three weeks later, he joined Minds + Machines parent Top Level Domain Holdings, which plans to build its entire business model around applying for new gTLDs.
“As news reports have indicated, a formerly high-ranking official at ICANN has left the organization and was immediately hired by one of the domain name companies regulated by ICANN,” a Wyden press release reads.
Wyden wants new ethical guidelines designed to prevent a “revolving door” built into the IANA contract, which is the one way Commerce can still exert unilateral control over ICANN.
He wrote: “any IANA employees ought to be made subject to the same ethics rules in place as NTIA [National Telecommunications and Information Administration, part of Commerce] employees.”
The IANA contract is up for renewal before March next year.
Pretty much anybody with a vested interest in getting more control over of the DNS is currently doing their best to hack the contract by lobbying the NTIA, directly or indirectly.
I wonder who’s behind this particular appeal.

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Comments (4)

  1. Pulling his punches, or fuzzy on the details? says:

    In his letter (, he only speaks of imposing ethical standards on IANA employees, not on all of ICANN. At the same time, he may be overestimating the role of IANA when he says, “the increasing importance of the decisions made by the IANA have lead to an increasingly large, sophisticated, and expensive agency in ICANN.” Even if the NTIA were to follow his recommendations, I don’t see how this would impact the Board.

  2. Richard Tindal says:

    In fairness to Peter, the vote to proceed with new TLDs happened 3 years ago. He was publicly in favor of the gTLD program then, and he was publicly in favor of it in Singapore (when the implementation details were approved).
    In fairness to the process (as detailed in the Guidebook) it causes me no concern that Peter has joined one of my competitors. The selection process (i.e. who gets a TLD) is objective and transparent. I’m not the least worried that Peter’s new start-up will have some advantage over me.

  3. Paul Keating says:

    Interesting that a Senator would even make such statements considering all of the revolving door job placements going on in Congress these days. Perhaps Congress needs to control its own members before demanding that the public do the same.

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