FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: The Lawfare Project Condemns League of Arab States Attempt to Politicize Internet Coordinating Body (ICANN)

January 21, 2011 – NEW YORK – On January 16th, the League of Arab States’ Steering Committee for the Arab Top Level Domains project issued a Public Comment to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) that wrongly accuses ICANN of serving U.S. interests by complying with U.S. law, in particular, with counterterrorism regulations. Because ICANN controls and maintains the structural integrity of the Internet, the Arab League’s attempt to co-opt or otherwise politicize its processes constitutes lawfare and is of grave concern. This comes amidst a months-long push by the Arab League and some of its member states to influence debated issues at ICANN, including background checks for terrorism and redistricting geographical regions to increase the Arab League’s voting power.

As The Lawfare Project (TLP) has stated in its Public Comment, posted January 13th, ICANN’s compliance with United States law stems from its status as a non-profit organization incorporated in the United States, a status that has not been altered by the expiration of a contract between ICANN and the U.S. Department of Commerce, and subsequent multilateral control of ICANN. Histrionic attacks against ICANN should be universally condemned as politically motivated and counterproductive.

Responding to this development, Lawfare Project Director and human rights attorney, Brooke Goldstein, stated, “The inherently open and global nature of the Internet must be safeguarded. The Arab League’s attempt to manipulate ICANN in order to pursue its self-serving agenda is particularly disturbing and must be publicly condemned, lest we risk stifling free speech on the Internet.”

Lawfare Project Research Director Aaron Eitan Meyer, who authored TLP’s Public Comment, noted that ICANN’s Board will shortly formally approve two country code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) for Syria, a nation that has been on the U.S. State Department list of State Sponsors of Terrorism since 1979 and thereby subject to sanctions under U.S. law. “Clearly, ICANN’s ongoing compliance with U.S. law has not prevented Syria from developing and even expanding its Internet presence, so it is difficult to find any substantive merit in the Arab League’s specious arguments.”

Benjamin Ryberg