Sen. Rockefeller Wants ICANN To Block '.Sucks' TLDs

from the a-sanitized-internet...-for-the-corporations dept

Another legislator has weighed in on governing the internet. This time, it’s not so much for “the children” as it is for the poor, oppressed corporations of the world.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the West Virginia Democrat, strongly suggested that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, better known as ICANN, the body in charge of approving Web site domain names, should reject a proposal to allow ‘sucks’ as a new generic top level domain, referred to as gTLD.

In a letter to the organization, Rockefeller, who is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, argued that the .sucks domain name could be abused by parties “to unfairly defame individuals, non-profit organizations and businesses.”

First off, simply saying a person, NPO or business “sucks” isn’t defamation. The content of those sites may meet that bar, but a domain name utilizing .sucks isn’t defamatory in and of itself. And it’s routinely been found that sites such as walmartsucks, etc. are covered under the First Amendment.

But Rockefeller goes even further than just assuming .sucks domains will be filled with defamatory content. He also assumes that anyone/anything confronted with a .sucks site will be forced to spend money fighting to keep their reputations from sliding into the internet toilet.

“I view it as little more than a predatory shakedown scheme,” Rockefeller said. “The business model behind this gTLD seems to be the following: force large corporations, small businesses, non-profits and even individuals to pay ongoing fees to prevent seeing the phrase ‘sucks’ appended to their names on the Internet.”

What Rockefeller fails to consider is that these entities could also do nothing. Fighting a “sucks” site rarely makes the situation better. But this is the way those to seek to govern the internet view things: as worst case scenarios played out against a Wild West background. There’s no room for subtlety in the debate and there’s no “fostering” of “conversations,” as those marketing these domains state in their defense.

And every new gTLD can be viewed as a “shakedown scheme.” Businesses rush to secure (or to block off) new TLDs in order to prevent domain squatters, competitors and critics from snatching them up. Singling out “.sucks” as nothing more than a predatory scheme ignores the reality — a new gTLD will always be a combination gold rush/shakedown.

Rockefeller points to one registration site, Vox Populi Registry, which is marketing .sucks domain names as “defensive” purchases — with a starting price of $2,500 which will escalate to $25,000 once the “sunrise period” hits. From this, he extrapolates a “shakedown scheme” across all registration entities, even as others have denied viewing this gTLD as an easy way to hoover up defensive corporate funds.

A spokesman for the other firm, Donuts Inc., said the company “carefully considered the utility of each gTLD for which we applied.”

He also defended Donuts’ business model which he said “is focused on providing Internet users around the world with real choice in how they craft their online identities. We are not soliciting, and have no plans to solicit, ‘defensive registrations.’”

So, there are those who facilitate an open internet, one that will certainly bring out the worst in some people. And there are those who assume only the worst kind of people exist and try to route the internet around them. But Rockefeller, like many other legislators who set their sights on making the web “safe,” fails to realize that it’s the internet itself that does the “routing,” and it views censorship as nothing more than damage to be avoided.

(Rockefeller may be more concerned than most, considering some of his biggest donors — AT&T, Time Warner and Verizon — are often referred to in phrases that end with “sucks.”)

Rockefeller envisions an internet where corporations and individuals seldom hear discouraging words, but that notion is entirely unrealistic. If he gets his way, the internet (as it were) will simply find another outlet for its frustrations with corporations, non-profit organizations and aggravating people — and it will still be composed (nearly) entirely of protected speech that “forces” these entities to play defense. And there won’t be a thing he can do about it.

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Companies: icann

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Comments on “Sen. Rockefeller Wants ICANN To Block '.Sucks' TLDs”

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Guardian says:

hes all butthurt that has not been registered… one will he sucks even worse then paying for the domain….and hows that 7+ trillion debt working

and is israel going to send money to the nazi part of ukraine? Everyone else seems to be?

Ahhhhh….now you seethe old democrat party supporting nazis again…..see what happened obama….

Scote (profile) says:

Except Rockefeller is probably right...

At $2,500 to $25,000 per domain the .sucks domains are well out of the price range of the average person with a complaint about a corporation, and even out of most non-profit’s budgets. While I agree that saying something “sucks” doesn’t equal actionable defamation, it does seem pretty likely that the registrar behind .sucks is looking to sell to corporations who have a history of defensive registrations.

I think the new TLDs are all a bad idea, frankly. No one corporation should have a lock on any TLD of a generic word. But even if ICANN does grant some of the new TLD schemes that doesn’t mean that they have to allow all of them. Perhaps it is just the populist in me, but I don’t see $25K .sucks domains as being a tool for the common man for fighting power.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Except Rockefeller is probably right...

“I think the new TLDs are all a bad idea, frankly”

This. I have no problem with .sucks in particular, except insofar as the entire idea of the tld expansion is a terrible one. It breaks the idea of the the domain hierarchy is supposed to be.

Of course, that hierarchy was broken a long time ago anyway (as soon as sites started uselessly prepending “www.” on their domain names, and it’s only gotten worse from there). That horse has been out of the barn for a long time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Freeform?

I got no problem with this really, usenet works that way. There were some problems due to the creation of really stupid sub sub sub sub sub groups in the alt.* hierarchy but that’s the price to pay for freedom. Although that was reserved to the alt.* hierarchy because it was made so anybody could easily create a group if they bothered to go through the asshats on alt.config. I guess the same could be done by ICANN…I’m too tired to think of a way right now, but another greatly used hierarchy rec.* was not an anarchy like alt and so far everything on http protocol is indeed behind a rigid system like the rec.* hierarchy was.

It’s not a bad idea. Rockefeller should just count his money with his cousins and greater extended family and be happy with doing that. I know I would.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m not going to be able to remember all the gTLD extensions, anyways. It’s hard enough guessing between if a website uses .com, .net, or .org . There’s also guessing Country Code top level domains. Everyone’s just going to end up using a search engine to find websites.

What we need is a search engine that indexes websites that use decentralized domain names.

Then sit back and watch Rockefeller, copyright maximalists, and other powerholics cry about being unable to control the wealth of knowledge and information.

All it’ll take for DNS decentralization to kick off, is someone building a search engine that supports it. Human behavior shows a high mathematical certainty, that dDNS and dTLDs are likely an inescapable outcome.

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