At-Large: DNS Abuse: COVID-19 and End-user Issues – [ICANN68] Session Report


Shradha Pandey - inSIG2019, Y4IG Member, YIGF India 2020 Volunteer

The session explored the impacts of the pandemic on the multistakeholder model of policy making at ICANN. The bigger question was that in the unique time when the government has been taking enhanced measures to counter the pandemic, whether it leaves space for the multistakeholder model to exist as we know it?

Summary & Analysis

The panelists laid the groundwork for the talk by highlighting that the intention of GDPR  which has been protecting end user interest. An intriguing question was raised about Whether privacy concerns and websites and providers which infringe on individual rights, can be brought under the purview of DNS abuse? For example: Could a person be brought under scrutiny for Illegal ads which spread mis-information on the COVID medication.

They also discussed the Trends around the world starting with an interesting modification of a famous quote “Connecto ergo sum – I connect therefore I am”. Democratic societies continue to function democratically and need constant engagement with their citizens. The forced and sudden transformation of countries from offline to online has not only widened the accessibility gap between developed and developing countries but also within countries themselves.

Unfortunately, we have bad actors who want to exploit the distress of other people. According to EUROPOL criminals swiftly took advantage of the pandemic. The criminals took advantage of the heightened need of the people as well as attacked infrastructure of the health institutions. Children’s lives shifted from the real world to the online world. Sex offenders found an easier target with access to a larger group of children. The issue that arises is whether these abuses squarely fall within the definition of DNS abuse (This is discussed in detail in Jaewon’s post on DNS abuse).

WHO and UNESCO have raised alarm about infodemic & dis-infodemic we encounter in our everyday online lives. 2 observations were made in this regard:

  1. Different kinds of harmful information available on the internet prepared ground for the scammers to take advantage of the gullible end users.
  2. Registries and registrars should take action on “website content abuse”, as disregarding such abuses leads to physical threat and harm to human lives.

UNESCO has also highlighted that in a growing number of cases the consequences of dis-infodemic is fatal. Many people are duped leading them to misinterpret this incorrect information and misunderstand the scientific measures leading to deaths. 

The session paid special attention to the policies by the European Union and discussed the role of ICTs in protecting the rights of the individuals during the pandemic. The point of concern lately has been the usage of contact tracing applications, the processing of users data obtained through drone surveillance, as well as the storage of mobility data are the most prominent fundamental rights violations. The most alarming concern has been the measures taken to protect the anonymity of the individual as it leads to blatant fundamental rights violations of the individual. More details about the actions taken in the EU can be found at EUFRA . Several countries such as Hungary, Slovakia, Poland have passed recent legislations to allow police and health officials to track individuals using their sensitive personal communication data.

The following website contains a list of regulations introduced by the European Union to protect individual privacy were distributed during the seminar and the same can be accessed through . It is imperative that the source code be made public to increase trust in the government in these testing times.

Towards the end of the discussion on the end user issues the panel urged the ICANN community to contribute to the recent document released by ICANN. The document allows for Public Comment on Enhancing the Multistake Holder Model and can be accessed via The ICANN community was requested to contribute their invaluable suggestions by 2nd August 2020 when the opportunity for public comment would be finally closed.

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