For months, a global community of stakeholders have been fighting to stop the sale of the .ORG domain to the newly formed private equity firm Ethos Capital. Last night, the nonprofit with oversight over the world’s domain industry, ICANN, announced its decision to reject the transfer of control.
“Simply put, when your bottom line is the dollar, your top priority cannot be the public good,” said Brett Solomon, Executive Director at Access Now. “We immediately recognized the immense, irreversible damage this deal would cause, and thousands around the world — from policymakers and government officials, to human rights and environmental defenders, to technologists and beyond — have worked to stop it. The internet stood up and was heard.”
“This deal smelled fishy from the start. Cooked up by a fly-by-night private equity firm, with a billion-dollar-plus price tag, the proposal to sell .ORG to untrusted buyers along with a huge bag of debt always seemed off,” said Peter Micek, General Counsel at Access Now. “Together, civil society spoke up, sending this deal back and demanding a fresh chance to build the online home we believe in and deserve.”
“ICANN has committed to transparency and accountability, and now has a golden opportunity to put these values into action,” said Micek. “Talks on the future of .ORG should never have gotten to this point: a fraught debate with executive directors, governments and prosecutors, and tens of thousands of individuals reacting in frustration and struggling for more information. This shared resource, the home of civil society online, deserves a process that reflects the open, inclusive, and rights-respecting values of its residents.”
“This was an important demonstration from ICANN that it is not beholden to domain industry lobbyists and private-sector interests alone,” said Carolyn Tackett, Global Campaign Strategist at Access Now. “The decision was a successful result of ICANN’s self-described ‘community-based consensus-driven approach,’ and we look forward to seeing this same level of leadership going forward as we seek solutions for ensuring a sustainable long-term future for .ORG.”
“It’s easy for tech-policy conversations of this nature to get lost in the weeds, but preventing .ORG from falling into the hands of private equity is a major victory — especially for the most vulnerable among us,” said Tackett. “It is exceptionally difficult to push back against the forces of billionaires and special interests, while also fighting up-hill battles against shrinking budgets, systematic efforts to silence dissenting voices, and even threats to physical safety. But by sticking together, we can keep pushing forward and protect the spaces like .ORG that allow us to meet the needs of the communities we serve.”
Access Now thanks the Board and staff of ICANN, and commits to work with our partner organizations and all stakeholders to sustainably save .ORG.
We’ve said from the start that .ORG needs a nonprofit owner and mission-based leadership. This boost from the ICANN Board gives us a chance to openly develop a better future for our online home.