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Top Nonprofits Protest Sale of ‘Dot-Org’ Registry

Elliot Harmon, right, fires up fellow protestors Friday, Jan. 24, 2020, in Los Angeles outside the headquarters of the regulatory body for domain names, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Top Nonprofits Protest Sale of ‘Dot-Org’ Registry
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Major nonprofit organizations are protesting the planned sale of the dot-org internet registry system they belong to.

The groups say the sale of the system to a private investment company could lead to much higher costs to register and keep a domain name. A domain name identifies a website on the internet. The nonprofit groups also say the change could reduce freedoms of speech and expression.

The registration process for millions of nonprofit groups using websites that end in dot-org is controlled by the U.S.-based Internet Society, or ISOC. But in November, the Internet Society announced it was selling control to Ethos Capital. It is a private investment company based on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.

Hundreds of organizations have objected to the plan. Top nonprofit groups like Greenpeace and Amnesty International have called for the $1.1 billion sale to be blocked.

Last week, the directors of 10 leading nonprofit groups published an open letter during the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, Switzerland. The letter urged the Internet Society and ICANN, the internet’s governing body, to intervene to stop the sale.

“Should the governance and stewardship of .ORG end up under the control of private or other actors that could lead to financial or other barriers, that would irreparably harm global civil society,” the letter read.

The Internet Society said in a joint statement with Ethos Capital that Ethos had promised to limit any cost increases to a yearly average of 10 percent. The statement added that existing agreements with ICANN contain limitations to prevent an internet registry from selling information about registered organizations.

The statement rejected suggestions that the new system would lead to spying or censorship of online material. “Ethos and [the Internet Society] take freedom of expression very seriously, and the registry’s commitment to free speech will continue unabated.”

Brett Solomon is the director of Access Now, a group that supports policies to keep the internet open and free. He told Reuters the sale could force smaller organizations with less money off the internet. In addition, he worries about the level of control handed over to the new owner of the registry system.

“They have a capacity to take somebody off the .org domain, which means they can censor, they can monitor, they can deny,” Solomon said. “And all these issues are very, very important for organizations who are challenging governments and are challenging powerful interests,” he added.

A small demonstration was recently held at the ICANN offices in Los Angeles to protest the planned sale. The demonstrators presented a letter signed by 35,000 supporters that urges ICANN to block the deal.

ICANN’s chairman, Maarten Botterman, came outside with some other board members to meet with protesters. He told The Associated Press that ICANN is in the process of examining the effects of the sale. He said the organization was also looking to find guarantees to offer concerned dot-org registrants.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

The Associated Press and Reuters reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

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Words in This Story

domain n. the part of an email or website address that shows the name of the organization that the address belongs to

stewardship n. the job of supervising or taking care of something, such as an organization or property

irreparably adv. in a way that is impossible to repair

unabated adj. without weakening in strength or force

capacity n. the ability to do, experience or understand something

monitorv. to watch something carefully

challenging adj. testing one’s abilities; demanding