Blocking the sale of .org domain protects civil society data

London— The decision not to allow use of the “org” public interest registry by a for-profit organization was the correct ruling by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), says ImpACT International for Human Rights Policies. 

It is critical that the .org domain be protected from manipulation by the private sector and supervised by bodies that prioritize the needs of civil society​, including nonprofit organizations and charitable associations

Rejection of the $1 billion offer by newly formed Ethos Capital is the first step toward protecting the public-interest designation; the next should be to ban the sale to for-profit enterprises altogether. 

ICANN’s decision came after the pending deal was protested by a number of the more than 10 million nonprofits that use the .org suffix in their domain names. Although ICANN defines itself as a nonprofit with a mission of governing the internet to keep it democratic, the organization generated more than $100 million in 2018 from sale of the right to use the .org internet domain.

The .org registry today is used by over 10.5 million organizations that educate and advocate around the world. 

“It is critical that the .org domain be protected from manipulation by the private sector and supervised by bodies that prioritize the needs of civil society, including nonprofit organizations and charitable associations,” says ImpACT International for Human Rights Policies.

If the deal with Ethos had gone through, ImpACT International warned, the price of using the designation would likely have soared, since many governments and private sector actors would be willing to pay the high amounts.

In addition, ImpACT points out, making a profit is the top priority of commercial firms; the nonprofit veneer lent by the org designation could lull customers into allowing violations of their privacy. Thus, the .org domain must remain restricted to use by nonprofit organizations with missions dedicated to the public interest.


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