Update on Blokzijl's possible conflict of interest
Date: Sunday May 19 2002, @08:57PM
Topic: Board of Directors

The saga of ICANN boardmember Rob Blokzijl's possible conflict of interest involving NeuLevel, his wife's (reportedly former) employer, continues.

The bulk of the discussion has taken place on the Non-Commercial Domain Name Holders Constituency (NCDNHC) disucussion list.

Proviso: I have participated heavily in this discussion and have a partisan stance -- namely, I think that Rob Blokzijl (a) should have recused himself from any and all discussions involving the redelegation of the .org TLD, and (b) should be penalized if he has failed to comply with ICANN's conflict-of-interest policy (COIP). The latter view, though harsher than anything I've said in the context of the NCDNHC, is fully consonant with my status as as editor of ICANN Watch. But caveat lector: check the facts yourself and come to your own conclusions.

No one seems to have received an official response from ICANN staff or its board, but "unofficially" a few ICANNauts have weighed in heavily.

Boardmember Alejandro Pisanty insisted tersely that "Robert Blokzijl's integrity is unimpeachable." He subsequently went on to insinuate that NCDNHCer (and ICANN Watch editor) Milton Mueller had a hidden agenda ("Funny that this should happen exactly when this constituency was making an attempt to form its own policy on conflicts of interest") and denounced my own (another NCDNHCer) remarks on the subject as "beyond contempt." His last remark on the subject was to dismiss the concerns as "a juicy piece of gossip." I guess we know where he stands.

Also "unofficial" are the remarks of ICANN's Technical Systems Manager Kent Crispin (ICANN Watch coverage here), who -- unsurprisingly -- seems to have picked up where his comrade in long-forgotten "ICANN Facts" Dave Crocker left off. He concludes that because ".org is a large registry...[i]t really can't be turned into an experiment in social studies." I guess we know where he stands too -- though we eagerly await his explanation of why reserving .org for stakeholder management would be less of an experiment in social studies than would be, say, handing it over to a dotcom. (Or, for that matter, why his professedly "experimental" current employer isn't itself an experiment in social studies -- but we digress...)

Notable are the remarks of (yet another ICANN Watch editor) Jon Weinberg on whether the apparent facts of this issue are covered under ICANN's COIP. Weinberg's conclusion: yes. (Pisanty's response: "a juicy piece of gossip" [q.v.]).

Also notable is a rare remark by Norbert Klein, who quotes Pisanty thusly:

During the ICANN meetings in Ghana, I discussed such models of elections, well known from "people's democracies" whose name pretends that a bottom-up structure is in place by having elections, with you, Alejandro. And I mentioned that, for example in former East Germany, there were even the different functional mass organizations -- women, youth, farmers, labor unions -- part of the system of finding candidates supposedly representing the large membership of these groups in society, which were state organizations. They were used to identify "qualified" candidates for national elections. But the candidates were again selected and authorized from above.

You remember, Alejandro, what you said when I referred to these functional mass organizations which were not self-organized? I think you said they were fake.


The blocked discussion about a possible conflict of interest (for which we have COI rules), denounced as character assassination, in spite of the COI regulations quoted in detail, and then the allegation that no fair hearing is possible after questions have been raised -- why call them "a juicy piece of gossip"? -- made me finally come back to write. But I do so in despair, as I almost lost the hope that communication is possible.

Given ICANN's track record, it comes as no surprise that there would be a great deal of "unofficial" pushback and official silence on what, ultimately, could be a very simple matter. And, while past is often prologue when it comes to ICANN, it's nevertheless worth asking what other factors might bear on this issue. For example, could it be that ICANN's been caught with its pants down when it comes to covering the contents of its pants? It's three-person Committee on Conflicts of Interest is chaired by none other than Mr. Blokzijl, leaving only two members: Phil Davidson and Karl Auerbach. Unfortunately, Mr. Davidson resigned on 2 April of this year, leaving only the popularly elected Auerbach to preside over this "technical" backwater. Are we really to believe that ICANN will let Auerbach alone decide on Blokzijl's fate? Or, rather, will staff hack together some ad hoc mechanism to sideline the man who's suing them for hacking together ad hoc mechanism to sideline him?

