Firms fear terror at ICANN Nairobi meeting

Attendees are pulling out of a key Internet policy conference after suicide bomb threats were made against the venue.

Market-leading domain name firm Go Daddy this week vowed to keep its troops at home, rather than risk the ICANN meeting in Nairobi, Kenya next month.

Internet governance group ICANN has warned attendees that terrorists are planning suicide bombings at its venue, the Kenyatta International Conference Centre.

Go Daddy said it would not send any staff to the meeting, “cognizant to its responsibility for the health and well-being of its employees,” the firm said.

Scaremongers at the US State Department recently said that an Al Qaeda-linked Somali terrorist group has the conference centre, as well as the US embassy, in its sights.

“As of early February 2010, individuals affiliated with al-Shabaab al-Islamiya were planning suicide bombing attacks on the US Embassy and Kenyan International Conference Center in Nairobi, Kenya,” the State Department said.

ICANN said this week that it is working with local intelligence officials to ramp up security for the event, with undercover Kenyan spooks and anti-terror cops being deployed at the venue and along the route from the airport. Major domain registry Neustar has also decided to give Nairobi a wide berth, as have various groups within ICANN's complex policy-making hierarchy.

“I am disappointed Neustar had to choose between the safety of its employees and on-site participation in the meeting,” Neustar senior vice president Gerald Kovach wrote in a letter to ICANN. While ICANN's meetings are webcast and interactive, some erstwhile attendees are worried that the Kenyan meeting may not be able to cope with a much larger number of remote participants.

The meeting is set to discuss topics including the expansion of the domain name system to handle hundreds of new top-level domains to compete alongside the likes of .com and .uk. The move is seen as either a huge cash cow or big threat to revenue for many of ICANN's stakeholders.