A Question of Character

Tom Hymes
My column is due tomorrow, and I was not sure what to write about until about an hour-and-a-half ago, when I checked back on the ICANN site to see if anything about the Board meeting today (March 13) had been posted. Something had, but it was not what I expected, and I was, to say the least, disappointed but not surprised by what I read. The link on the ICANN homepage was to a list of items submitted by ICM registry to the Board supporting the sponsored requirement part of the .XXX Application.

One of the items was entitled "Hymes." I clicked on it and up came a document I had faxed to ICM principal Jason Hendeles years earlier, a request to be considered for a seat on the IFFOR Board. I was at first shocked to see it there, and wondered what purpose it could serve in the context of the other links. I could only think that for some reason Stuart felt compelled to portray me as a hypocrite, and thus try to undercut my advocacy against .XXX. But I still did not understand how that helped make his case. It seemed to me a strange and desperate ploy.

But it was also a weak gambit. I had told several people — including my colleagues at the Free Speech Coalition — that I had written that fax after years of haranguing by Jason, and that Stuart and I had in fact discussed it on at least two occasions. The first was in 2005, when Stuart called me shortly after .XXX had been provisionally approved by ICANN. I told him I did not support .XXX when I sent the fax — as Jason well knows — and that I had no intention of serving on IFFOR in any case. The matter could not have been clearer. While I regretted the momentary lapse in judgment that caused me to send the fax, and stupidly believed Jason when he told me at the time that it would not be used in support of the application, as I demanded, I knew that admitting the error and moving on was all I could do, and that was what I did right then and there.

So the question remains, why did ICM pull my letter out and use it at this point in time? Fortunately, I found the Memorandum to the ICANN Board of Directors, dated March 8, 2007, which explains why. It reads, in part, "Similarly, one of the most vocal opponents of ICM nevertheless requested an IFFOR Board position, in writing — suggesting that his current opposition may be more strategic than substantive."

Except for the assertion that I am a vocal opponent, every other claim in that sentence is inaccurate. ICM knows for a fact that they requested that I write that letter, not the other way around, and based on our previous conversations, ICM knows with absolute certainty that my opposition is completely sincere and that I disavowed that letter long ago.

So what sort of people are these that would so scurrilously bend the truth to their benefit, and how can ICANN even consider handing over a top-level domain to their control? And is this how they will treat others who express views contrary to theirs in the future? I am afraid the answer is obvious. If you take an opposing position, your home address may be made public, your confidential communications might be revealed and your true intent will most certainly be distorted.

Nice going, guys.