871 organizations and 27,183 people helped us stop the sale. Thank you!

Statement of Request for Contract Protections

To:
Andrew Sullivan, CEO, Internet Society
Gonzalo Camarillo, Chair, Board of Directors, Internet Society 
Jon Nevett, CEO, Public Interest Registry
Lise Fur, Chair, Board of Directors, Public Interest Registry 

June 24, 2020

Dear Internet Society and Public Interest Registry leadership, 

We write to you during a global pandemic that has impacted every facet of work and communities around the world. A pandemic that has affirmed the need for the types of services, support and information provided by nonprofits and scientific and news websites that use .ORG domains. 

We write to you as massive numbers of people throughout the U.S. and many other countries are protesting against police brutality and white supremacist policies and systems. Community organizing work that is led by Black leaders and their organizations, movements, and campaigns use .ORG domains to inform, engage, and call for change. 

We write to you because the protections needed for the .ORG top-level domain are still unmet, leaving vulnerable the organizations working in society’s most critical areas of service and change.

Background

On November 13, 2019, Internet Society (ISOC) and the Public Interest Registry (PIR) — the operator of the .ORG domain and its sole member organization — announced their intention to sell the .ORG domain to a hitherto unknown private equity firm for $1.1 billion. This was announced as a “new era of opportunity” for .ORG. 

The nonprofits and community-based organizations that rely on .ORG as a domain run by and for nonprofits were outraged. A letter sent on November 22, 2019, called for the sale to be stopped. This grassroots campaign to save .ORG quickly grew to global significance. It now includes 871 organizations and over 27,000 individuals from around the world, from African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) to YWCA. It is the largest coalition of nonprofits ever assembled in support of a voice for nonprofit organizations within .ORG. 

On April 30, 2020, the ICANN Board responded to the groundswell of opposition by rejecting the change of control of the .ORG domain. ISOC and PIR now appear to want to continue as if nothing happened, saying that .ORG is “not for sale.” 

More Protections Needed

While we are pleased that .ORG is not being sold to Ethos Capital, there’s nothing in their recent announcement that addresses the unilateral decision-making that led to the ISOC Board of Directors deciding in secrecy over a matter of weeks to sell the .ORG domain.

The SaveDotOrg coalition letter is clear: decisions affecting .ORG must be made with the consultation of the NGO community, overseen by a trusted community leader. Trust is earned, not given. And once lost, it must be earned anew. During the effort to sell .ORG, ISOC leadership repeatedly denied that it was bound by commitments to protect the public interest that ISOC explicitly made to the nonprofit community in 2002, and which ICANN ultimately upheld. They repeatedly described the .ORG registry as a commodity and a business to be disposed of at will. ISOC made no effort to conduct its own community consultations, and even disregarded the significant disapproval from many of its own chapters. 

Meanwhile, PIR and ISoc actively supported Ethos Capital in standing up “community engagement” events that were in fact nothing more than a public relations campaign, offering no meaningful dialogue with the community. 

These actions and the leadership behind them remain a matter of serious concern to those who rely on .ORG as a stable and secure online home for nonprofit organizations around the world. These breaches of trust make it clear that stronger accountability measures are necessary for maintaining the long-term health of .ORG, even without a change in ownership. The commitments that ISOC made to the world in 2002 when it was selected to operate .ORG by ICANN should be clearly updated and reinforced within the .ORG Registry Agreement. 

As we stated in our November 22, 2019 letter, ISOC and PIR should amend the .ORG registry agreement to include commitments to: 

  1. Respect human rights, including privacy and freedom of expression, in policy and practice, including by complying with the UN Guiding Principles on Business & Human Rights; 
  2. Commit to avoiding censorship, including by implementing domain suspension policies that uphold the nonprofit community’s values and protect nonprofits from their abuse by allowing domain suspensions only for narrow, well-defined categories of harmful conduct; and
  3. Ensure affordability and fair pricing, including by committing to maintaining .ORG registration fees at or below the current level.

In order to build trust, ISOC and PIR should take the following actions: 

  1. Conduct a transparent, independent, third-party review of
    1. The process, actions, and decision points that led to the sale’s initiation, proposal, evaluation, and approval, and
    2. The processes, actions, and decision points after the sale was announced, including specifically:
      1. The decision to ignore input from Chapters,
      2. The decision to disregard broad community mobilization, and
      3. Failures in due diligence on the sale’s human rights impacts, including with regard to the harm the sale posed to the NGO community.
  2. Report the findings of that review to the NGO community.
  3. Engage in robust, inclusive consultations with the NGO community to amend ISOC and PIR processes, policies, governing structures, and any other structural or cultural challenges surfaced in the above review, in order to ensure .ORG users have a meaningful say in the governance and decision-making of both organizations regarding all matters that impact or influence .ORG now and into the future.

