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.