Last week, Trans Lifeline added our name to a growing list of over 11,000 individuals and 100 organizations to an open letter urging the Internet Society, Public Internet Registry (PIR) and Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to stop the sale of PIR to a private equity firm called Ethos Capital.
PIR manages the .org top-level domain: they have control over the rules, regulations and costs for any organization that wants to register a domain name ending in .org. Translifeline.org is just one of over 10 million examples. As a non-profit, we rely on having a .org domain name to lend credibility and authenticity to our website: while .org addresses can be registered by anyone, they have historically been used over for non-profits, NGOs and community organizations, similar to the way the .com address is primarily used for commercial entities.
We are an organization by and for the trans community, which faces staggering rates of poverty. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey Report, “Nearly one-third (29%) of respondents were living in poverty, compared to 12% in the U.S. population.”As a non-profit, our organization is funded almost entirely by donations that enable us to continue doing our work.
The sale of PIR to Ethos Capital causes real concern for non-profits like us. Earlier in 2019, ICANN removed price caps of purchasing a .org domain, despite the vast majority of comments during the process being against the change: 6 in favor vs 3,252 against. Should the sale go through as planned, Ethos Capital could raise registration prices unilaterally and without any oversight or consultation. As a private equity company, Ethos Capital has no fiscal interest in using .org for the public good. The sale also opens the door to censorship of .org domains by a private company with a profit motive that is inextricably linked to the sway of political tides.
We are in full agreement that “We cannot afford to put them into the hands of a private equity firm that has not earned the trust of the NGO community. .org must be managed by a leader that puts the needs of NGOs over profits” and are proud to sign on to Save .ORG.