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Terrorism, New gTLDs, DAG4, and ICANN's Continued US and Western Centric Bias

Khaled Fattal

Those who have been involved in the ICANN process as long as I have naturally become accustomed to ICANN controversies at all levels. But the latest is a "wrong" of international ramifications.

The four (4) versions of the Guidebook for the new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) have been hundreds of pages long with a lot of The Good, The Bad, and to some, The Ugly. However, something new has appeared in the 4th and latest version called DAG4 can be called: "The Disturbing".

It seems ICANN now has ventured itself into the field of Global Terrorism Verification.

In DAG4, Section 1.2.1 Eligibility and 2.1 Background Check it states and I quote:

Background checks at both the entity level and the individual level will be conducted for all applications, to confirm eligibility. The background check may include, but is not limited to any of the following areas:
• Corruption and bribery
• Terrorism
• Serious and organized crime
• Money laundering
• Corporate fraud and financial regulatory breaches
• Arms trafficking and war crimes
• Intellectual property violations

What is alarming to me is no where does the DAG4 contain any definitions or standards upon which these checks on terrorism will be conducted.

ICANN's invoking the term "Terrorism" in this arbitrary manner threatens ICANN's ability to effectively undertake its mandate of being the global technical coordinator of the Internet. Also, it would challenge its legitimacy as a Global Public Service Provider in the eyes of the international community and per the new Affirmation of Commitments Agreement (AOC) with The United States Government if it continues in this path. Most importantly it will alienate many in the international community who will choose not to take part in future ICANN processes including its New gTLDs. More over it raises more concerns as to whether ICANN is succeeding at truly and functionally internationalizing itself.

So who's standard is ICANN planning at adopting, The US State department's definition on terrorism, or the UNs resolutions on terrorism? The international community wants and needs clarity.

Evidently, I was deemed worthy and in good standing of being invited to serve on the ICANN President Advisory Committee on IDNs since 2005, invited by former ICANN President and CEO Paul Towmey, but as a Syrian born Arab American would I pass the ICANN terrorism verification check as they are? After all Syria, my country of birth, is on the US list of states sponsor of terrorism? So would I pass or fail this check?

Would Nelson Mandela pass or fail such check as they stand? After all he did serve time in prison, making him a convicted felon.

Haven't ICANN drafters, senior staff, and especially the supposed consulted experts who have worked on this DAG4 and/or board members who may have reviewed it prior to it being posted on the ICANN website for comments not realized this possible offensive consequence?

Also, will ICANN's non existent measuring standard in DAG4 verify for "allegations" of terrorism or "convictions" of terrorism? And, based on whose jurisdiction? USA's?, Europe's ? Whose?

And which terrorism is ICANN preoccupying itself with?

• Islamic terrorism,
• Cyber terrorism,
• State sponsored terrorism?
• or is there any other I missed?

The arbitrary inclusion of terrorism as a measuring stick without any internationally recognized law or standard is wrong and offensive to many around the world, and if acted upon it can be understood or seen by millions of Muslims and Arabs as racist, prejudicial and profiling. If ICANN continues in this arbitrary Terrorism checks direction it would have gone far beyond its mandate of being a global technical coordinator.

The Affirmation of Commitments (AOC) Supposedly freed ICANN from the U.S. control, yet this ICANN's arbitrary inclusion of terrorism in its DAG4 alerts us all once again that the ICANN's US and western centric bias that was hoped to have been of the past seems to continue to live and prosper regardless of direct day to day U.S. control.

Many in the IDN regions and the religious, cultural communities all over the world would be as seriously alarmed as I am at this new direction.

I close by requesting ICANN to undertake the following:

Either,

A- Retract "Terrorism" as an area of checks of verification of applicants in the guidebook.

Or

B- If "Terrorism" as an area of checks is to remain, ICANN must provide clear definitions of what type of terrorism, i.e. Cyber Terrorism, Islamic or state Terrorism, etc…

C- Adopt definitions that are congruent with international, local community, and local jurisdiction laws and accepted standards on terrorism upon which fair and unbiased measurements of applicants can be conducted.

D- And if ICANN staff or the experts it consulted with cannot come up with appropriate definitions that meet the above criteria I articulated above, ICANN would be better served to post a 30 or 45 day period Request for Comment for feedback from the community for definitions, as it does on other issues.

E- An explanation by ICANN detailing how the Term "Terrorism" ended up being added in the DAG4 in this arbitrary manner. Better still, an apology for this offense if it was an unintended, inadvertent consequence.

By Khaled Fattal, Group Chairman, MLi Group & Producer "Era of the Unprecedented
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