March 18, 2020 / 8:21 PM / in 11 days

Coronavirus disruption fears delay decision over .org domain

TBILISI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A deadline to decide on the future of the .org internet domain was pushed back on Wednesday after human rights groups warned that a change of ownership could hit charities grappling with coronavirus.

The internet’s governing authority, ICANN, was due to decide by March 20 whether to allow a takeover of the .org domain, largely used by charities and aid organizations, by a private equity firm called Ethos Capital.

But on Wednesday, the Public Interest Registry (PIR), created by the Internet Society (ISOC) to manage the domain used by millions of nonprofit organizations worldwide, said it had agreed to a 30-day delay “in light of current events”.

“To ensure ICANN and the California Attorney General’s office, with which we have been communicating, have the time they need to address any outstanding questions regarding the transaction ... we have agreed to an ICANN deadline extension,” PIR said in a statement.

Announced in November last year, the proposed sale has faced opposition from hundreds organizations worried that Ethos will raise fees, cut back on infrastructure, or make deals to sell sensitive data or allow censorship or surveillance.

On Tuesday, some groups called for a final decision to be postponed, saying it was not the time “to shift the ground” beneath charities dealing with the effects of coronavirus.

The fast-spreading disease has now infected more than 200,000 people and caused nearly 8,500 deaths in 164 nations, triggering emergency lockdowns and injections of cash unseen since World War Two.

Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org

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