US Gov't Interest In Domain Name Veto Represents Yet Another PR Nightmare

from the does-no-one-think-about-this-stuff dept

Last week, someone had sent over a document purporting to be from the Commerce Department advocating that ICANN’s new open top level domain plan include a “government veto,” that would let various government agencies seek to block a particular TLD. We didn’t write about it at the time, because I couldn’t confirm that it was real, and the whole thing seemed so ridiculous and short-sighted I didn’t think that it could have really come out of the Commerce Department. Lesson learned: never underestimate the Commerce Department’s ability to make really bad decisions.

It appears that it’s now been confirmed that the Commerce Department really does want veto power for any government over a particular TLD. The reports suggest that there’s concern about TLD’s like “.gay” which some countries may not like, and some of the fear is driven by the .xxx debacle, when ICANN initially approved a .xxx domain, thinking it would be a “redlight district” for porn, but then after public outcry, the US government pressured ICANN to change its mind. This was especially funny because no one seemed sure whether or not .xxx was good or bad for kids. There were some people who thought .xxx would be “good” for kids by creating an area that was easy to rope off and keep kids out of. Others argued that .xxx was bad because it admitted that porn existed (or something like that).

The whole thing was a complete mess, and now the US government seems to want to repeat that process around the world.

Here’s why this is about as pointless as can be: already anyone can register any URL within the existing TLDs. No government has any veto power over the part that comes before the TLD. So what difference does it make to include a veto over what comes after the TLD. In what world does it make sense to say that “” is okay but “” is not? Why does the government care?

Even worse, this whole thing creates a massive unnecessary PR nightmare for the administration. Already there are concerns around the world that ICANN — a quasi-public/private entity — is too much in the pocket of the US government. The Commerce Department has always tried to deny this, insisting that ICANN had autonomy. And yet… in pushing for this veto power, it’s admitting that it actually does want to take greater control over ICANN… and to give other governments some veto power as well.

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Comments on “US Gov't Interest In Domain Name Veto Represents Yet Another PR Nightmare”

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Norm (profile) says:

I do see a silver lining to this idiocy. This move signals that the US is becoming more open to the world managing the internet instead of a US non-profit. This specific move is pointless and would probably cause more problems then it solves, but I like the general direction that they are pointing. A US corporation should not have such influence over the world’s internet.

Disclaimer: I am a US resident

Anonymous Coward says:

The .xxx extension was one of the worst ideas to come around in a long time, for a whole bunch of reasons. The biggest was that it was a major play from players outside the adult industry to try to suck money out of the system ($70 a year registrations? Hello?). It also had incredible first amendment issues, allowing protected free speech to be blocked by ISPs and transit companies very easily.

In this regard, the US did a very good thing to try to get it stopped.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It also had incredible first amendment issues, allowing protected free speech to be blocked by ISPs and transit companies very easily.

I’m a big First Amendment supporter, but there is simply no First Amendment issues with .xxx. If an ISP decided to block .xxx that’s a private company making that decision, and not a First Amendment issue at all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

When that private company is a monopoly (only ISP available), it is blocking free speech. In many cases (as you have documented here) people do not have a second or third choice of ISPs. If Comcast decides to be a “Christian” company and no longer allow passage of .xxx domain traffic, and Comcast is your only ISP, what is the end result? Stifling of free speech.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

If an ISP decided to block .xxx that’s a private company making that decision, and not a First Amendment issue at all.


What if the ISP in question has a local government granted monopoly on cable service, or government subsidized phone service, and there are no equivalent internet access alternatives?

I agree with you that the net neutrality issue is actually a lack of competition issue. But the lack of competition is due to the deals that cable companies have cut with local governments to prevent competition.

Shouldn’t an ISP that is supported in a significant way by the government also have to follow the same rules (ie, the Constitution)?

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

You’re misunderstanding. I don’t care either way about new TLDs. I don’t really see the point of them, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with them.

The blocking is what I care about. To me, if there is any distinction between government owned and privately owned-but government granted monopoly or government subsidized, it is fuzzy.

Lets go back 30 years. Phone service is still a monopoly by AT&T – there is no alternative. If AT&T decided to block calls to phone sex lines, would it be a First Amendment issue?

Now back to today. Can your only local (and government supported) broadband provider block access to .xxx without it becoming a First Amendment issue? What if it is .jew, .atheist, or .africanamerican?

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

I think it is the two of you who have missed the point. Yes, of course blocking would be an amendment issue, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re responding to the commenter who started this thread by saying that the mere *existence* of a .xxx TLD would be a first amendment issue, and that that’s why the gov’t is trying to block it.

Note the original comment we are all replying to:

“It also had incredible first amendment issues, allowing protected free speech to be blocked by ISPs and transit companies very easily.

