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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.

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.

Ducos a shoo-in for GNSO Council chair

Kevin Murphy, August 24, 2022, Domain Policy

The next chair of ICANN’s GNSO Council will be GoDaddy’s Sebastien Ducos.

Ducos, who manages TLD clients for GoDaddy Registry, will stand unopposed for the role after the GNSO’s Non-Contracted Parties House decided not to field a candidate.

The election, which seems a formality, will take place at the end of ICANN 75, the Org’s Annual General Meeting, in Kuala Lumpur and Zoom next month.

Australian Ducos has been a vice-chair of the Council since the last AGM.

He will replace Philippe Fouquart, an employee of Orange from the NCPH, after his second one-year term ends.

There hasn’t been a contested election for Council chair since 2018.

Five things I learned from UK prime minister candidates’ domain names

Kevin Murphy, July 11, 2022, Gossip

Boris Johnson announced he is to resign as UK prime minister after a series of scandals last week, and as of this evening 11 of his former friends have announced their plans to replace him as leader of the Conservative party and therefore UK PM.

I’ll spare you the details of Johnson’s downfall and the process used to find his successor, but domain names became part of the story over the weekend when a so-called “Dirty Dossier” began circulating among Tory MPs, denouncing candidate Rishi Sunak.

Among the allegations was that Sunak, whose resignation as chancellor last week eventually led to the Johnson’s own resignation, had been plotting Johnson’s demise and his own rise to power since last December, using Whois records for his campaign site as a smoking gun.

I thought I’d take a look at all 11 candidates’ registrations to see what else we could learn.

1. Sunak wasn’t the only “plotter”

Sunak came under scrutiny over the weekend when it emerged that the domain name readyforrishi.com has been registered since December 23 last year, a few weeks into the Partygate scandal, when the foundations of Johnson’s premiership began to weaken.

This, it was claimed in the Dirty Dossier, showed that Sunak had been plotting his boss’s downfall for six months.

His team have subsequently claimed that the name wasn’t necessarily registered by them, and his campaign is currently using the similar domain ready4rishi.com, which was registered July 7, the day Johnson announced his resignation.

The December domain forwards to Sunak’s official campaign site, suggesting its registrant is at the least a supporter.

We can’t tell for sure because all Whois records are redacted due to GDPR, which is still in effect in the UK despite Brexit.

But Sunak wasn’t the only prescient registrant in the clown car. Liz Truss’s campaign site is at lizforleader.co.uk, which was registered June 8, a month before there was a leadership job opening available, Whois records show.

Jeremy Hunt, Tom Tugendhat and Sajid Javid have names registered last week. Penny Mordaunt’s pm4pm.com was registered in 2019, but that’s because she also stood for Tory leader in 2019, ultimately losing to Johnson.

2. Not much patriotism on display

Of the 11 candidates, only five are campaigning using .uk addresses.

Kemi Badenoch uses a .org.uk. Suella Braverman uses a .co.uk. While Jeremy Hunt usually uses a .org, he’s using a .co.uk for his campaign. Same for Truss. Javid is using a thoroughly modern .uk, eschewing the third level, at teamsaj.uk.

All the rest use a .com for their sites.

3. Truss and Hunt didn’t register their matching .uk

While Javid appears to have registered the .co.uk matching his .uk, Truss and Hunt have not registered their matching second-level domains, which is just asking for trouble from pranksters and opponents.

That said, while it’s been six or seven years since .uk domains became available from Nominet, they haven’t really caught on in terms of adoption or popular mind-share. It would be a much greater crime to register a 2LD without the matching 3LD than vice versa.

4. Two candidates own their surnames

While all of the candidates own their full names in their chosen TLDs, only Grant Shapps and Nadhim Zahawi own their .com surnames.

Whois records and Archive.org show that Shapps has owned Shapps.com since 2000, years before he won his first parliamentary seat. He has a history of being involved in questionable online get-rich-quick schemes and used to follow me on Twitter, so he’s probably quite domain-savvy.

Zahawi, who’s been Chancellor of the Exchequer since Sunak quit last week, has owned zahawi.com since he first ran for parliament in 2009.