And then there's the larger question of whether NeuLevel -- Mr. Blokzijl's wife's (allegedly) former employer and recipient of .biz, courtesy of ICANN -- is really a viable bizness. Some seemingly well-informed people say not, and point -- for example -- to the opulent design of their half-parent company Neustar's headquarters by the architectural firm Ganek Baer. "Funny," given NeuStar's Code of Conduct, that its CEO bears the last name Ganek. Aside from the obvious implications for corporate ethics, what's that got to do with Blokzijl? Well, if .biz can't carry NeuLevel, then maybe .org could.

Having turned down dozens of contenders for new TLDs, ICANN itself has a strong stake in seeing the companies it anointed succeed. Had it adopted a lighter hand, as many argued it should, and let its beloved "market forces" determine which ones would succeed, its own investment in outcomes would be much less. But it took a very firm hand in choosing and structuring, and so now perhaps the question turns to just how far it will go to whitewash its own reputation.

Other relevant links:

ICANN's 1 May 2002 ".org Reassignment: Draft Request for Proposals" is here.

ICANN's 22 April 2002 "Schedule and Fee for .org Request for Proposals" announcement -- notably the $35,000 "examination fee" is here. (Let us not forget ICANN's track record when it comes to moving the goalposts in explaining what these fees supposedly cover.)

Blokzijl's talent for temporarily un-recusing himself is noted here.

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Re: Update on Blokzijl's possible conflict of inte
by fnord (groy2kNO@SPAMyahoo.com) on Monday May 20 2002, @12:05AM (#6450)
User #2810 Info

Read the rest of this comment...

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Rob Blokzijl transcript
by fnord (groy2kNO@SPAMyahoo.com) on Monday May 20 2002, @06:58AM (#6453)
User #2810 Info
Kent Crispin has given the entire text of Blokzijl's .org comments here. I reproduce it below, for easier reading I've removed the ALLCAPS found in the original and Kent Crispin's copy.

Robert Blokzijl: Yeah, I want not so much to comment on the proposed text.

I want to make clear that the Board and Staff understand the fact that this is different from creating a new top-level domain.

So we don't have much freedom.

I'm talking from a technical point of view.

Whoever is going to run dot org in the near future inherits an existing user base of about 3 million people and organizations, some of them individual persons, some of them large organizations that are really dependent upon the proper operation of dot org. Just To name one, the International Red Cross today could not do its work without the registry dot org.
Robert Blokzijl: Icann, maybe.

There is always icann.nl.

Which is reserved for Icann, by the way.

So there are not many organizations that have a demonstrated experience in running a registry with 3 million registered names.

A registry which has about 10, 12 servers scattered around the world on crucial spots of the internet.

This is a little bit more than running a country code top-level domain, for instance.
Robert Blokzijl: A word from the past.

Dot org was created at the same time as dot com.

Dot com was for commercial entities and dot org for noncommercial organizations, not-for-profit organizations.

And we should have learned from the fact that in an internet space that was incredibly more simple ten years ago than it is today, even then it was not possible to draw a clear line.

And the current state of affairs is that there are about close to 30 million registrations in the dot com and about 3 million under dot org.

Under Dot com you will find, i'm sure, if you do an analysis, a lot more commercial activities than under dot org, but you will find non-profits under dot com and you will find profits under dot org.

The second point is i think in any individual country in the world, it is very difficult to give a proper definition of what is a not-for-profit organization.

So doing this on the international level, it's an impossible task.

So less rules are better than more rules, i would say.
Robert Blokzijl: Yeah, I understand the concerns. But, again, look at the history.

There are about 30 million dot com names and about 3 million dot orgs.

So the vast majority of the commercial world is not interested in protecting their name under dot org. So other people can use names which otherwise might be contested.

This is how I interpret the vast difference in numbers of registrations.
Robert Blokzijl: I would leave it open.
Robert Blokzijl: Yeah. I am more interested in good services.

And that's it. Some found the last minute change to the DNSO's recommendations surprising, Rob Blokzijl's sudden display of verbosity is no less surprising, particularily as it doesn't seem to be very accurate. Jefsey Morphin has since pointed out some of the factual errors in Blokzijl's history lesson. Also, aso.icann.org was down earlier so I didn't then mention that, while Rob Blokzijl's term as an ICANN Director chosen by the Address Supporting Organization runs out on September 30, 2002, he's been nominated for re-election. -g

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Re: Update on Blokzijl's possible conflict of inte
by fnord (groy2kNO@SPAMyahoo.com) on Thursday May 23 2002, @03:43AM (#6480)
User #2810 Info
Rumor has it, 80 more layoffs at NeuStar. -g
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