[At-Large] [ALAC] Fwd: A million domains taken down by email checks

Evan Leibovitch evan at telly.org
Sun Jul 6 15:57:30 UTC 2014

I was actually surprised to hear Fadi's comments about this at the Fayre.

I was both dismayed at the stance he took (I recall him saying the incident
diminished the standing of "law enforcement") and his choice of venues (one
of too many speeches delivered at a social event when many of the
participants were winding down after a day of exhaustion).

Had the issue been raised at a time where genuine interaction and
thoughtfulness were called for, I suspect Fadi may not have received the
anticipated response, as this incident clearly indicates how out of touch
ICANN is with the rest of the world,.

*Inside the ICANN bubble:*

* "We are appalled that 800,000 domains were taken down for having
non-responsive contact info" *
*The rest of the world:* *"Did you just say that 800,000 domains have
non-responsive contact info?"*

The methods of verification and the speed of takedown could be tweaked to
ensure that good actors with minor access problems (such as mail going into
spam filters, increasing time to respond, forget to change after moving,
etc) would not be adversely affected. But the end objective is absolutely
welcomed from the non-registrant end-user point of view.

So I personally have zero ethical qualms about the suspensions, noting that
the issue has already been inflated for dramatic effect. A claim of 800,000
domains becomes a million in the headlines. And then there was this gem:

*"We have stories of healthcare sites that have gone down,"*, chimes Elliot
Noss in the CircleID article

I don't know about the rest of you ... but given the sensitivity of
information at healthcare sites regarding privacy and accuracy, that
category of site is amongst those *most* in need of accurate contact info
IMO. So if such sites have non-functional contact info, frankly, I couldn't
suspend them fast enough until things are fixed. This attempt at media
manipulation backfires.

The salient point is that a contact address is just that, a way to make
contact. If it won't work from the registrant's own registrar or registry
-- a body with which whom the registrant has a contractual and financial
relationship -- it certainly won't work if someone from the public has a
question, complaint, or warrant to serve. If policy indicates that contact
info must be accurate and current, then that is what needs to be enforced.

When the interests of ICANN and contracted parties are hurt by inaction of
registrants -- notably non-payment -- enforcement such as suspension is
immediate, automated and non-controversial. (Indeed, it was even once gamed
by some contracted parties, which is what led to the PEDNR
<http://icannwiki.com/index.php/PEDNR> debate.) But here, the inaction
indicates harm to the public interest while enforcement threatens financial
loss to ICANN and contracted parties, so all hell breaks loose and Fadi
lectures us at the Fayre.

This isn't just a matter of law enforcement, and I am puzzled why that
community is being singled out for recrimination. Sure, some chunk of those
800,000 are bad actors in the sense of intending to have unusable contact
info. But how many of the others have bad contact info because the domains
themselves are neglected and unused, squatted or speculated names that
their registrants have just locked away and forgotten? How does that serve
the interest of end users to have so many extant but useless domains?

So, by all means, let's engage in a proper dialogue -- not one initiated,
almost in passing, at a social event more than halfway into the ICANN
meeting. We may all look at this incident and see within it a deep problem,
but the problems At-Large identifies may be far different from those seen
by the registrars.

Be careful what you wish for. While registrars complaining loudly may score
power points inside the bubble (at the expense of public-interest
advocacy), outside it just reinforces ICANN's detachment from the rest of
the Internet-using world. If news broke that there were 800,000 cars on the
road with unusable contact info related to their license plates, public
reaction would be loud and ugly no matter what proportion of those cars
belonged to criminals.

I look forward to any debate going forward on the issue in At-Large's
Regulatory Issues Working Group, which is where I believe any future ALAC
stance must be discussed and first formulated.

- Evan

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