5. Here’s what domains everyone else is using

According to Google and the Twitter accounts of the candidates, these are the URLs used by each candidate for their regular official sites and, if they have one, their premiership campaign sites.

Note that in most cases their regular sites are managed by a company called Bluetree, which specializes in running boilerplate web sites for Tories, so the choice of domain may not necessarily be the choice of the MP in question.

Kemi Badenochkemibadenoch.org.ukfacebook.com/kemibadenoch
Suella Bravermansuellabraverman.co.uk
Rehman Chishtirehmanchishti.com
Jeremy Huntjeremyhunt.orgjeremyhunt2022.co.uk
Sajid Javidsajidjavid.comteamsaj.uk
Penny Mordauntpennymordaunt.compm4pm.com
Grant Shappsshapps.com
Rishi Sunakrishisunak.comready4rishi.com
Liz Trusselizabethtruss.comlizforleader.co.uk
Tom Tugendhattomtugendhat.orgtimefortugendhat.com
Nadhim Zahawizahawi.com

Architect of Nominet boardroom bloodbath and Tucows backer win director seats

Kevin Murphy, November 16, 2021, Domain Registries

UK registry Nominet has announced the winners of its non-executive director election, with Simon Blackler securing a runaway victory. Ashley La Bolle of Tucows was also elected, with a strong share of the votes.

Blackler is the architect of the PublicBenefit.uk campaign, which was behind a boardroom bloodbath earlier this year, and La Bolle is director of domains at Tucows, the biggest registrar name to support that campaign.

According to Nominet, Blackler secured 1,285,370 of the 2,558,650 votes in the first-preference round of voting, a smidge over 50%. La Bolle got 750,447 votes, 29.3%, at the same stage, picking up the extra she needed after votes were transferred.

The other four candidates all received 7% or less of the votes in the first-preference ballot.

Voting was based on how many domain names members control, capped at 3% to avoid too much capture by the larger registrars.

Nominet said that turnout was 24.3% — 553 of the 2,276 eligible voters actually cast a ballot.

Blackler and La Bolle will join Nominet’s board at its next Annual General Meeting, which happens this Thursday.

They replace domain investor David Thornton, who had stood for reelection but received less than 6% of the first-round votes, and GoDaddy policy veep James Bladel, who did not stand.

Blackler, who runs the registrar Krystal Hosting, started the PublicBenefit.uk campaign earlier this year in protest at what was seen as Nominet’s unresponsiveness and lack of transparency towards its members.

He rallied a crowd of members upset with what they saw as the company’s diversification into non-core businesses, excessive director and executive compensation, and diminishing devotion to supporting public-benefit causes.

The campaign resulted in the forced resignation of the CEO, the ouster of the chair and almost half the directors, and a renewed focus on the .uk registry and charitable causes under a new chair.

Tucows was the biggest-name registrar to back the campaign, with La Bolle repeatedly blogging about how Nominet needed to be more transparent and engage better with its members.

“Humbled by the amount of support and looking forward to improving Nominet for ALL,” Blackler tweeted following the results announcement.

“I’m truly honoured to be appointed to Nominet’s Board as an NED and am grateful for the support and trust from my peers,” La Bolle said via email. “As well-stated throughout my campaign, I am committed to helping Nominet refocus on its core mandate and re-engage its members to better serve our entire community.”

Nominet rebels dominate directorship slate

Kevin Murphy, October 12, 2021, Domain Registries

Nominet has named the six people nominated for its two open non-executive director positions, and the slate is very much slanted towards the new postbellum reality of UK domain politics.

The PublicBenefit.uk campaign, which saw the CEO forced out and half the board fired at an EGM earlier this year, leading to a broad suite of proposed reforms, has a strong presence on the candidate list.

Simon Blackler of Krystal Hosting, who created and spearheaded the campaign, is standing for one of the so-called “NED” seats. He is also named as a proposer/seconder of two of his rival candidates.

This PublicBenefit slate includes Ashley La Bolle, recently promoted head of domains at Tucows, and consultant and former lawyer Jim Davies, both of whom have Blackler’s endorsement.

