ICANN has been asked to eliminate references to “morality and public order” objections from its new top-level domain application process.
A cross-constituency working group has advised ICANN’s board of directors to scrap the term and to ensure that whatever replaces it does not enable individual governments to veto new TLDs based on their own local laws.
The so-called “MOPO” or “MAPO” part of the Draft Applicant Guidebook attracted criticism because ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee seemed to want to use it to grant themselves the right to block any TLD application they deemed too controversial.
The fear from the GAC was that if nations started blocking whole TLDs at their borders, it could ultimately lead to the fragmentation of the DNS root.
The fear elsewhere was that some edgy TLD applications, such as .gay or .sex, could be rejected due to the unilateral objections of backward regimes, harming freedom of speech.
But if ICANN incorporates the working group’s new recommendations into the next version of the DAG, that probably won’t be allowed to happen.
The group this week forwarded an interim report to the ICANN board for its consideration. While incomplete, it already carries a few recommendations that managed to find consensus.
Notably, the report recommends that, “National law not based on international principles should not be a valid ground for an objection”, which would seem to scupper any chances of Uganda or the Holy See blocking .gay, for example.
The working group has so far failed to reach consensus on how governmental objections should be registered and processed, but one option is:
The Applicant Guidebook should allow individual governments to file a notification (not an objection) that a proposed TLD string is contrary to their national law. The intention is that an “objection” indicates an intent to block, but a “notification” is not an attempt to block, but a notification to the applicant and the public that the proposed string is contrary to the government’s perceived national interest. However, a national law objection by itself should not provide sufficient basis for a decision to deny a TLD application.
The working group, which counted a few GAC members among its number, has managed to unanimously agree that the awkward term “morality and public order” should be dumped.
One possible contender to replace it is “Objections Based on General Principles of International Law”.
The group has also discussed the idea that a supermajority vote could be required if the board decides to reject a TLD application based on a MOPO objection.
The report is a work in progress. The working group expects to send an updated document to the ICANN board shortly before its retreat later this month.
Whether any of this will be acceptable to the GAC as a whole is up for debate.