from the what's-wrong-with-a-court-order? dept
In July, the FDA teamed with Interpol and dozens of countries to try to shut down more than 1,300 websites suspected of selling drugs without a prescription. Officials sent a list of all the websites, carrying names such as buyoxycontinonline.com and approvedonlinepharmacy.net, to the Chinese company that registered them. The company replied with a request for a court order and then sent a terse follow-up email: “It is not possible for us to take action.”But here's the thing. Everyone in the articles (including the reporters) seem to take it as perfectly reasonable that ICANN and/or these registrars should have just taken down these sites. No one points out that BizCN seemed to respond properly by asking for a court order. ICANN isn't in the business of censorship. It shouldn't be the one to determine if a site is an illegal pharmacy or not. There's a reason why we have due process and courts to adjudicate decisions like that. Putting the entire burden on registrars and/or ICANN to act as internet cops, ready to take down sites at a notification's notice seems tremendously problematic.
In frustration, officials turned to the Internet’s central administrator, an organization called the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, or Icann. Its contract with the registrar, BizCN.com, requires the company to investigate reports of illegal behavior.
It's a recipe for censorship, stifling free speech and hindering innovation. And yet, that's what the FDA and others want:
Because of its central role, regulators and law-enforcement agencies around the world say Icann could be crucial to their crackdown on illicit Internet operators of all kinds.Already, just in the online pharmacy space, we've seen how certain pharmaceutical companies like to conflate the small number of truly "rogue" pharmacies that sell either counterfeit drugs or real drugs without proper procedures, with perfectly safe and legal Canadian pharmacies that many Americans rely on for cheaper drugs. The big pharmaceutical companies would like to shut down that competition, even as American politicians have explored expanding the ability of US citizens to get their drugs from such pharmacies. And that's why it's reasonable to ask for an actual court order before taking down sites -- rather than just assuming that some bureaucrat at the FDA can accurately determine which sites are "good" and which are "bad," and then demand that registrars or ICANN automatically take action.