ICANN60 - Abu Dhabi

28 Oct 2017 to 3 Nov 2017
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates


Event report/s:
Amrita Choudhury

There were several sessions on the subject of geographic names of countries and territories at the ICANN60 meeting held in Abu Dhabi.

There were several sessions on the subject of geographic names of countries and territories at the ICANN60 meeting held in Abu Dhabi. These include the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) meetings on two-character codes as second level domains (SLDs); country and territory names as SLDs; Working Group to examine the Protection of Geographic Names in any Future Expansion of generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) Meeting; GAC meeting with the ICANN Board; and Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) New gTLD Subsequent Procedures Policy Development Process (PDP) Working Group Face-to-Face Session II: Work Track 5 on Geographic Names at the Top Level.

During the GAC meeting on  two-character codes as SLDs, several GAC members, including Argentina, Brazil, and Iran, raised the concern that the points mentioned in the GAC Communique of Johannesburg (ICANN59), which outlined the ICANN Board’s consent to taking into consideration the views of GAC members on the subject, and the ICANN CEO suggesting the formation of a task force to address concerns mentioned in Copenhagen (ICANN58), were not implemented. Further, there were concerns about lack of transparency, and also concerns that ICANN was discussing issues related to two character codes bilaterally with individual GAC members and not with the entire GAC group. ICANN staff further clarified that 25 governments were having bilateral communication with ICANN. Several countries, such as Portugal and Indonesia wanted to know the exact status of the issues raised by the governments, and how they would be resolved.

On the question about resolving the issue related to two characters at SLDs raised during the GAC meeting with the ICANN Board, Mr Goran Marby, CEO, ICANN, said that he would be commenting on this post-discussion with the ICANN Board. He further clarified that until then the current process related to protection of country and territory names would continue.  Regarding concerns with country and territory names at the second level, he reminded GAC members that the ICANN Board had passed a resolution which authorised the release of country and territory names at the second level to a registry operator after the governments expressed their agreement to the release. 

During the GAC meeting on country and territory names, Mr Thomas Scheinder, GAC chair, referred to the GAC position expressed in the ICANN59 communique on the matter. It was further clarified that for top level domains, the issue was taken up by the co-chairs of the new gTLD subsequent procedures PDP who proposed the initiation of a new work track in the PDP (work track (WT) 5) which would include one representative of the GAC. However, there were concerns raised from Iran about whether the GAC would be on equal footing with others in the working group. Argentina further clarified that Switzerland, in their proposal, had proposed a group of interested GAC members to be involved in the working group, as that would ensure different perspectives. India emphasised the need to amend the existing ISO 3166 list, used within ICANN as a basis for discussion on country and territory names, and expand it further to include territories whose names are not there. The GAC chair further clarified that the conditions for GAC participation in WT5 have been communicated to the concerned parties, and, if those conditions are not met, the committee will need to reconsider its approach.

At the meetings of the GAC Working Group to Examine the Protection of Geographic Names in any Future Expansion of gTLDs, there were discussions on ways for the GAC to participate in the WT5 on geographic names of the New gTLD Subsequent Procedures PDP Working Group.  The GAC working group decided to ask  the GAC leadership to constitute a small group of GAC members to participate in the WT5 .

During the GNSO New gTLD Subsequent Procedures PDP Working Group Face-to-Face Session II: Work Track 5 on Geographic Names at the Top Level meeting, the discussion was centred around the elements and terms of reference. The WT5 is dedicated to geographic names at the top level, and is expected to develop a consensus-driven set of recommendations/implementation guidance for subsequent procedures. On the question related to the decision making process, it was clarified that it would be either a consensus or rough consensus. On the question of who will be determining consensus, it was clarified that the co-leads would be the ones tasked with measuring consensus according to the definitions that are in the operating guidelines. Further, on the comments from the GAC, Country Code Names Supporting Organisation (ccNSO) and AtLarge  representatives seeking time to consult with their communities and get back before sharing their view, Mr Jeff Neuman, co-chair of the New gTLD Subsequent Procedures PDP Working Group, stated that the GNSO would not wait for formal approval before moving forward. There were also queries raised as to whether this process is to be seen as a preventive mechanism or an engagement process. On the question related to the timeline for the process, it was to be decided by the working group. The call for volunteers is open till 20 November 2017.