In this regard, the US did a very good thing to try to get it stopped.”

vivaelamor (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“I think he was trying to be funny.”

Well, duh. Whatever the intent, using gay as a disparagement is homophobic. It’s like calling someone retarded to belittle their intellect, except without the genuine comparison.

“That hit a nerve with you didn’t it.”

Yeah, it hit my ‘look, another moron implying that being gay is a bad thing’ nerve. I guess my sense of humour doesn’t catch it first because being homophobic is pretty much the premise for the joke.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Not Everyone Should Have a Top-Level-Domain.

The rationale for the WIPO treaty organization having the dot-biz and dot-info top-level-domains is very much the same as the rationale for there being a District of Columbia, and for there being a Vatican City State. An international treaty organization requires a certain minimum of sovereignty in order not to become the creature of the country in which it is hosted. The purpose of top-level-domains is to allow various different legal and administrative systems to co-exist. Each system can allocate domains, in its own namespace.

Certain elements in ICANN (notably Esther Dyson, I believe) have become convinced that they can make a lot of money by selling top-level-domain names. This is essentially a dumb idea, because it destabilizes the top-level-domain system. TLD’s work on the assumption that there are few enough of them that they can be checked out by extraordinary means. If you want to find out who the legitimate dot-uk registrar is, and what their IP address is, your ultimate resort is to send an emissary to London to ask. And then your man proceeds to Paris to ask about dot-fr. And so on. There is no global organization which has the right to settle the question by decree, certainly not the United States government.

The proposed operators of most of these proposed new “boutique” top-level-domains are private businessmen who think they can make money reselling names, and have therefore chosen to venture a hundred thousand dollars or whatever, but who have no identifiable authority or legitimacy. They do not represent convocations of kindred communities from all over the world.

I think the “blackball” system is quite appropriate for new non-territorial top-level-domains. If anyone objects, then no domain. Now, for country-code top-level-domains, the standard and traditional American rule of diplomacy is that we deal with de-facto governments, governments that actually exist and occupy territory. The same principle should therefore be applied to country codes.

Shon Gale (profile) says:

The Christian way is simply to ignore the problem and then it doesn’t exist. That’s why the boys all gather around a magazine or picture of a naked girl like it was the second coming. If you ignore a problem it will become a big deal, if you simply present the information and let the kids decide usually it isn’t a big deal at all.
My son at 10 years old threatened to run away and said I would never hear from him again. So that weekend I told him I wanted to take him to a poster shop and buy some cool posters. I parked a couple of blocks away from the shop and walked him down Haight Street in San Francisco with the runaways and their dogs and their rags and their begging. He never threatened to run away again. I gave him the correct information and he made a decision. Hiding behind your church or your religion just creates a generation of know it all prima donnas that will create more problems than they solve.

Anonymous Coward says:

The US government doesn’t really care about whether someone were to register the .gay TLD and start selling .gay domains. At least not this year. If you want to talk about something that probably does concern them, think about .islam and .kurd and .kashmir. For the most part, those names themselves aren’t objectionable. But what would cause a firestorm is the issue of who gets to own the TLD.

I’d be interested to hear from Mike, or any commenters who’ve got some ideas: what process do you think would be appropriate for doling out controversial TLDs like those above? Should ICANN just award the contract to the first person who asks? The first person who ponies up the several hundred thousand dollars it is likely to cost? Or should ICANN itself be in the business of deciding who “best” represents “.islam”? What the Department of Comemrce memo proposes may not be the best plan, maybe not even a good one, but not exactly the worst option either.

DASHWORLDS (profile) says:

New Domains and TLDs Already Here

Brand new addresses have already been launched under categories such as music, sports, social and many more. For the first time, Internet users can create their own set of Domain Names and TLDs totally free, all without any reference to ICANN.

ISPs such as offer a parallel Internet using new Dashcom (not Dotcom) Domain Names. Dashcoms are brand new web addresses in the format http://sports-com or http://stock-market or http://human-rights (Examples Only). With users and members in over 90 countries worldwide, resolution is via an APP (although ISP links are now available to negate that need).

Things change and grow. Not-so-long ago, people would have thought a web based magazine such as this to be a waste of time, effort and money. After all why would anyone want to fork out for hugely expensive computers, sign up for extra phone lines, buy modems and routers, buy an OS, learn how to use it all….Just so they could read a magazine?….Why?….When all they had to do was walk down to the local store.

Having just one Internet in infinite cyberspace is like saying you can go visit anywhere in America just as long as you stick to route 66. So today, just as in the USA (and everywhere else in the world) the Internet has more than one road to travel.

No, it’s not ICANN, but it’s the first real and viable alternative to hit the Internet. It works and it?s growing.

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