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Binding .ORG and the Community Together

In direct response to the enormous interest and input we have seen from the .ORG community over the past several months, Ethos and Public Interest Registry (PIR) have made tremendous strides in laying out our collective vision for .ORG and put forth unprecedented commitments and protections for the .ORG community.

Over the last two weeks, in particular, we have taken concrete actions to better align the community’s interests with the operations of PIR and .ORG. First, with the announcement of the legally binding Public Interest Commitment (“PIC”), we have cemented enforcements around price limits for .ORG domains, the role and mandate of the Stewardship Council, safeguards on policies regarding freedom of expression and protection of customer information, the establishment of a $10 million Community Enablement Fund, and an annual reporting mechanism for PIR. We then followed up with a series of community discussions to answer questions about the PIC, including what it would mean in practice. Most recently, we opened a public engagement process to solicit additional feedback.

For those who were unable to join the community engagement events, I would like to recap the primary questions that were addressed:

  • How is the PIC enforceable?
  • Did ICANN insist upon it as a condition of the deal?
  • How will the Stewardship Council operate and who will be its members?
  • What will the Community Enablement Fund do?
  • How will Ethos generate a return on its investment, and what are its plans for PIR and .ORG?

With regard to the enforceability of the PIC—because the commitments will become part of the Registry Agreement with ICANN, they will be as legally binding and enforceable as any other part of the contract. In fact, the PIC will provide greater and more specific enforceability mechanisms that do not currently exist under the Registry Agreement, including a clear path for the community to hold PIR accountable as well as provisions that prevent ad hoc modifications of these commitments. This was a completely voluntary action we chose to take—without conditions or a request from ICANN—to show that we stand firmly behind the strong commitments we have made, and that we will honor them.

Months ago, when we first introduced the formation of the Stewardship Council, we envisioned it to be a “council of experts” that would help guide PIR and its efforts to expand .ORG globally while protecting and representing the interests of .ORG registrants and users. Since then, we have expanded the role of the Council significantly. For example, in light of the misstated claims that some have made suggesting Ethos would change .ORG’s values or policies, we felt it was appropriate to give the Council veto powers and a greater level of oversight on two areas the community cited as most important: limitations and safeguards against censorship of freedom of expression, and use or disclosure of registration data or other personal data.

The Council will also provide PIR’s board with independent strategic advice and recommendations to ensure PIR is considering and balancing the best interests of .ORG registrants and users. In addition, the Council will oversee a Community Enablement Fund of at least $10 million that will be used to fund initiatives such as the .ORG Impact Awards and other educational and outreach programs over time. This means more of .ORG revenues will go towards directly supporting the .ORG community.

As noted in the Council’s Charter, five of the inaugural Council members will initially be appointed by the PIR Board, a common practice when new organizations are formed. The remaining two members—and all subsequent members—will be selected through an independent nomination process administered by the Council. We are excited to unveil some of the members of the Stewardship Council in the near future and are confident the .ORG community will find them to be strong community advocates.

In terms of what Ethos stands to gain from this investment and what Ethos plans to do for PIR and the .ORG community, the answer is simple. The investment opportunity we see is dependent on the continued growth and success of .ORG. First and foremost, this requires complete continuity of the strong principles and values that differentiate .ORG from every other registry. We would never compromise the .ORG brand, and we will do everything possible to support and protect .ORG’s reputation.

In that same vein, PIR has the potential to do so much more for the community with additional resources and a stronger digital presence. What most excited us about this investment is the opportunity to expand .ORG’s brand and reach globally. With added investment, we believe .ORG can continue to grow, especially in areas around the world where it is not widely used today. If we do these things well, we have no doubt that .ORG can grow and strengthen over time.

We appreciate all of the input and constructive feedback we have received from the community, which has been invaluable in shaping our commitments. We are especially encouraged by how the dialogue among leaders in the community has evolved, including in Mozilla’s most recent blog post, which acknowledges the many positive actions we have taken to address the questions they and others have raised. We also appreciate the thoughtful suggestions they have made, which will be an important part of our broader discussions with the community in the days and weeks to come.

We continue to listen, and encourage all who are interested to participate in our public engagement process by visiting https://www.keypointsabout.org/public-engagement. Through continued engagement and mutual respect, we believe that .ORG will emerge stronger and better positioned to serve the needs of the .ORG community. Together with PIR, we look forward to extending the good work of .ORG globally so that everyone can benefit.

By Nora Abusitta-Ouri, Chief Purpose Officer at Ethos Capital

Nora Abusitta-Ouri is the Chief Purpose Officer at Ethos Capital, where she oversees the development and execution of social impact and ethics initiatives for the firm and the companies in which it invests. She also serves as the Executive Director of the Digital Ethos Foundation, a global nonprofit committed to fostering a trustworthy, just and peaceful digital world.

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