Sorina Teleanu

Jurisdiction has been a ‘hot topic’ within the ICANN community for a long time.

Jurisdiction has been a ‘hot topic’ within the ICANN community for a long time. The ICANN60 meeting was no exception, and the issue was discussed in different frameworks: as part of the face-to-face meeting of the Cross Community Working Group on Enhancing ICANN Accountability (CCWG-Accountability), in the ‘Jurisdictional Challenges for ICANN’ cross-community session, and as part of the agenda of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), among others.

This report focuses on the cross community session on ‘Jurisdictional Challenges for ICANN’, organised at the proposal of the GAC. The session was structured in two parts: the first focused on the jurisdiction-related recommendations of the CCWG-Accountability; and the second looked at broader community concerns based on the application of the laws of ICANN’s place of jurisdiction.

As part of its Work Stream 2 (WS2), the CCWG-Accountability has a sub-team focusing on jurisdiction-related issues. Recently, the sub-team produced a report with two sets of recommendations: one regarding licenses from the US Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC), and the other one regarding choice of laws clause in ICANN’s Registry/Registrar Agreements. The sub-team’s report containing these recommendations has been approved in the CCWG plenary, on the basis of a rough consensus (with objections from the Brazilian government) and will soon be published for public comment.

Recommendations related to OFAC. As ICANN is a corporation based in California, it needs to comply with the sanctions imposed by OFAC (OFAC enforces economic and trade sanctions against targeted foreign countries, in line with US foreign policy and national security goals). The CCWG jurisdiction sub-team recommends that ICANN commits to making best efforts to apply for specific OFAC licenses that would allow the organisation to have relations with registrars based in countries affected by OFAC sanctions. As negotiations over obtaining an OFAC licence are a difficult and lengthy process, ICANN needs to be transparent and communicate regularly with regard to the process and progress achieved in securing such licences. The same should happen for future applicants for new generic top-level domains (gTLDs). It is also recommended that ICANN studies the costs and benefits of applying for a general OFAC licence.

Recommendations related to choice of laws in Registry/Registrar Agreements. The sub-team recommends that ICANN adopts a menu approach with regard to the choice of laws in Registry/Registrar Agreements. There are no specific recommendations as to what the menu should consist of, but it could include, for example, one country per ICANN region, several countries per ICANN region, the country of the registry’s/registrar’s home office, California/US law. With regard to the choice of venue for arbitrations, there is a recommendation that a venue menu could also be adopted. The current Registry Agreement calls for arbitration with a seat in Los Angeles. Instead, there could be a menu with options for other potential seats.

During the discussions, it was noted that the recommendations related to OFAC address real issues faced by registrars and registrants in countries affected by OFAC sanctions. In this sense, they are needed and could be seen as one of the most important steps in ‘neutralising’ any potential accountability bias coming from US jurisdiction, by allowing people in countries sanctioned by the USA to continue to have access to the DNS. With regard to the recommendations on the choice of laws, it was said the suggestion for menu options could affect how the governing law clause in the Registry/Registrar Agreements is fashioned, leading directly to how contracts are interpreted and enforced. For some, this could have an impact on accountability within the ICANN context.

Brazil explained that it had dissented from the jurisdiction-related recommendations not because it opposes the substance of the recommendations, but because it finds the recommendations to be incomplete, with some issues being inadequately addressed. The dissenting opinion, Brazil underlined, should not be seen as an attack on the multistakeholder model. The country is a supporter of this model, but it is concerned about how governments in this model can have even conditions and be on a truly equal footing. The opinion is also not about moving ICANN to a different jurisdiction, as Brazil accepts what was agreed as part of Work Stream 1, i.e. that ICANN should remain headquartered in the USA. What Brazil wants to see is a continuation of exploring a partial immunity solution for ICANN.

Another point made during the discussion was that, while the IANA stewardship transition process led to the elimination of US stewardship over the root zone, ICANN, as a corporation, has to be rooted somewhere, and it was broadly agreed in WS 1 that California is as good a jurisdiction as any other. Yet, there is still the possibility that the US government will regulate ICANN. But, wherever ICANN is located, there is the possibility that the government there could choose to regulate it or interfere with its operations. The question is how to deal with such possible situations.

