Feeling the Temperature of the Room on DNS Abuse

Chief Executive Officer, DotAsia

DNS abuse is no longer a new topic among the ICANN community, but it appears to continue to attract interest. At the recent 2nd ICANN APAC-TWNIC Engagement Forum held in hybrid format, it was my privilege to have helped moderate a lively discussion on Domain Name Abuse – one that also examined expectations from parts of the community for ICANN to do more.

One aspect highlighted at the session is that many abusive activities are being included into “DNS abuse” discussions, which may not be about the DNS, or even if part of the DNS, may be outside of ICANN’s remit, not to mention that ICANN’s by-laws specifically oblige ICANN not to regulate content and services provided through domain names. A more important aspect discussed was how much different stakeholders at ICANN are in fact already doing in their own capacities, appropriately beyond ICANN’s collective purview.

Thomas Kuiper of Gandi explained the challenges faced and responses by registrars, and Crystal Peterson of GoDaddy Registry described registry policies that have been put in place to tackle cybersecurity threats and abuses. Kiran Sanghera at the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) presented the experiences at the Asia Domain Name Dispute Resolution Centre (ADNDRC) as a Uniform Doman Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) Dispute Resolution Service Provider (DRSP), and Henry Tsai, as a Division-Chief Judge at the Taiwan Shilin District Court gave a perspective from the courts, calling out on some areas of coordination that the ICANN community can perhaps improve on. Jamie Hedlund from ICANN added the multifaceted actions taken by ICANN org on the issue.

I think, as many have said also, that it may be an imperative to consider, as a starting point, what ICANN’s scope of policy and enforcement should and should not include. Specifically about the DNS: firstly, the difference between generic Top-Level Domains (gTLD) and country-code TLDs (ccTLD); and secondly, for gTLDs, ICANN’s limited policy purview which pertains to statuses and behaviours in three areas – 1. Transactions between registry and registrars, 2. Registration data services (i.e. WHOIS), and, 3. DNS services provided at the registry. Before we demand ICANN and the ICANN community to “do more”, especially collectively, it is crucial to understand in what capacity such activities should be taken forward. That being said, I do believe the multistakeholder process at ICANN can constructively contribute to addressing part, if albeit a narrow scope, within the much broader topic of DNS abuse.

Finally, somewhat related to the topic, I observe that part of the reason, it seems, that the discussion on this has been drawn-out maybe attributed to the COVID interruption to ICANN and other Internet community meetings. Meeting physically remains important and irreplaceable I believe, especially for issues that require better establishment of trust between stakeholders to move things forward, and which contains intricate subtleties. While virtual meetings are great, and I am all for enhancing remote participation and its immersiveness capabilities into post-pandemic times, informal encounters and getting a sense of the “temperature of the room” at physical events are aspects it seems that are sorely missed at ICANN.

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