Dot-Amazon spat latest: Brazil tells ICANN to go fsck itself, only 'govts control the internet'

Battle to block Bezos from gTLD slams into big biz

Banned

As a result, in May 2014, the ICANN board formally – but somewhat unhappily – banned the creation of .amazon while noting that its decision "is without prejudice to the continuing efforts by Amazon and members of the GAC to pursue dialogue on the relevant issues."

Amazon was not happy with the decision, or the process followed to reach that decision – which it feels was purely political – and so appealed it all the way up to ICANN's independent review panel (IRP).

Three years later, in July this year, the IRP concluded that ICANN had made the wrong decision and had broken its own bylaws by rejecting .amazon. Its key criticisms were:

  • Neither ICANN nor GAC gave any rationale for why ".amazon" should be blocked.
  • Neither ICANN nor GAC gave Amazon an opportunity to argue their case.
  • ICANN has ignored its own expert reports that said there was no conflict between .amazon and the people that live in the Amazonian region.

The panel looked at all the documents, spoke to all those who were involved in the discussion, and concluded [PDF] that it was "unable to discern a well-founded public policy reason" for turning the application down.

The next month, Amazon wrote to the GAC asking for a hearing at its next ICANN meeting in October. And, after some debate, the GAC agreed. However, it soon became clear that the Brazilian government was working behind the scenes to get the GAC to reassert its view that .amazon should not be approved.

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So in response, Amazon wrote directly to the ICANN board on September 7 asking it to "immediately approve our long-pending .Amazon applications." It argued that there is "no sovereign right under international or national law to the name 'Amazon'," and that the IRP has concluded there were "no well-founded and substantiated public policy reasons to block our applications."

"The Board should respect the IRP Panel conclusions," it concluded.

Danger

That insistence that ICANN stick to its own accountability mechanisms is a very powerful argument, given that ICANN insisted those mechanisms were sufficient to beat off any attempts by the world's government to seize control of the organization.

At the same time, ICANN ignores the strongly held views of any government at its own peril, especially if the formal advice of the GAC was that .amazon should not proceed. And, in fact, ICANN's tendency to side with governments on major topics has been a major bone of contention within internet governance circles.

All of which puts the world's governments on a crash course with the world's corporations – with governments insisting they have an effective global veto, and corporations arguing that agreed procedures and rules should take precedence over government whims.

In this instance, the case should be decided in Amazon's favor, not least because Brazil's opposition to .amazon has been repeatedly shown to be arbitrary and is almost certainly the result of higher politics than genuine concern about the possible impact of .amazon.

But that is often not how things work in the inter-governmental world, where staying on good terms is often more important than the correctness of a specific case. The big problem is that ICANN sits neither in the business rules-based world, nor the diplomacy-focused intergovernmental world.

Of course, ever the politician, Brazil's Filho (or, more likely a Brazilian civil servant who earned his paycheck that week) gives himself a possible face-saving future out.

The last paragraph reads: "In recognition of the complexities involved and convinced it is in everyone's interest to walk an extra mile to ensure any final outcome will fairly address conflicting, although legitimate views – and most importantly, uphold and strengthen the multi-stakeholder model adopted by ICANN – Brazil would look forward to contributing to a transparent and enlightened debate."

But have no doubt, an almighty battle in brewing at the heart of the internet. ®

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