On the issue of immunity, it was said that the problem within the sub-team was that there was no viable model identified for achieving it. Observations were made that careful consideration needs to be given to this concept, as immunity could also mean immunity from accountability. Some members of the sub-team were concerned that the concept of immunity could possibly release ICANN from the kind of accountability to basic forms of law that the community wants ICANN to have. Another aspect that was discussed was related to the international organisations’ immunity act in the USA: if this were to apply to ICANN, it would effectively mean having ICANN ask the US Congress what kind of immunities it could have. This was seen as reversing the IANA stewardship transition process.

Some commented that, if the issue of immunity is being discussed, it should be addressed from the standpoint of immunising ICANN from the jurisdiction of all countries (not only the USA).

During the discussions, many were in favour of continuing the debate on how to make progress on the issue of immunities. A point in this regard was to be added to the report of the jurisdiction sub-team: while the discussions on limited or impartial immunity for ICANN did not come to a conclusion during the work of the jurisdiction sub-team, the concerns raised were legitimate, and, as such, there should be a path forward for these concerns to be discussed beyond the CCWG-Accountability work. The issue of immunity was seen by many as being beyond the scope of the CCWG-Accountability, but the community was encouraged to build upon the work of the jurisdiction sub-team when addressing the issue in a different context. There was a suggestion for a new cross-community working group to be established with the sole purpose of exploring the immunity issue.

Discussions on jurisdiction issues were also held within the GAC. As reflected in the communique issued by the committee at the end of the Abu Dhabi meeting, some members welcomed the recommendations of the CCWG-Accountability jurisdiction sub-team, both concerning OFAC (and the efforts to be made by ICANN to apply for OFAC licenses), and the menu options for the choice of laws in Registry/Registrar Agreements. Other members were of the view that the recommendations were insufficient in addressing concerns related to ICANN being located in the USA. Several members expressed their wish for the ICANN community to continue discussions on the issue of limited or partial immunity for ICANN.

Su Sonia Herring

The ICANN60 Annual General Assembly Meeting had several sessions focusing on Domain Name System (DNS) abuse and mitigation.

The ICANN60 Annual General Assembly Meeting had several sessions focusing on Domain Name System (DNS) abuse and mitigation. The first two workshops (WS 1 and WS 2), organised by Mr David Piscitello, Vice President, Security and ICT Coordination, ICANN, were held under the theme ‘How It Works: DNS Abuse’. Piscitello’s presentations explained various ways cybercriminals are using DNS fraud, hijacking via phishing, social engineering, and data breaches, and gave examples of the most prominent cases such as Avalanche and how it was tackled. Piscitello underlined challenges faced by law enforcement agencies, such as jurisdiction, lack of common criminal law, and the slowness of Mutual Law Enforcement Assistance, as criminals operate at Internet pace. Addressing privacy concerns as well as security, he pointed to alternatives such as tiered access to personal data. He mentioned another cause of security vulnerabilities: developers repeating their peers’ previous mistakes such as continuing using lax configurations.

The Domain Name Abuse Reporting System (DAAR) which uses public, open, and commercial sources such as DNS Zone data, WHOIS data and reputation blocklist (RBL) was the focus of the ‘Abuse Reporting for Fact-Based Policy Making and Effective Mitigation’ cross community session. DAAR and its planned open data initiative’s goal of ‘providing data to support community, academic, or sponsored research and analysis for informed policy consideration’ was discussed. Mr Rod Rasmussen, incoming chair, Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC), stated that although the technological aspect of abuse (e-mails, browsers, firewalls detecting abuse in seconds) was solved, the policy aspect was not. He mentioned the use of reverse engineering domain name generators and observing the results to identify abusive users. Piscitello underlined this point saying that a system able to identify which policies worked and which did not was needed. The benefits of opening DAAR data to the public were listed as historical trend analysis, flagging registrars who are not responsive to abuse reports, contractual compliance reporting, and providing data for efficient policy making. Ms Tatiana Tropina, cybersecurity expert representing the Non-commercial User Constituency (NCUC), drew attention to the limited mission of ICANN, the dangers of blurring lines between DNS and content abuse, and risks related to self-policing by the domain name industry instead of law enforcement. Another participant stated that the data DAAR will open to the public was aggregate and could not be used for contractual compliance.

