A group composed of displaced Chagossians will ask ICANN to redelegate the increasingly popular .io top-level domain, according to the group’s lawyer.
The move, still in its very early stages, follows a recent ruling under the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct, which mildly chastised the current registry, Identity Digital.
“The next move is domain reassignment,” lawyer Jonathan Levy, who brought the OECD complaint on behalf of the Chagos Refugees Group UK, told us. The proposed beneficiary would be “a group composed of Chagossians” he said.
.io is the ccTLD for the archipelago currently known as the British Indian Ocean Territory. It’s one of those Postel-era “Just Some Guy” developing-world delegations that pre-date ICANN.
But BIOT is a controversial territory. Originally the Chagos Archipelago, the few thousand original inhabitants were forced out by the UK government in the 1970s so the US military could build a base on Diego Garcia, the largest island.
Most of the surviving Chagossians and their descendants live in Mauritius, but have been fighting for their right to return for decades. In 2019, the UN ruled the UK’s current administration of BIOT is unlawful.
In recent years, since .io became popular, the ccTLD has become part of the fight.
The original and technically still-current registry for .io is a UK company called Internet Computer Bureau. ICB was acquired by Afilias in 2017 for $70 million. Afilias was subsequently acquired by Donuts, which is now called Identity Digital.
Corporate accounts filed by ICB name its ultimate owner as Beignet DTLD Holdings of Delaware, which appears to be a part of $2.21 billion private equity firm Ethos Capital, Identity Digital’s owner, which is co-managed by former ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé.
None of these companies have a connection to BIOT beyond paying a local company called Sure (Diego Garcia) Limited for a mail-forwarding service. The only people believed to reside in the territory at all are US and UK military and contractors.
Levy, on behalf of the Chagossian refugees and a group of victims of cryptocurrency scams operated from .io domains, filed a complaint with the Ireland National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct — basically a mediation service operated by the Irish government — seeking a share of the money from .io sales and/or redelegation.
According to its most-recent public accounts, ICB had turnover of £16.4 million ($19.8 million) in 2021, up from £12.8 million ($15.5 million) in 2020, but also had absolutely horrible gross margins for a registry with only one employee.
The company had cost of sales of £15.8 million and a gross margin of 3.58%. It pays no ICANN fees and the UK government receives no cut beyond the regular corporate tax ICB pays (about £26,000 in 2021).
The OECD’s Guidelines are voluntary guidelines that countries sign up to that are meant to guide how multinational companies behave with regards human rights and so on. Enforcement seems to be relatively toothless, with national NCPs only having the power to “recommend” actions.
In fact, Afilias declined to participate in mediation and appears to have received only a mild finger-wagging in the Irish NCP’s decision (pdf), which was published in September. One of its recommendations reads:
The NCP recommends that in cases in which a product, including a digital asset, is associated with long-running disputes regarding human rights, multinational enterprises should be able to demonstrate that they have carried out human rights due diligence
Levy thinks the NCP’s decision is a big deal, saying it means the OECD has validated the Chagossians’ concerns. Coupled with the UN sanction on the UK related to BIOT, he reckons it could play in their favor in a future redelegation request.
.io domain owners shouldn’t be too worried right now, however. Redelegation takes a very long time even when the losing party agrees, and it doesn’t tend to happen without the consent of the incumbent.
The post Group to seek .io TLD takeover after OECD human rights ruling first appeared on Domain Incite.