We look forward to your response and your actions to ensure real protections and safeguards for the .ORG domain. 

The coalition understands that the Internet Society and the Public Interest Registry want to continue to run the .ORG domain, along with the right to spend the tens of millions of dollars in revenue that NGOs provide to support and fund you every year as you choose. The question now is: what meaningful steps are you willing to take in order to earn that right? 

In service of all the organizations who signed on with this campaign and the communities around the world they serve,

EFF
NTEN
Access Now

CC: Goran Marby, CEO & President, ICANN
Maarten Botterman, Chair, Board of Directors, ICANN
ICANN Correspondence

Thank you to everyone who helped us stop the sale

Joint Statement from NTEN and EFF, April 30 2020

We are thrilled to see ICANN’s leadership reject the sale of Public Interest Registry (PIR) and the .Org top-level domain. 

For 20 years, .Org has been the online home for nonprofits, NGOs, and community-based groups around the world. It serves both those organizations and the public, helping navigate and support trust, information and resource sharing, and advocacy. 

The current global pandemic has further illustrated the importance of nonprofit websites, as most of the world’s leading scientific and research institutions, health and safety resources, and educational services are on .Org websites. The need for reliability and security of the .Org domain is as high as it ever has been, and the proposal to convert PIR from a nonprofit to a for-profit entity and then sell it to private equity firm Ethos Capital would have jeopardized both. 

We want to thank the nearly 900 organizations and the 64,000* individuals from all over the world who joined us in calling for the sale to be stopped. The collective voices made a difference. 

This is not the final step needed for protecting the .Org domain. ICANN must now open a public process for bids to find a new home for the .Org domain. ICANN has established processes and criteria that outline how to hold a reassignment process. We look forward to seeing a competitive process and are eager to support the participation in that process by the global nonprofit community. 

The .Org domain, the third-largest top-level domain, needs a secure and reliable steward that can prove it has the public and nonprofit sector’s interests at its core. 

Additional SaveDotOrg coalition signers:
Access Now
Americans for Financial Reform Education Fund
Domain Name Rights Coalition
National Council of Nonprofits

 

*The combined signatures from petitions hosted by EFF, Fight for the Future, and Open Media

 

 

Help stop the sale of Public Interest Registry to a Private Equity


November 22, 2019

Attn:

  • Andrew Sullivan, CEO, Internet Society
  • Jon Nevett, CEO, Public Interest Registry
  • Maarten Botterman, Board Chair, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
  • Göran Marby, CEO, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers

We urge you to stop the sale of the Public Interest Registry (PIR) to Ethos Capital.

Non-governmental organizations all over the world rely on the .ORG top-level domain.

Decisions affecting .ORG must be made with the consultation of the NGO community, overseen by a trusted community leader. If the Internet Society (ISOC) can no longer be that leader, it should work with the NGO community and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to find an appropriate replacement.

The 2019 .ORG Registry Agreement represents a significant departure from .ORG’s 34-year history. It gives the registry the power to make several policy decisions that would be detrimental to the .ORG community:

  • The power to raise .ORG registration fees without the approval of ICANN or the .ORG community. A .ORG price hike would put many cash-strapped NGOs in the difficult position of either paying the increased fees or losing the legitimacy and brand recognition of a .ORG domain.
  • The power to develop and implement Rights Protection Mechanisms unilaterally, without consulting the .ORG community . If such mechanisms are not carefully crafted in collaboration with the NGO community, they risk censoring completely legal nonprofit activities.
  • The power to implement processes to suspend domain names based on accusations of “activity contrary to applicable law.” The .ORG registry should not implement such processes without understanding how state actors frequently target NGOs with allegations of illegal activity.

A registry could abuse these powers to do significant harm to the global NGO sector, intentionally or not. We cannot afford to put them into the hands of a private equity firm that has not earned the trust of the NGO community. .ORG must be managed by a leader that puts the needs of NGOs over profits.

When ISOC originally proposed transferring management of .ORG to PIR in 2002, ISOC’s then President and CEO Lynn St. Amour promised that .ORG would continue to be driven by the NGO community—in her words, PIR would “draw upon the resources of ISOC’s extended global network to drive policy and management.” As long-time members of that global network, we insist that you keep that promise.

