Online Harm Management: The Crucial Step Towards a Safer Internet

Initially published with CentralNic Partner News, January 2024.

Online Harm Management: The Crucial Step Towards a Safer Internet

The landscape of internet governance has witnessed a pivotal shift towards ensuring a safer online environment after the overwhelming approval of the DNS Abuse Obligations and their new anti-abuse obligations to ICANN-accredited registries and registrars. As promised, these contractual obligations laid down the foundational basis for an industry-led enforcement of minimum expectations for DNS Abuse management. However, we cannot bask too long in the success of the enhanced obligations. As they say, now the real work begins. Although compliance with this new minimum standard will be a daily reality, this success also provides opportunity and meaningful discussion for the other end of the scale: to identify and follow “best practices” in our industry.

Although ICANN enforcement of the minimum standards will be of huge importance over the next months and years, the imperative to establish best practice expectations is expressly not an ICANN discussion. Establishing best practices is innovation, but the industry is now more free to highlight the exceptional efforts which many registries and registrars are already engaged in. These efforts were often overshadowed by a zealotry that sought to make suggestions of best practices into minimum standards. Best practice is not about minimum contractual enforcement, but rather it is about collaboration on appropriate management of online harms. This embodies a commitment to prioritize the reduction of victimization from online harms. Now, it is hoped that a clear difference between minimum expectation and true best practice may be established, which shall allow for open contribution, innovation, and collaboration in pursuit of a significant reduction of online harms. Innovation is born out of aspiration. This innovation must come from the parties who deal with such issues day in and day out, as they have a deep understanding of the practicalities and pitfalls that await. This is not to say that any policy borne out of the multistakeholder process within ICANN will not be exceptionally important. Indeed, on the roadmap of ‘next steps’, community processes to help further define minimum expectations are truly welcome and highly anticipated.

A great opportunity now exists for the industry to draw a line; the industry can now seek to forge new and effective strategies beyond the minimum of ICANN’s mandate. Industry collaboration, such as displayed by the Framework to Address Abuse and the efforts of many community participants at important fora such as the Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network, have amply demonstrated this. The power of diverse perspectives and expertise in solution creation for the problem space, where not tied to contractual or legal obligation, provides for the best outcomes. Fostering collaborative efforts of building towards robust best practices in online harm management should highlight that which we all aspire to, not that which must be at a minimum achieved, by all, every time.

Playing our part, CleanDNS are proud to sponsor the APTLD85 meeting in Goa, India, slated for February 2024. As part of our involvement, we are very excited to be offering a day of discussion and training on online harms, providing an opportunity for open collaboration for APTLD members to discuss and spark innovation. As part of our day of discussion at APTLD85, we have invited relevant regional speakers to take part in the discussion. Through knowledge-sharing, discussions, and collaborative endeavors, CleanDNS seeks to empower participants to create and further catalyze collaborative efforts among APTLD members.

The importance of industry collaboration in shaping DNS Abuse management practices cannot be overstated. By fostering a culture of cooperation and shared responsibility, stakeholders can collectively contribute to significantly reducing online harms. CleanDNS looks forward to meeting with APTLD members in Goa and knows we will lead a day of impassioned and beneficial discussion with collaboration on our shared future efforts.

By Alan Woods, CleanDNS General Counsel