ICANN Halts .Org Sale To Private Equity Group

ICANN Halts .Org Sale To Private Equity Group

ICANN Halts .Org Sale To Private Equity Group

Domain supervisor ICANN ‘withholds consent’ for the sale of the .org domain registry to a private equity firm, following months of protests

Internet supervisor ICANN has confirmed it is withholding ‘consent for a change of control of the Public Interest Registry (PIR).’

Arguments have been raged since November 2019, when it was revealed the current owner of the .org registry, the Internet Society, planned to sell the domain to newly formed equity group Ethos Capital for a $1bn endowment.

In December 2019, ICANN said it “does not have the authority” to act on the matter, since its role is only to “assure the continued operation of the .org domain”.

Consent withdrawn

The Internet Society, for its part, had said the sale of the .org registry would provide it with “sustainable funding” to continue its work on internet-related standards, education, access and policy.

But protesters of the deal including California’s Attorney General, warned that changes to the .org Registry Agreement could allow the registry’s owner to do significant harm to the global NGO sector, intentionally or not.

Also, many protestors were unhappy that Ethos Capital never fully disclosed who its directors or investors were.

And some of the world’s largest non-profit organisations, were worried their online addresses were going to be exploited for profit.

But now ICANN’s board has announced it decision to withhold consent for the sale.

“Today, the ICANN Board made the decision to reject the proposed change of control and entity conversion request that Public Interest Registry (PIR) submitted to ICANN,” it said.

“After completing extensive due diligence, the ICANN Board finds that withholding consent of the transfer of PIR from the Internet Society (ISOC) to Ethos Capital is reasonable, and the right thing to do,” it said.

The Board said that the proposed sale impacted one of the largest registries with more than 10.5 million domain names registered.

“After completing its evaluation, the ICANN Board finds that the public interest is better served in withholding consent as a result of various factors that create unacceptable uncertainty over the future of the third largest gTLD registry,” it said.

Coronavirus pandemic sparks calls to delay sale of .org domain - Latest News

Coronavirus pandemic sparks calls to delay sale of .org domain – Latest News

A decision on the sale of the .org internet domain to a private company should be postponed, rights groups said, warning it could impact charities grappling with coronavirus.

NGOs opposing the takeover called for an extension of the March 20 deadline for the internet’s governing authority, ICANN, to decide whether to give it the go-ahead in light of the global disruption caused by the outbreak.

“Organizations that disseminate accurate health information and connect affected communities with public resources depend on the .ORG domain,” Peter Micek, general counsel of digital rights group Access Now said in a statement.

“Now is not the time to shift the ground beneath their online activities.”

A spokeswoman for ICANN said the group had no comment on the subject at this time.

Registrations for the millions of nonprofits whose websites end in .org are overseen by the Internet Society (ISOC), but in November the U.S. nonprofit announced it was selling control to a year-old private equity firm called Ethos Capital.

Since then, hundreds of organisations have objected, worried that Ethos will raise registration and renewal prices, cut back on infrastructure and security spending, or make deals to sell sensitive data or allow censorship or surveillance.

In February, Ethos said it would put in place temporary limitations on price increases and set up an advisory body with powers to veto some policy changes.

But some NGOs said the sale needed further vetting.

“We need maximum transparency and integrity around the sale of .org,” Daniel Eriksson, head of technology at anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International said in a statement.

“That is simply not possible if the sale is rushed through at a moment when peoples’ attention is elsewhere”.

The coronavirus has killed more than 7,100 people and sickened about 182,260 across the world, according to a Reuters tally.

It has crippled several industries and triggered border closures and lockdowns in many countries.

The crisis was likely to affect NGOs’ finances as bans on travel and events limited fundraising opportunities, said Micek.

He warned it would be difficult for organisations unhappy with new ownership to move their websites while responding to the pandemic.

“You can’t transition to a new ship in the middle of the naval battle,” Micek told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

Ethos and ISOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.