Earlier this month, management of the .org top-level domain underwent a radical shift: first, ICANN dropped price-caps on .org domains, and then the Internet Societ (ISOC) flogged the registry off to Ethos Capital, a private equity fund, and a consortium of three families of Republican billionaires: the Perots, the Romneys, and the Johnsons.
This doesn't just mean that nonprofits — for whom the .org top-level domain was created — will pay higher prices to maintain their domains, and it doesn't just mean that private equity funds — rather than a transparent, nonprofit NGO — will be able to censor what gets posted to .org domains, by kicking out any domain that it doesn't like (remember when everyone was cheering because Nazi websites were being stripped of their domain names by registrars? This cuts both ways: if registrars have the power and duty to respond to speech they object to by taking away organizations' domains, then that duty and power also applies to billionaires and private equity-appointed administrators).
A massive coalition of nonprofits and civil society organizations has signed an open letter to ISOC president Andrew Sullivan. Everyone from the Girl Scouts and the YMCA to EFF and Creative Commons (and many others) have signed it, and so can you.
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.
(Thanks, Jacob Malthouse!)