La Bolle’s candidacy statement focuses on the need for increased transparency and member engagement, while Davies stands on a platform of constitutional and financial reform.

In his endorsements, Blackler cites Tucows’ endorsement of the PublicBenefit campaign as a crucial turning point in its ultimate success, and Davies’ resignation from the Nominet board in 2009, in which he cited high executive pay and low transparency as reasons for his departure.

One incumbent NED is standing for re-election, David Thornton. Nominated by Michele Neylon and Jothan Frakes, Thornton has a platform based on governance and structural rebalancing.

Internet policy all-rounder Liz Williams is also standing, talking up her extensive experience in areas such as ICANN, privacy and security.

Then there’s Bulgaria-based Brit Stephen Yarrow, whose main policy concerns appear to be raising Nominet’s profile and distancing .uk from the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.

Nominet members should already have been sent the election materials. Everyone else can read them here (pdf).

Votes will be cast November 18 at Nominet’s Annual General Meeting. There are two seats available.

Neustar exec fingered in Trump’s Russian “collusion” probe

Kevin Murphy, October 1, 2021, Domain Registries

A senior former Neustar executive has been outed as a participant in 2016 research that sought to establish nefarious links between then US presidential candidate Donald Trump and the Russian government.

According to a US federal indictment last month, former Neustar senior VP and head of security Rodney Joffe and others used DNS query data collected by the company to help create a “narrative” that Trump’s people had been covertly communicating with Kremlin-connected Alfa Bank.

The indictment claims that they did so despite privately expressing skepticism that the data was conclusive in establishing such ties.

Joffe did this work while under the impression he would be offered a top cybersecurity job in Hilary Clinton’s administration, had she won the 2016 general election, the indictment claims.

Joffe has not been accused of any illegality or wrongdoing — he’s not even named in the indictment — and his lawyer has told the New York Times that the indictment gives an “incomplete and misleading” version of events.

The indictment was returned by a federal grand jury on September 16 against Washington DC lawyer Michael Sussmann, as a result of Special Counsel John Durham’s investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia “collusion” probe, which ultimately found insufficient evidence of illegality by the former president.

Sussman is charged with lying to the FBI when, in September 2016, he showed up with a bunch of evidence suggesting a connection between Trump and Alfa Bank and claimed to not be working on behalf of any particular client.

In fact, the indictment alleges, he was working on behalf of the Clinton campaign and Joffe, both of whom had retained his services. Lying to the FBI is a crime in the US.

The indictment refers to Joffe as “Technology Executive 1”, but his identity has been confirmed by the NYT and others.

Sussman’s evidence in part comprised DNS data supplied by Joffe and analyzed by himself and other researchers, showing traffic between the domain mail1.trump-email.com and the Russian bank.

At the time, Neustar was a leading provider of domain registry services, but also a significant player in DNS resolution services, giving it access to huge amounts of data about domain queries.

“Tech Executive-1 [Joffe] used his access at multiple organizations to gather and mine public and non-public Internet data regarding Trump and his associates, with the goal of creating a ‘narrative’ regarding the candidate’s ties to Russia,” the indictment claims.

According to the indictment, Joffe had been offered a job in the Clinton administration. He allegedly wrote, shortly after the November 2016 election: “I was tentatively offered the top [cybersecurity] job by the Democrats when it looked like they’d win. I definitely would not take the job under Trump.”

The researchers — which also included employees of the Georgia Institute of Technology, ​Fusion GPS, and Zetalytics, according to the NYT — sought to create a case for a connection between Trump and the Russian government while privately expressing doubts that their conclusions would stand up to third-party scrutiny, the indictment claims.

The suspicions were briefed to the media by Sussman and the Clinton campaign, the indictment says, and widely reported prior to the election.

When the FBI investigated the alleged links, it concluded the suspicious traffic was benign and caused by the activities of a third-party marketing firm, according to reports.

As I said, it is not alleged that Joffe broke the law, and his people say the indictment is, as you might expect from an indictment, one-sided.

Still, it’s a very interesting, and possibly worrying, insight into how companies like Neustar and their employees are able to leverage DNS resolution data for their own private purposes.

