This article is more than 1 year old

AFRINIC warns members of fake news campaign, voting rights grab

Mysterious society fingered as source

The African Network Information Centre (AFRINIC), the continent's regional internet registry, has advised members of a misinformation campaign regarding elections it hasn't scheduled – and named internet governance lobby group the Number Resource Society (NRS) as the source.

In a message shared with its community this month, the registry wrote: "Some AFRINIC members are being contacted and informed about an upcoming AFRINIC board election that is purportedly being held physically. Members are also being solicited to vote for specific candidates and in exchange for their travel expenses to be covered."

But AFRINIC has no plans for a board election. Indeed, AFRINIC currently has no board nor CEO due to complex litigation that has left it in a precarious state.

The message, which sources showed to The Register, stated: "We wish to inform our members that this information is misleading. As at this date, we have no indication of when an AFRINIC board election will be undertaken."

An AFRINC source told The Register the source of the campaign is the NRS. The Register asked NRS for its side of the story, and the body has not responded.

The earlier letter from AFRINIC also stated: "We ask all AFRINIC members to ignore such messages and further remind you of the need to keep your MyAFRINIC credentials safe at all times. Please do not share your credentials despite solicitations from obscure and fictitious organisations."

AFRINIC issued a similar warning in March. At that time, the org alleged that correspondence from unnamed sources asked AFRINIC members "to sign a power of attorney form and surrender their MyAFRINIC portal credentials with them for the purpose of casting a vote for board member's seat."

MyAFRINIC is a portal to AFRINIC services, including voting in the registry's elections. An attempt to harvest credentials for MyAFRINIC is therefore concerning, especially as internet governance policy concerns lie at the heart of the complex litigation that has led to the AFRINIC being unable to appoint a CEO or hold elections.

Any entity that gained access to numerous AFRINIC member credentials could therefore potentially swing a bloc of votes behind a board candidate or a policy change.

This is getting weird

The NRS has just lately put some eyebrow-raising claims. On Sunday it published a video alleging the Number Resource Organisation (NRO), a nexus of the world's internet registries, has attempted to freeze AFRINIC out of its activities and deprive Africa of representation.

The situation is more nuanced: the NRO sought a legal opinion about whether it can conduct business while AFRINIC is unable to supply it with a member.

The video also alleged the NRO "may want AFRINIC to fail." The opposite is correct: in late March the NRO detailed its plans to support the African organization and called for global DNS overseer ICANN to assist its efforts.

Further NRS, er, opinion can be found in this video, posted on May 13, that alleges election rules at the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) provide unfair advantages to candidates representing national internet registries (NIRs).

NRS made that allegation after receiving information that shows "some candidates have access to data that gives them an unfair advantage over other candidates." The video also mentions that APNIC's recent elections saw candidates nominated by NIRs elected, and the NRS's slate of four candidates fail to win a seat.

As APNIC explained to The Register, the NRS's suggestion that candidates representing NIRs enjoy unfair access to data is not supportable.

"Members of NIRs cannot vote in APNIC elections," an APNIC spokesperson told The Register. "Only the NIR itself, as an APNIC member, can vote and the maximum votes available to an NIR (based on their size) is 64 votes as an extra large member. 4,000+ votes were required by successful candidates in the most recent election."

The NRS video about APNIC also mentions it has received complaints about election integrity from whistleblowers and forwarded them to the registry.

An APNIC spokesperson told The Register it has received those emails, that they mirror messages read in the video, and that they make no specific allegations. We're told APNIC responded to the NRS, and has not received an acknowledgement let alone a reply.

The society has also not replied to several inquiries from The Register, which we made after hearing about a number of issues in the typically dry world of internet governance.

As an example: back in February, APNIC warned its members of "unsolicited telephone calls to encourage voting for certain candidates in the upcoming [executive council] election, and the calls are reported to be from persons claiming to represent APNIC."

That warning came after the NRS backed four candidates for the APNIC election, none of whom were ultimately elected. Senior APNIC figures later called for reforms to safeguard the organization's elections against any outside influence. ®

Do you know more? The Register is investigating recent internet governance controversies. Contact us here in confidence.

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like