CIRA outraged over racial profiling accusations

The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) is fighting back against a domain name watchdog over accusations of racial profiling.

The accusation was posted on CIRAwatch

Corp., a Web site devoted to exposing and discussing the actions of CIRA, on May 6. Referring to a “”concerned Registrar”” as its source, the posting claimed that CIRA staff have asked some registrants, particularly those with names of Middle Eastern origin, to provide proof of citizenship before processing their requests.

This accusation has been taken very seriously by CIRA, which has since served CIRAwatch with a notice pursuant to Section 5 of the Libel and Slander Act, R.S.O. 199, c.L-12.

“”We have no idea why anybody would ever want to accuse us of incorporating racist processes as part of the validation process of dot-ca domain names,”” said Gabriel Ahad, director of communications for CIRA in Ottawa.

Ahad explained that CIRA’s process of validation does occasionally require proof of Canadian residency in the acquisition of a dot-ca domain name. However, “”we never use any racial criteria to determine whether or not someone is eligable for a dot-ca registration, and if anyone at CIRA was ever found to do so, he or she would be terminated on the spot,”” he said.

“”These allegations are damaging to us as an organization, to the integrity of the dot-ca name and to the process. We take them very seriously. They undermine our ability to be perceived as a fair organization that treats all Canadians with equality, dignity and respect.””

Since the interview with Ahad was conducted, CIRAwatch has removed the posting and has replaced it with its own response to CIRA’s public response to the accusation.

In the replaced posting, CIRAwatch includes a link to a letter written to CIRA concerning the legal action, which the author describes as a “”nuclear option of threatening a lawsuit.””

“”It’s unfortunate,”” Ahad said. “”We have a zero tolerance policy for discrimination internally or externally — dot-ca names are available for all Canadians and there is not a trace or element of any racial discrimination that applies to our process.””

Spokespeople for CIRAwatch did not respond to’s inquiries before press time.

Unlike its counterparts in other parts of the world, CIRA is an entirely non-profit, essentially para-public institution. While the domain registries in most other countries are run by and as businesses, CIRA is essentially run as a public trust.

The domain name, which is meant to assign Canadian status to Web pages, has been bound by encumbering rules since the registration process began in 1987.

The dot-ca domain name was formerly handled by the Canadian Domain Name Consultative Committee (CDNCC), a group of volunteers led by John Demco, a computer science professor at the University of British Columbia. CDNCC registered more than 50,000 names until it the process was turned over to 18 private companies mandated by CIRA in 2000. The transition got off to a rocky start when companies complained about some of the costs being charged to register names, which CIRA defended by citing the increased breadth of choice made available through privatization. Some users, however, claimed registrars made their fees look like CIRA fees.

Since CIRA took over, demand for dot-ca names has grown considerably. In less than a year, the organization said it was dealing with more than 270,000 registrations, which prompted CIRA to write a name dispute resolution policy to deter cybersquatting or the resale of names for profit. Last year, Impact Research said more than half of all Canadian companies have registered dot-ca names, while Jupiter Media Metrix said Canadians were more likely to visit dot-ca than dot-com sites.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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