Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
commerce department, domain names, tlds, veto


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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