Access Now report includes the campaign to save .org

Access Now created a report called “Defending peaceful assembly and association in the digital age: takedowns, shutdowns, and surveillance”.

Part of the report is the campaign to save .org. Read below what Access Now wrote about the failed sale of .org to NoEthos Capital.


The lack of corporate transparency and accountability is precisely why hundreds of civil society organizations worldwide came together to save their “.ORG” home from profit-seeking hands. In November 2019, civil society rallied together both online and off — principally in an impromptu town hall meeting at the 2019 Internet Governance Forum170 — to call on the leaders of the Internet Society (ISOC) and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to stop the sale of the .ORG top-level domain to private equity firm Ethos Capital. The .ORG domain is the place where civil society and NGOs reside in the digital environment. The .ORG domain is an essential “assembly hall” for civil society and NGOs, as both the physical and virtual world have become increasingly inhospitable and risky for organizations who face constant surveillance, online censorship, and even more physical risks and legal restrictions on their operations and personnel. The proposed sale — which was quashed — presented an additional danger that undermined the safety and stability of digital space for countless NGOs, their partners, and their broader communities.171 U.N. Special Rapporteurs David Kaye and Clément Voule echoed civil society’s concerns regarding the proposed sale of .ORG in a joint letter to ICANN.172 The U.N. Special Rapporteurs drew attention to the human rights implications of the proposed sale, including how important it is “for civil society organizations to have a place online that is not subject to the pressures of a commercial environment that could very well silence them.”173

On April 30, 2020, the ICANN Board of Directors responded to the groundswell of opposition by rejecting the change of control of the .ORG domain.174 While civil society was very pleased that .ORG was not sold to Ethos Capital, concerns remained over “the unilateral decision-making that led to the ISOC Board of Directors deciding in secrecy over a matter of weeks to sell the .ORG domain.”175 In a recent follow-up letter to ISOC and Public Interest Registry leadership, civil society issued a statement reiterating a twofold request to (1) amend the .ORG registry agreement to include vital protections for human rights and the public interest, and (2) take concrete action to restore trust in .ORG’s existing ownership and prevent these kinds of threats from actualizing in the future.176

170 Access Now. AccessNow calls on Internet Society to halt the sale of .ORG,

171 Access Now. Letterto ISOC and ICANN, https://www​;

172 BuzzFeed News. APrivate Equity Firm Is Trying to Buy the .Org Domain. Now, Greenpeace, the ACLU, and Color of Change Are Protesting,2020.

173 David Kaye (U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression), Clément Voule (U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of assembly and association). Letterto ICANNMandatesof the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association,2019. https://www​

174 ApprovedBoard Resolutions | Special Meeting of the ICANN Board,2020.

175 Save​ Dot Org.Letterto the Internet Society and Public Interest Registry leadership,2020.

176 The Public Interest Registry is the organization tasked with management and operation of the .ORG domain and is wholly owned by ISOC.

You can read the complete report here.


About Konstantinos Zournas

I studied Computer Engineering and Computer Science in London, UK and I am now living in Athens, Greece. I went online in 1995, started coding in 1996 and began buying domain names and creating websites in 2000. I started the blog in 2012.

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