The British government has stood up to Argentina in a battle over the Falkland Islands' right to exist in cyberspace at the ICANN conference in Buenos Aires. Argentina is furious that the disputed territory is allowed to give websites a “.fk” address - identifying them as hailing from the disputed territory and brought up the issue during the current conference.
The organisation ICANN originally gave the Falklands their own web address in 1997 and then confirmed the Islands' online presence in 2005.
But at an ICANN conference on Thursday Argentina joined forces with other South American nations to hit out at the decision to give an address to a territory that was still being disputed.
The University of Venezuela said: we would like to express our support to what Argentina has said about how ICANN released the domain to the British Malvinas Islands … you are taking part within a political aspect that has not been defined and is currently in a dispute at the United Nations. A proposal from Argentina is to establish a working group to review the situation as soon as possible and we are supporting this vision and proposal.
Sergio Salinas Porto, chair of the Argentine Internet Users Association, weighed in arguing that in 1997, when the ccTLD table was published, '.fk' was given to the Falkland Islands, or Malvinas, and ICANN said there were no reservations … But the UN has certain reservations … and ICANN did not take this into account. On the contrary, ICANN assigned a ccTLD to a territory that was still being disputed.
As a result, he said, Argentina's internet association asked for ICANN to set up a working group to look at the issue, and, I'm still waiting for a reply after two years.
A South African ICANN representative then agreed to examine the Falklands' ownership of the .fk address.
You're asking a more general question, which is how do we take into account the UN rules around disputed territories when to implementation of ISO codes. So my recommendation is that we engage with the ccNSO and see if the ccNSO feels it is able to take that work forward. If it doesn't, let's try to find another way to take that work forward.
This is what we have been waiting for, so we really appreciate it, said chaiman Salinas Porto.
But perhaps mindful that any action by ICANN could see the Falklands' stripped of their digital identity, a British diplomat hit back.
Mark Carvell, head of global internet governance policy at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, reportedly said:
I regret that I'm required to take up time from this important public forum to respond regarding the allocation of country code for the Falkland Islands and South Georgia.
The United Kingdom has no doubt about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands and their surrounding maritime areas nor as to the Islands' right to decide their own future, the right to self-determination as enshrined in the UN charter and the international covenant of civil and political rights.
The Falkland Islanders have stated they wish to remain an overseas territory of the United Kingdom. In the referendum on the islands held in 2013, 99.8 percent of those who voted wanted to maintain their current status as a territory of the United Kingdom … Thank you for this opportunity to respond to the previous interventions on this matter.
Finishing his statement, Carvell left the room to the audience's surprise.
But anyhow this raises a bigger question and that is as ICANN plans to take over the IANA contract from the US government in June next year: what will happen when there isn't the backstop of the US government and global political disputes get fully involved in the issue as happened in Buenos Aires.