The digital home of nonprofits is under attack

Update December 5: watch a recording of a community call NTEN organized between Andrew Sullivan from Internet Society, Electronic Frontier Foundation, The National Council of Nonprofits, and Internet Society chapter leaders, as well as Jon Nevett from Public Interest Registry, and Erik Brooks and Nora Abusitta from Ethos Capital.

In an outrageous betrayal of its responsibility to steward the .ORG domain, the Internet Society (ISOC) has announced it will sell the Public Interest Registry (PIR) to private equity firm Ethos Capital. NTEN has signed a public letter with 26 other organizations in protest. I urge you to read the letter below and then visit SaveDotOrg.org to join us by signing and sending the letter yourself.

Earlier this year Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) eliminated price caps on purchasing a .org domain and changed the rules to make it easier for a nonprofit’s site to censored. Handing control of the .ORG domain to a for-profit entity has made the reality of those changes chillingly clear.

Promoting the noncommercial use of the Internet was an inspiration for the .ORG domain. And when ISOC spun off PIR it with the promise that the management of .ORG would be driven by the needs of the nonprofit sector. Instead, we’ve seen decisions made will richly benefit a handful of individuals at the expense of nonprofits.

One of NTEN’s core beliefs is that “The internet is a powerful and necessary tool. It’s vital that it is affordable and accessible to all people.” When we wrote that, we weren’t envisioning nonprofits like ourselves, but here we are. But we also believe that each of us has a role to play in building, sustaining, and powering our community. I’m asking you to do your part. Sign the letter now.

Update 11/27/19: Join us on a community call on Thursday, December 5 at 12 pm (Pacific) with Electronic Frontier Foundation, The National Council of Nonprofits, and Internet Society chapter leaders, as well as Jon Nevett from Public Interest Registry, and Erik Brooks and Nora Abusitta from Ethos Capital. Andrew Sullivan from Internet Society has been invited but has not confirmed participation.

News Coverage

Letter

November 22, 2019
Internet Society
Attn: Andrew Sullivan, President and CEO
11710 Plaza America Drive, Suite 400
Reston, VA 20190

Dear Mr. Sullivan,

We urge you to stop the sale of the Public Interest Registry (PIR) to Ethos Capital.

Non-governmental organizations all over the world rely on the .ORG top-level
domain. Decisions affecting .ORG must be made with the consultation of the NGO
community, overseen by a trusted community leader. If the Internet Society (ISOC)
can no longer be that leader, it should work with the NGO community and the
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to find an
appropriate replacement.

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.

A registry could abuse these powers to do significant harm to the global NGO sector,
intentionally or not. We cannot afford to put them into the hands of a private equity
firm that has not earned the trust of the NGO community. .ORG must be managed
by a leader that puts the needs of NGOs over profits.

When ISOC originally proposed transferring management of .ORG to PIR in 2002,
ISOC’s then President and CEO Lynn St. Amour promised that .ORG would continue
to be driven by the NGO community—in her words, PIR would “draw upon the
resources of ISOC’s extended global network to drive policy and management.” As
long-time members of that global network, we insist that you keep that promise.

American Alliance of Museums
American Society of Association Executives
Aspiration
Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc.
Creative Commons
Crisis Text Line
Demand Progress Education Fund
DoSomething.org
Electronic Frontier Foundation
European Climate Foundation
Free Software Foundation
Girl Scouts of the USA
Independent Sector
Internet Archive
Meals on Wheels America
National Council of Nonprofits
National Human Services Assembly
NTEN
Palante Technology Cooperative
Public Knowledge
R Street Institute
TechSoup
VolunteerMatch
Volunteers of America
Wikimedia Foundation
YMCA of the USA
YWCA USA

Amy Sample Ward
CEO
NTEN
Driven by a belief that the nonprofit technology community can be a movement-based force for positive change, Amy is NTEN’s CEO and former membership director. Her prior experience in direct service, policy, philanthropy, and capacity-building organizations has also fueled her aspirations to create meaningful, inclusive, and compassionate community engagement and educational opportunities for all organizations. Amy inspires the NTEN team and partners around the world to believe in community-generated change. She believes technology can help nonprofits reach their missions more effectively, efficiently, and inclusively, and she’s interested in everything from digital equity to social innovation.