The Governmental Advisory Committee has slammed ICANN’s decisions to reject at least three non-Latin ccTLDs because they might pose security risks.
Remarkably, the GAC has also asked ICANN to “urgently reconsider” the rulings, which were made to mitigate the risk of phishing attacks and other types of domain name abuse.
In its official post-Prague communique, published over the weekend, the GAC tells ICANN that the way it decides whether to approve IDN ccTLDs has been “too conservative”.
While the letter does not single out any specific ccTLDs, I understand that the advice was formulated primarily at the behest of the European Union and Greece, which have both had IDN ccTLD applications rejected on the grounds of confusing similarity.
The Prague communique (pdf) states:
The GAC is of the view that decisions may have erred on the too-conservative side, in effect applying a more stringent test of confusability between Latin and non-Latin scripts than when undertaking a side by side comparison of Latin strings.
It goes on to ask ICANN to publish its criteria for evaluating the similarity of IDN ccTLDs, to create an appeals process, to publish its rationales for rejecting bids, and to revisit old decisions.
The communique states, as formal GAC Advice:
Recently refused IDNs, particularly those nominated by public or national authorities should be urgently re-considered in light of the above considerations.
This request instantly loses the GAC credibility points, in my view, casting it as little more than another special interest group focused on the goals of its members first and internet security second.
To be clear, the GAC is appealing ICANN decisions that were designed to prevent phishing.
Greece’s application for .ελ,was rejected by ICANN last year due to its visual similarity with .EA, a non-existent – but potential future – ccTLD.
While there’s not much on the public record about the European case, I understand Eurid’s bid for a Greek version of .eu was blocked because it looks too much like Estonia’s EE.
Bulgarian IDN supporters have also been very vocal the last couple of years in opposition to ICANN’s decision to forbid .бг due to its alleged resemblance to Brazil’s .br.
While decent arguments can and have been made that some of these rulings were a little on the silly side, it’s hard to argue that they were made without the best of intentions.
The GAC has promised to write to ICANN with “further reflections on the methodology that should be followed when evaluating two character IDNs”.
The GAC as a technical regulator? That letter should make for some interesting reading.