Photo by Arthur V. on Unsplash

Ethos/PIR Leadership Funded and Led a Scorched Earth Campaign Against Communities at ICANN.

Jacob Malthouse
Nov 28, 2019 · 4 min read

And Now ISOC is telling us to Trust Them with .ORG, the Web’s Biggest Nonprofit Community.

We are being told to trust Ethos and the Public Interest Registry (PIR) to carry on the legacy and commitment of ISOC to .ORG:

“the home of non-commercial entities on the Internet”

We can only examine the record of their leadership, Erik Brooks, CEO of Ethos and Jon Nevett, CEO of PIR. As CNN Business notes, these will be the two men most responsible for .ORG if the sale goes through.

I know a bit about that record, because I experienced it first hand for over five years. I led the community top-level domain applicant group at ICANN, and I Co-founded and helped lead the environmental community’s application for .ECO. Here’s what I experienced:

The most aggressive campaign against communities that the ICANN community had ever seen.

Donuts, under their leadership, ran a take no prisoners campaign against every community top-level domain application submitted in the last New gTLD round.

The community domain application track was a key plank of the community legitimacy of the entire last ICANN new gTLD application round. You can read the history here.

The Donuts campaign is detailed in the extensive arbitration content filed against all community top-level domain applications that crossed paths with them during the 2012 new top-level domain application round. These were ECO, RUGBY, SKI, HOTEL and RADIO.

We know that some groups made efforts to “game” the community domains application process by astro-turfing their applications as communities. But we also know that Donuts challenged community led top-level domains with arbitration AFTER they had been approved by ICANN.

Achieving Community status at ICANN is not easy. The evaluation was done following consensus rules developed by the Internet Community and conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

ICANN even ran a separate post-application investigation into that process and affirmed its integrity.

The argument that Erik and Jon had to do this for business reasons does not stand up. First, Donuts applied for 307 top-level domains. Less than 2% of their competition were communities.

We know that Donuts took a decision to pursue these attacks, because they voluntarily withdrew their objection against the .RADIO community top-level domain.

And it wasn’t just arbitration. I and others experienced a systematic campaign to discredit and undermine community domain applications at ICANN for years.

This included whisper campaigns, corridor intimidation, and extensive lobbying of ICANN staff. Now of course, I also lobbied ICANN staff. I lobbied them to believe that over 50 of the world’s biggest environmental groups wanted oversight embedded into the .ECO registry agreement. Every single one of the endorsement letters we submitted as part of our application was verified.(PDF)

I’m not out to hurt Jon or Erik’s reputation with this post. I highly respect Jon Nevett and I don’t know Erik. Jon is a fearsome opponent. Not because he is mean. He isn’t. He never went “below the belt”. He never used paid trolls and slander like Minds and Machines did.

It’s because Jon is really smart. He’s Harvard Law. It was very difficult to beat him in a war of words, even if I knew I was right, because he was so good at wielding them.

After I left .ECO, I knew Jon had started working for .ORG. I thought, you know I can think of no better reference than a former adversary. Jon can tell it like it is.

He can say to my prospective employers, listen Jacob fights hard but is fair and as determined as all get out. So I asked him and he agreed. I don’t suppose he will continue to be a reference for me after this, but I’m still trying to fight hard and fairly for what I believe in.

I don’t know if the ISOC Board was locked in cave for the past five years, but the facts about how the leadership of Ethos/PIR have behaved to communities in the past weren’t exactly hidden. They are broadly known by pretty much everyone in the ICANN world.

It’s not that I don’t trust them. It’s that their record and my experience with their ethos is completely contrary to what they are now saying.



Musings on Saving .ORG — My (Jacob’s) views alone.

Jacob Malthouse

Written by

I love to explore connections between technology, society and planet.


Musings on Saving .ORG — My (Jacob’s) views alone.

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