1879 Group Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift
350.org
3core
50by40.org
5lowershop
A Blessing to One Another
A Bunch of Hacks
A New Beginning Animal Rescue
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Academia Cidadã - Citizenship Academy
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Access Now
Açık İnovasyon Derneği / Open Innovation Association
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American Prospect
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April
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Auroville Foundation
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Australian Conservation Foundation
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coletivos
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Community Action Center
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Council on Aging of Central Oregon
Council on Standards for International Educational Travel
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Crosswalks Foundation
CyberPeace Institute
Cybertelecom
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Daily Bread Food Bank
daltonbookclub.org
Dangerous Speech Project
Daniel 2:28, Inc.
Danlambao Vietnam
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Denkmal.org
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Document Foundation
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Domain Name Rights Coalition
DoSomething.org
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Dutch Virtual Reality Foundation
Eagan Foundation, Inc.
The Early Learning Institute
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Form & Function Digital Co-operative
Fourth Estate
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G3L
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gameboymusicclub
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GiveInternet.org
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GRAIN
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Grand Comics Database
GrantStation
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GreatFire.org
Greenheart International
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Guidepath LLC
Gulf Centre for Human Rights
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HealthSpark Foundation
Heard Museum
Henry Ford
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Human Connection
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Internet Archive
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Internet Policy Observatory Pakistan
Internet Protection Society, Russia
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IntraHealth International
IO Cooperative Inc.
IO Foundation
ION Medical Safety
Ionic 6
IPM International
Irish Warmblood Foundation
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Island Stewards
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ITHAKA
JA Worldwide
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JavaMUG
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Job Connection, Inc
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Kingdom Kidz Inc
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Los Haro Project
Loudoun Volunteer Caregivers
Love Foundation
Loving Thunder Therapeutic Riding, Inc.
Lunaria
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machquadrat
Main Street Productions, Inc. dba the Westfield Playhouse
Maine Association of Nonprofits
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PSCORE (People for the Successful COrean Reunification)
Public Archaeology Corps
Public Citizen
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Quad9
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Quantum Health Discoveries Institute
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R Street Institute
Radically Open Security
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Ranking Digital Rights
Raoull
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Regular Baptist Ministries
Reliable Hearts
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Review.org, LLC
Richmond BC Pickleball Association
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ritimo
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Rogue Stars
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Sentrium S.L.
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Share Our Strength
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Simple Machines
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Skiftet
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SNP Indonesia
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Society for Nonprofits
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Softcatalà
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Software Freedom Law Center India
Solidatech
Solution Libre SAS
Somewhere.org
Sopo Bicycle Cooperative
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Source Foundry
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South Florida Tech For Seniors
Southern Environmental Law Center
Special Olympics Wyoming, Inc.
Springfactor
Springfield Area Arts Council
Stajl IT
State Theatre, Inc.
STEPSABQ.org
Stiftung Albumin-Carrier-Therapie
Stiftung Bibel Liga
Stin Priza Coop
Stratosphere Research Laboratory
Stuart Center
Sub - Schwules Kommunikations- und Kulturzentrum München e.V.
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Sunshine Corners Inc.
Sursiendo, Comunicación y Cultura Digital
Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Foundation
Tacoma Historical Society
Taiwan Agriculture Exchange Association
Taiwan Kiwanis Children Fundation
Taking Action for Special Kids
Talking Talons Youth Leadership
TechSoup
Tecker International LLC
TEDIC NGO
Telecommunities Canada
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Texas Criminal Justice Coalition
Texas Presbyterian Foundation
TheChangeBook
Theosophical Society in Seattle
Thetford Academy
Thibodaux Playhouse, Inc
Thinking Cap Theatre
ThinkShout
Thirring Institute for Applied Gravitational Research
Tioga Opportunities, Inc
To’nihaiyilya- Growing Our Dreams
Together SC
Together! ACT Now
Tor Project
Traditional Arts of Michigan
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Transparency International (Germany)
Trauma Healing Project
TRON-DELTA.ORG
Trustroots Foundation
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ULYSSIS
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Urban Sound Corp
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Vanguard Sanctuary for the Arts
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VizuDev
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Volunteers of America
Vote.org
Vote.org
Waag | Technology & Society
Washington Nonprofits
Washington Trails Association
Washington Wildlife & Recreation Coalition
Wastewater Education
Watcan Foundation
Web Foundation
WEBGEM
WebServes, Inc.
West Hartford Symphony Orchestra of West Hartford, CT
West Virginia Nonprofit Association
Whidbey Environmental Action Network
Whose Knowledge?
Wikifab
Wikimedia Foundation
WikiRate Project e.V.
WikiReal
Win Without War
Windhorse Farm
Wired Impact
WITNESS
Women LISTEN, Inc.
WonderArts Vermont
Wooden Shoe Books
Woolsack
World Vision International
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Wyoming Nonprofit Network
Xpdojo.org
YMCA of the USA
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YODET
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YWCA USA
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