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Trump’s Travel Ban Disrupts Meeting of ICANN, the Internet's Governing Body

At least two Iranian-born researchers are being blocked from crucial meetings.

US President Donald Trump's ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries is hindering the work of international tech organizations by blocking some of their members from attending meetings as they aren't able to travel.

Two people who work with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)—a US-based nonprofit involved in maintaining operations of the domain name system (DNS)—have told Motherboard that they're are unable to attend various meetings because they can't go in and out of the US.

Trump's executive order, signed on Friday, bars the entry of people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen from the US for 90 days.


Kaveh Ranjbar, one of ICANN's board members, had to miss his flight to Los Angeles on Monday because of the ban.

Ranjbar—who was born in Iran—lives in the Netherlands, where he is the Chief Information Officer of RIPE NCC, a nonprofit regional internet registry. (The company has offices in Amsterdam and Dubai.)

After speaking to ICANN lawyers about his chances of being allowed into the US with his Dutch or Iranian passports, he called the flight provider. "But [they] said they wouldn't board me so I didn't even bother to go to the airport," he told Motherboard in a phone interview from Amsterdam. US Homeland Security has announced they're working to ensure that banned travellers don't get on flights.

He'll attend the meeting remotely, but because of the ban, he added, "I cannot do part of my job."

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In a statement to Motherboard, ICANN global media coordinator James Cole said the organization is "working to understand the potential impact for our community, Board and staff travelers, and what we can do to ensure ICANN's continued openness and accessibility."

Farzaneh Badiei, an Iranian-born associate researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the chair of noncommercial users constituency at ICANN, said that she will not be able to attend the March 2017 ICANN community forum in Copenhagen.

Badiei came to the US in early December as the executive director of the Internet Governance Project, which works on education and research in internet governance, she said. After finishing her PhD in Germany, she was granted a multiple entry visa into the US as a research scholar, she explained, but she's effectively locked in the US for now, unable to leave for fear of not being allowed back.

"While I will do my best to attend the meetings remotely, my presence as the Chair was needed," she said in an interview.

Ranjbar said he'll likely also have to remotely attend the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) March conference in Chicago, despite being on the administrative committee. "That'll definitely have an impact on what I can contribute," he said.

While the ban is devastating, Ranjbar said people are already talking about moving conferences to other cities in continental Europe or Canada. "I'm sure people will try to make adjustments and try to avoid the US as much as possible for these kinds of events."

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