APNIC backed off naming naughty nominees after injunction threat

Code of conduct complaints were not publicized in case it disrupted voting

The Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC), the regional internet registry for 56 nations, has revealed that it was threatened with an injunction that would have disrupted its elections if it named candidates found to have breached its election nominee code of conduct. Voters therefore went to the polls without knowing about findings of code breaches.

The election of members of APNIC's Executive Council (EC) has been unusually contentious in recent years, with events in the 2022 vote leading to the introduction of a Code of Conduct for nominees. The organization decided the code was needed after members reported "inappropriate conduct by some nominees that was not consistent with community expectations or integrity in the election process."

Among the incidents that led to the code's creation were "offering of money or gifts for votes, and the abuse of APNIC whois data for the purpose of sending unsolicited (spam) emails to Members by nominees or their associates."

During the 2023 elections an organization called the Number Resource Society backed a slate of candidates, one of whom – Larissa Santos – was found to have breached the code of conduct. APNIC members subsequently reported further possible breaches. The registry appointed external law firm Maddocks to assess the complaints, which it adjudged too numerous for it to assess with in-house resources.

Maddocks' report was published [PDF] on Monday and concluded that nine complaints described breaches of Section 8(d) of the code, which "provides that nominees must ensure that they do not misuse or abuse the APNIC Whois Database, Member data, or mailing lists for electioneering or spam (for example, by using whois data to send unsolicited emails)."

The Register is aware that NRS distributed a printed pamphlet that was accompanied by a letter from NRS-endorsed candidate Larissa Santos. The Register does not allege the pamphlet was the cause of the breach.

The Maddocks report also found "a basis to conclude that the relevant nominees had breached section 7(b) of the Code." That section calls for nominees to "conduct themselves in a manner consistent with that of an EC member and in a way that promotes integrity in the EC election process."

Maddocks' concern considered "The conduct and care taken by the nominee, for example, whether they had advised those conducting electioneering on their behalf of the Code obligations."

Another eight complaints were found not to represent breaches of the code, while 14 complaints offered "insufficient information available to consider whether there had been a breach of the Code by a particular nominee."

Maddocks' report explains that its process saw it notify identifiable nominees of complaints received about their conduct.

But APNIC, in a post, revealed that it decided not to publish Maddocks' assessment of the complaints before the election.

"In the case of eight of the genuine breaches identified by the CoC Chair, election candidates issued threats of legal injunctions against publication of details that would have interrupted the election process if successful. It was decided not to risk any delay to determining or announcing the election result, and therefore not to publish those details."

The APNIC electorate therefore voted without knowing which nominees had been found to have breached the code of conduct.

The Register sought comment from Larissa Santos and NRS-endorsed candidate Lu Heng, and from the NRS.

Only the NRS has responded at the time of writing, telling us it "has not been involved in any legal matter, including potential injunctions, involving APNIC and therefore NRS is unable to comment on the specific allegations made by APNIC."

NRS did not, however, respond to questions about its response to Ms Santos's alleged code breach, nor whether it would re-endorse any candidate found to have breached the code.

APNIC's post notes that it has received feedback about the need to revise "by-laws to strengthen the eligibility criteria for EC nominees and protect the integrity of APNIC elections."

NRS welcomed the review of APNIC's election process, saying it indicates "a common consensus in the community that APNIC's governance and elections do not meet global best practice."

"NRS will continue to endorse candidates who commit to the reform of APNIC governance including ensuring that future APNIC elections meet global best practice."

APNIC thanked those "who took the time to write to the EC on these matters" and revealed that the ideas raised will be considered at the Council's May meeting. ®

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