Unredacted: ICANN's hidden role in fierce battle over .Africa rights

Damning review was censored – but we've seen the full report

Broader problems

While the redactions made by ICANN have highlighted its own culpability, the fact that ICANN staff intervened in favor of one applicant forms just one part of the reasoning in the decision against ICANN by the independent review panel.

The report spends most of its time digging into the rejection of the DCA bid by ICANN, which sparked the review in the first place.

Overall, the panel found that since DCA "was never given any notice or an opportunity... to make its position known or defend its own interests," and that "both the actions and inactions of the Board with respect to the application of DCA Trust relating to the .AFRICA gTLD were not procedures designed to insure the fairness required... and are therefore inconsistent with the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws of ICANN."

DCA's claim to have been unfairly treated was rejected repeatedly by ICANN – first by the ICANN's Board Governance Committee and then by its New gTLD Program Committee (NGPC), which feature many of the same members.

In both cases, the board failed to dig into DCA's claims. It did not, for example, ask ICANN's head of operations about the support letter drafted for the AUC, nor did it ask ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) why it had formally opposed DCA's bid.

During the course of the independent review, ICANN staff also tried repeatedly to limit what the panel was allowed to review or do, even going so far as to try to prevent its key witnesses from being questioned, claiming the panel did not have the right to do so.

In subsequent questioning with the chairwoman of the GAC, Heather Dryden, the review panelists were amazed to discover that the GAC did not provide any rationale for its decision to reject the DCA bid, even though it explicitly listed the three criteria that it would need to meet to justify such a rejection.

And despite the fact that the decision was formally questioned through its own appeal processes, ICANN's board did not ask the GAC for a rationale either: it simply took its statement at face value and rejected the bid.

Other accusations

Within the report are a wealth of other accusations from DCA over collusion between ICANN's staff and AUC representatives. Since the panel's overall decision was that ICANN must reevaluate DCA's bid, it steers clear of making any judgment about those accusations ("the panel does not find it necessary to determine who was right, to what extent and for what reasons").

However, while DCA has been widely mocked within the DNS industry – one industry blogger even running the headline "DotConnectAfrica still barking mad after IRP win" after the review found in DCA's favor – the fact remains that ICANN has redacted the formal report of an independent panel, and many questions remain unanswered.

When asked about the redactions, ICANN's vice president of global communications Duncan Burns said:

Redacted portions are those that reference the info provided during the proceeding that was marked as confidential by one of the parties. The parties have an obligation to maintain that confidentiality. [They] are consistent with the redactions found in the parties' briefs that are posted on the website.

This saga is just one more sign that ICANN, as a body, continues to make a mockery of efforts to introduce accountability into its decision-making. ®

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