Steward of Internet Domains Punts on Ukraine’s Request to Punish Russia

The global nonprofit that coordinates the maintenance of internet addresses has said it can’t act on a request by Ukraine’s deputy prime minister to revoke specific domains operated from within Russia, saying such a move isn’t within its power.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, known as ICANN, disclosed its stance by posting a letter on its website Wednesday from its president and chief executive, Göran Marby, to Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov,

In the letter, mr. Marby said he was responding to a plea from Mr. Federov for ICANN to help internet users who seek reliable information online and prevent the spread of propaganda and disinformation.

“It is only through broad and unimpeded access to the Internet that citizens can receive reliable information and a diversity of viewpoints,” Mr. Marby wrote. “Regardless of the source, ICANN does not control Internet access or content.”

mr. Marby said that while ICANN is concerned for the well-being of Ukraine’s citizens, the nonprofit must maintain neutrality. “Our mission does not extend to taking punitive actions, issuing sanctions, or restricting access against segments of the Internet – regardless of the provocations,” he wrote. “To make unilateral changes would erode trust in the multistakeholder model and the policies designed to sustain global Internet interoperability.”

Using Twitter, Mr. Fedorov has asked multiple entities in recent days for support on various fronts, including US companies such as Apple Inc., Spotify Technology SA, PayPal Holdings Inc. and Oracle Corp. Many have since stopped sales in Russia, while sanctions against the country are prohibiting a range of financial transactions and exports. SpaceX boss Elon Musk offered Ukraine help with his company’s satellite-based internet service in response to a plea by the minister.

ICANN’s Mr. Marby said in his letter “ICANN stands ready to continue to support Ukrainian and global Internet security, stability, and resiliency.”


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