Ms Denise Michel, Business Constituency (BC), drew attention to data showing new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) experiencing 10 times higher abuse than legacy gTLDs, and stated that ICANN is planning to introduce a policy addressing this. How abuse reporting can support registries and registrars in their prevention and mitigation efforts was among the key questions discussed.

GAC discussion on DNS Abuse Mitigation’ was the final session of the annual meeting related to DNS abuse. Updates and action points of the Public Safety Working Group (PSWG) were presented to government representatives. The implications and possible benefits the DAAR and its planned open data initiative could have for domain names hosting child abuse material were among subjects flagged by Italy, the UK, Iran, and Australia’s GAC representatives. 

The ICANN60 meeting will take place on 28 October - 3 November 2017, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

The meeting will give ICANN supporting organisations and advisory committees the opportunity to have face-to-face discussions on various issues pertaining to ICANN's activity. It will also represent the organisation's 19th general annual meeting. A detailed schedule will be made available on the ICANN meetings website.

ICANN meetings in brief

  • ICANN meetings are held three times each year in different regions of the globe to enable attendees from around the world to participate in person. One meeting each year is also the organisation's annual general meeting, during which new Board members take their seats. 
  • ICANN meetings are free and officially run five days (Monday to Friday). There are also a few pre-meeting workshops and working sessions when the volunteer members of our supporting organizations and advisory committees initiate their work. 
  • ICANN meetings offer the best opportunity for face-to-face discussions and airing of opinions among knowledgeable people dedicated to the continued stable and secure operation of the Internet. 
  • ICANN meetings offer a variety of sessions such as workshops, open forums, and working meetings on the development and implementation of Internet policies. 
  • Remote participation is possible while the meetings are going on. ICANN offers several tools such as streaming live audio and video, chatrooms, and online question boxes. 
  • Detailed logistics and information about each meeting venue, registration, and remote participation can be found at the dedicated website created for each meeting. 
  • ICANN’s Fellowship programme supports attendance at ICANN meetings by selected individuals from stakeholder groups around the world.

Where and when do ICANN meetings take place? 

ICANN meetings are held three times a year in different regions, with the Board typically choosing the actual location at least a year out from the meeting. The list of regions and countries of past and upcoming ICANN meetings is available at http://meetings.icann.org/calendar.

What happens between meetings? 

In the period between meetings, the supporting organisations (SOs) and advisory committees (ACs) work closely with ICANN staff to make progress on the work agreed to during the most recent meeting. The results are then posted for public comment on the ICANN website to allow anyone in the Internet community to become acquainted with the latest developments and offer opinions on them. ICANN’s advisory committees also prepare reports to inform you about these issues and their potential impact on the Internet. A summary and analysis of all the comments is prepared and relevant documents are revised accordingly in time for your further review at the next meeting.

What topics are discussed? 

A broad range of Internet-related topics are discussed at each meeting. The agenda is ever changing and as dynamic as the Internet itself, but typically they cover contractual issues with the retail and wholesale arms of the Domain Name System, ways to respond to illegal or abusive use of the Internet’s naming systems, internal restructuring, and new initiatives for increasing competition on the Internet.

What is an ICANN meeting and what happens? 

ICANN meetings provide the opportunity for an internationally diverse group of individuals and organisations to come together and discuss and develop policies for the Internet‘s naming systems. The organisation’s staff of around 100 runs the meetings and coordinates with its volunteer SOs and ACs. The SOs and ACs are represented by governments, managers of Domain Name System elements (registries, registrars, ISPs), technical, business and intellectual property communities, academia, Internet users, and so on. ICANN’s Board, which is international in nature, ultimately weighs and makes the final decisions about Internet policies and processes.

One committee, the Governmental Advisory Committee or GAC, is made up of representatives from governments and governmental entities. Currently numbering over 130 members, they come together at each meeting to provide a unique regulatory, legal, linguistic, and cultural perspective on the issues being discussed during the meeting.

ICANN’s international meetings have been a staple of ICANN’s multi-stakeholder bottom-up consensus-building model since its formation in 1998. At the annual general meeting, one of each year’s three meetings, participants have the opportunity to meet newly seated members of the Board of Directors and thank outgoing Board members for their service.


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