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.ORG Stewardship Council Will Ensure .ORG's Commitment to Freedom of Expression Continues

Brian Cimbolic

[The .ORG] Stewardship Council is, in a lot of ways, a natural progression or evolution from our current PIR Advisory Council. The Advisory Council is made up of independent .ORG community members from around the world that provide advice to PIR on policy issues affecting them. The "AC," or the Advisory Council, has been a key part of PIR's work since its inception.

The AC is a very dedicated and reliable body for PIR and has been over the years. That said, it was always a purely advisory body and it had a comparatively narrow remit. The Stewardship Council, by contrast, will have binding authority and a broader scope.

Ethos and PIR believe that the community needs to have a strong voice in shaping .ORG's future. That's why the .ORG Stewardship Council will play a powerful role in influencing PIR's decision-making moving forward. The Council will be instrumental in ensuring that the needs of all .ORG registrants and users remain central to PIR. It will determine how PIR invests in a bigger future for .ORG, and how to invest in philanthropic initiatives to benefit nonprofits and the overall .ORG community.

In addition to clarifying the role of the .ORG Stewardship Council within this PIC, Ethos also publicly released the .ORG Stewardship Council Charter, outlining concrete principles and protocols that will govern the administration and operation of the Council. This includes overseeing a Community Enablement Fund, which is expected to receive a minimum of $10 million over the remaining life of the current Registry Agreement. That will finance existing and new initiatives serving the .ORG community, including the .ORG Impact Awards and other meaningful educational and outreach programs.

Members of the Council will be authorities knowledgeable in fields of mission-driven, charitable and nonprofit organization management, social entrepreneurship, community development, economic empowerment, social advocacy, human rights, philanthropy and related subjects of concern to the .ORG community. We want it to be a cross-section of the .ORG community and .ORG stakeholders.

The Stewardship Council will have authority to provide independent advice, and a binding right to veto modifications proposed by PIR to PIR policies regarding free expression.

We should make something clear — PIR has no interest in censorship as a service. We won't do it. We've always taken our responsibility over .ORG very seriously. We've published our anti-abuse principles that set forth the framework with which we assess DNS abuse, or domain name system abuse, and website content issues. Our anti-abuse program focuses almost exclusively on DNS abuse: things like phishing, malware and bot nets. Those are domain name system issues, so domain name system operators like registries should act to address them.

There [are] also some categories of website content that are so egregious we feel compelled to act. Notably, for child sexual abuse materials, distribution of opioids online, human trafficking, and credible and specific threats to safety.

We've partnered with incredible organizations like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Internet Watch Foundation to proactively find and root out child abuse imagery on .ORG. We're also working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to address domain names that are established specifically in order to distribute opioids online.

To put the abuse question into perspective, however, in 2019 we suspended over 41,000 domain names for DNS or technical abuse. That number is juxtaposed against the total number of domains that we suspended for content issues: ten. Forty-one thousand for domain name system abuse and ten for website content issues.

Of those ten domains, seven were for child sex abuse materials and three were for distribution of opioids online. So while we do act on these egregious categories of content, it's a small fraction of a fraction of our overall anti-abuse practices, which do focus on DNS abuse.

We've never acted to suspend a domain name under our anti-abuse policy for any sort of political speech or political dissent, and we never will. We're very transparent about our anti-abuse activities. We publish our policies and our principles, as well as our statistics on suspensions. So once a quarter we update those numbers. You can find them on our website.

We're proud of what we're doing in this space… The Stewardship Council is a guardrail to ensure that we continue to act responsibly on these issues.

Brian Cimbolic is the General Counsel of Public Interest Registry. Read the full transcript of the March 3, 2020 Community Engagement at www.keypointsabout.org/events

By Brian Cimbolic, Vice President, General Counsel at PIR
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