Once the .org sale became public, concerns emerged within the Internet community over both the potential negative implications of .org being sold to a for-profit entity and over the perceived lack of transparency regarding the deal. ICANN itself received letters from several organisations – such as the Internet Commerce Association, the Mozilla Foundation, and members of the US Congress– asking it to protect the interests of the .org community and even reject the takeover of .org registry by Ethos. And several initiatives emerged, such as the Save .ORG campaign and the Cooperative Corporation for .ORG Registrants (CCOR) project which wants ICANN to pass the .org registry to them instead of approving the sale to Ethos.
One main concern is that a commercially-driven PIR would be less motivated to act in the public interest. But ISOC and its supporters argued that .org was operated by for-profit companies before PIR, without any impact on the public interest at large. Moreover, a for-profit PIR would be able to reinvest in itself and stay up-to-date with the changing marketplace. Ethos also reiterated its commitment to actions such as the creation of the Stewardship Council for PIR and the Community Enablement Fund, but these commitments are seen as insufficient and unclear by many in the community, concerned that there would be no mechanisms to hold Ethos accountable.
.org prices considerations are also among the key concerns. With the price caps for .org domains lifted in June 2019 and PIR becoming a for-profit entity, there are concerns that the registry could unreasonably raise the prices. Ethos indicated that it intends to keep the .org prices reasonable and ‘limit any potential increase [...] to no more than 10% per year on average’. But questions remain on whether and how such commitments could be enforced. Moreover, as some of the .org sale will be financed through a loan that will have to be repaid by PIR, this could be invoked by the registry later on to increase the prices. Some even claim that there is no coincidence that the sale of .org was announced soon after the price caps removal, although ISOC has stated that it only received the Ethos offer in September 2019 (about two months after the new RA was concluded with ICANN).
Questions were also raised on how PIR would handle rights protection measures as well as requests for information from governments. Ethos and PIR noted that they are committed to preserving freedom of speech and that the Stewardship Council ‘will be empowered to ratify strong rules protecting freedom of expression and safeguarding against censorship’.
But what seems to have bothered the community most is the lack of assurance that a new registry will continue to observe the conditions enshrined in ICANN's 2002 reassignment of .org (special consideration to the needs of non-commercial registrants) and a perceived lack of transparency around the deal. Moreover, the community was not involved in a discussion around the sale. Since transparency, inclusiveness, and accountability are the main pillars underpinning the multistakeholder model of ICANN and ISOC, critics warn that such a closed deal about one of the most important public domains may destroy their credibility, and affect trust in the multistakeholder process.