by Kelly Hardy, iQ
The voting period for the 2024 Global Amendments to the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RRA) and Base gTLD Registry Agreement (RA) opened on October 9, 2023. When I began writing this article on behalf of iQ, the minimum thresholds for a “Yes'' vote on the RA/RRA amendments had not yet been reached but I’d been privy to or directly involved in several conversations with Registries and Registrars who had expressed concerns about the impact of these proposed changes on their businesses if they were to be implemented.
The concerns ranged from financial to scope creep and were sometimes based on information that wasn’t correct (such as that it is inclusive of the mitigation of content abuse). As ICANN announced on November 7, 2023 (https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/global-amendment-2024-en ) that the minimum thresholds had been reached, this article took a different approach.
While voting is still open for contracted parties (Registries and Registrars) I’d like to explain why, to many of us, these approaching global amendment changes are good for the industry, good for the internet and fulfill some of our stewardship obligations for future generations of users.
The Proposed Changes are Good for the Industry
A Registry or Registrar that is proactive about Domain Abuse creates a safer environment for their customers, their customer’s businesses and the general public. It also prevents harm to the Registries, Registrars and their Resellers.
Managing abuse contributes to the industry’s reputation as a whole and increases trust in the DNS as a method for routing people through the internet. It is also more efficient to manage abuse in terms of financial, social and reputational costs than it is to clean up an environment that becomes infested with it later.
The Proposed Changes are Good for the Internet
In the last several years, our industry has been included in the language of proposed and approved regulations across the globe. Often, this legislation does not take into account any knowledge of the operation of or impact on the DNS - the proposal of GDPR is perhaps the freshest piece of legislation in all of our minds.
Self-regulating to create and enforce our own policies and becoming proactive in these areas is currently the best tool for preventing the long reach of legislators who seek to include the domain industry in broader regulations and endanger the function of the DNS.
The Contracted Parties have stewardship over a critical piece of internet infrastructure. It is the obligation of the stewards to preserve the integrity of the Internet for future generations of users.
To be clear, Contracted Parties are being asked to monitor and action DNS Abuse only.
What is considered DNS Abuse in the Registry and Registrar agreements with ICANN: Phishing, Pharming, Malware, Botnets, Spam (when spam serves as a delivery mechanism for the other forms of DNS Abuse listed in this Section)
What is not considered DNS Abuse:
All other online harms.
For the registries and registrars who have been working hard to mitigate abuse and keep their namespaces clean, as well as those of us whose work centers around DNS Abuse and online harms, a “yes” vote on the amendments makes sense. The changes constitute additions that outline “clear obligations to stop or disrupt DNS Abuse” and for many of us, this is a goal that has been a part of our day-to-day business for some time.
To help explain this from a variety of perspectives, I reached out to friends and colleagues to speak out about why a “Yes” vote was important to them as well:
“The vote on the Registry and Registrar Contract Amendments is one of the most important opportunities since ICANN's inception for the industry to demonstrate its strong will to make a difference for an even more safe and secure Internet. Therefore, eco and its members encourage all contracted parties to vote in favor of these amendments.”
Thomas Rickert – Director Names & Numbers, eco – Association of the Internet Industry
“The current RAA is from 2013 and was introduced prior to the launch of the 1st batch of new TLDs. At the time ICANN’s “carrot” was that without it you could not sell new gTLDs..
At the time I was Chair of the registrars so I was quite involved with both the contract negotiations and their aftermath.
The language in the contract regarding abuse was, in my mind, pretty clear. However it became apparent that ICANN Compliance felt that they were not able to use it to enforce contractual terms on some registrars. ICANN essentially told us that the language wasn’t strong or clear enough and that some people were taking advantage of the grey areas.
So the proposed language that registrars are now voting on removes a lot of the ambiguity as well as making it very clear that we have obligations.”
Michele Neylon, CEO and co-Owner of Blacknight.
"A vote for this amendment to better the DNS environment is an important vote for the legitimacy of the bottom up multi-stakeholder process and a vindication of the many hours of work the participants have put in on this issue. Thanks for all the hard work."
Calvin Browne, DNS Africa Ltd
“Voting yes to this amendment not only reaffirms our commitment, initiated years ago, to actively combat DNS abuse but also underscores our dedication to addressing spam cases. Thanks to our ongoing collaboration with iQ Global, we have been diligently working in this direction for years and will continue to do so proactively.”
Francesco Simondi, .Cloud (Aruba)
“CentralNic welcomes the commitment of ICANN accredited registries and registrars to introduce binding and enforceable obligations to mitigate DNS Abuse into the ICANN RAA and RA and has been an early proponent and contributor to making this change possible. The new language reflects our own long-standing dedication to securing the digital infrastructure that we, as a registry service provider, registry operator and registrar offer to our clients. As providers of registration services in both direct and intermediary roles, we are embracing this change to the agreements as it is taking steps towards establishing clearer lines of responsibility in the entire domain industry and in turn fosters a more secure online environment for end users. We are committed to go beyond these requirements and to align with the other members of the community and to support the pursuit of a more resilient and trustworthy digital experience for all stakeholders as well as to do our part in securing a safer internet for all."
Michaela Cruden, CentralNic Registry
At the time of publishing, the RRA DNS Abuse Amendment has received 92.3% on the voting threshold, well above the number needed to codify these changes. It is understandable that for Registries and Registrars who don’t yet have experience actioning abuse might feel overwhelmed by the prospect.
However there are many resources in the community and many companies and individuals willing to give advice, provide services and in general lend a hand to anyone who wants to get started.
If we are going to make our community safer by implementing these changes, we must also support each other as a community to follow through.