The full indictment, which uses pseudonyms for most of the people said to be involved in the research, can be read here (pdf). The New York Times story, which reveals many of these identities, can be read here (paywall).

While Neustar’s registry business was acquired last year by GoDaddy, it appears that Joffe did not make the move and instead stayed with Neustar. His LinkedIn profile showed he “retired” at some point in the last few weeks, after 15 years with the company.

Will you shut up, man? Trump takedown domain on sale for ridiculous fee

Kevin Murphy, September 30, 2020, Domain Sales

Proving once again that there’s no neologism or emergent catchphrase that won’t be registered as a .com, a domainer has put willyoushutupman.com on sale in the wake of last night’s ludicrous US Presidential debate.

The line “Will you shut up, man?” was uttered in exasperation by Democrat candidate Joe Biden midway through the debate, after being ceaselessly harangued and interrupted by President Trump.

It’s currently listed on Dan.com with a “make an offer” tag, but Newsweek reported earlier today that the seller had priced the domain at $175,000.

The domain currently redirects to an affiliate link to the bespoke printing company Zazzle, so even if it doesn’t sell, the domainer may make a bit of cash.

Newsweek also reports that Biden’s campaign are already selling “Will you shut up, man?” merch, but I was unable to find such an item on the official Biden site.

Roberts elected to ICANN board

Kevin Murphy, December 4, 2017, Domain Policy

Channel Islands ccTLD operator Nigel Roberts has been elected to ICANN’s board of directors.
He gathered an impressive 67% of the votes in an anonymous poll of ccNSO members conducted last week.
He received 60 votes versus the 29 cast for his only opponent, Pierre Ouedraogo, an internet pioneer from Burkina Faso.
Roberts, a Brit, runs ChannelIsles.net, registry manager for .gg (for the islands Guernsey, Alderney and Sark) and .je (for Jersey). These are the independent UK dependencies found floating between England and France.
He’s been in the ICANN community since pretty much day one.
His election still has to be formally confirmed by the ccNSO Council and then the ICANN Empowered Community.
Roberts will not take his seat on the ICANN board until October next year, at the end of public meeting in Barcelona.
He will replace Mike Silber, the South African who’s currently serving his ninth and therefore final year as a director.
The other ccNSO seat is held by Australian ICANN vice chair Chris Disspain, who is also term-limited and will leave at the end of 2019.

Election season at ICANN

Kevin Murphy, October 4, 2017, Domain Policy

Two significant votes are coming up soon in the ICANN community, with the GNSO Council looking for a new chair and the ccNSO ready to select a new appointee for the ICANN board of directors.
The ccNSO election will see an actual contest for what is believed to be the first time, with at least two candidates fighting it out.
The GNSO vote is rather less exciting, with only one candidate running unopposed.
It seems Heather Forrest, an intellectual property lawyer, occasional new gTLD consultant, and professor at the University of Tasmania, will replace GoDaddy VP of policy James Bladel as Council chair a month from now.
Forrest, currently a vice-chair, was nominated by the Non-Contracted Parties House.
The Contracted Parties House (registries and registrars), evidently fine with Forrest taking over, decided not to field a candidate, so the November 1 vote will be a formality.
In the ccNSO world, the country-codes are electing somebody to take over from Mike Silber on the ICANN board, a rather more powerful position, when his term ends a year from now.
Nominations don’t close until a week from now, but so far there are two candidates: Nigel Roberts and Pierre Ouedraogo.
Roberts, nominated for the job by Puerto Rico, runs a collection of ccTLDs for the British Channel Islands.
Ouedraogo is from Burkina Faso but does not work for its ccTLD. He is a director of the Francophone Institute for Information and New Technologies. He was nominated by Kenya.
Both men are long-time participants in ICANN and the ccNSO.
Roberts, who currently sits on the ccNSO Council, tells me he believes it’s the first time there’s been a contested election for a ccNSO-appointed ICANN board seat since the current system of elections started in 2003.
Silber has been in the job for eight years and is term-limited so cannot stand again. The other ccNSO appointee, Chris Disspain, will occupy the other seat for another two years.