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Governments want morality veto on new TLDs

Kevin Murphy, August 6, 2010, 15:33:13 (UTC), Domain Registries

ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee wants to be able to kill off new top-level domain applications on cultural and religious grounds.
The GAC has finally broken its radio silence on the “morality and public order” or “MOPO” issue that was such a hot topic at the Brussels meeting in June.
A letter to ICANN (pdf), sent by Canadian GAC chair Heather Dryden, leaves little room for doubt where the GAC stands.

The GAC firmly believes that the absence of any controversial strings in the current universe of top-level domains (TLDs) to date contributes directly to the security and stability of the domain name and addressing system (DNS) and the universal resolvability of the system.
As a matter of principle… the GAC believes that the object of stability, security, and universal resolvability must be preserved in the course of expanding the DNS with the addition of new top-level domains.

This is actually quite powerful stuff.
The GAC is basically saying that no new TLDs should be introduced that would be unacceptable to the lowest common denominator world government.
Think Uganda, asked to make a call on .gay.
Think about any oppressed ethnic group without a territory that wants to apply for its own TLD.
The GAC wants ICANN to create a process for governments and others to object to TLD applications on religious, cultural, linguistic, national and geographical grounds.
It could even result in .xxx being objected to, even though it’s technically part of the 2005 round of new TLDs – the GAC wants the objection process to apply to “all pending and future TLDs”.

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Comments (10)

  1. “controversial strings in the current universe of top-level domains”
    How does one know what various IDNs imply/mean ?
    (Note: All IDNs are filtered out by ISPs so they do not care.)
    Looks like the single-letter TLDs will not be “controversial” and there are only 26, right?
    .A .B .C … .X .Y .Z

  2. Jacob says:

    Thanks for blogging this! Love how prompt you’ve been raising the latest on this round.
    As far as I can tell, the GAC’s recommendation is to develop an “effective objections procedure that recognizes national laws and addresses stings that could raise national, cultural, geographic, religious, and/or linguistic sensitivities or intractable disputes”
    ‘Effective’ certainly could not be taken to mean ‘lowest common denominator’. ‘Recognize’ is a very different word than ‘follow’. ‘Address’ is a very different word than ‘veto’.
    My take on it is the GAC is saying that there should be broad grounds for objection, combined with an effective (and I would love to see effective made more specific – clear and timely would be a start) means of resolving said objection.
    ‘Intractable disputes’ is a bit of a worry. As anyone who convinced their parents to take them to Disneyland knows, you can make a dispute intractable pretty easily.
    ‘Sensitivities’ is also a bit broad. One could say ‘where those sensitivities have been defined in national law(s), prior to the ICANN new TLD process being approved by the ICANN board on July 2008’.
    I.e. it was sensitive enough for us to make a law about it, therefore we should be able to express our opinion about it to ICANN.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      I see where you’re coming from Jacob. Thanks.
      I’m getting “lowest common denominator” from the fact that the GAC wants all TLDs to be resolveable in every country — “universally”.
      It’s a noble goal, and one I share, but it does lend itself to stonewalling by those with illiberal worldviews.
      What will emerge from the ICANN policy process is of course a different matter. I expect, or at least hope, reason will prevail.

  3. Kerry Brown says:

    I think what the GAC is worried about is a country or countries starting their own DNS root. I see that that as a threat to the stability of the Internet and of great concern. That said I think they’ve overreacted to this threat. I don’t know what the proper reaction is but I imagine given that the GAC has to please many different masters with very different agendas that was the mildest advice they could come up with. It’s now up to ICANN to come up with a more moderate response to the threat.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      I think you’re right Kerry.
      What’s worrying is how readily western democratic governments will throw freedom of speech under a bus.

  4. […] the GAC rep doing the most to build bridges with the rest of the community over the tricky “morality and public order” policy process. The board’s gain is the GAC’s […]

  5. […] 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 […]

  6. […] a letter (pdf) GAC chair Heather Dryden sent to the board in August, which expressed a desire that no “controversial” TLDs should be added to the […]

  7. […] been the GAC’s position for a few months now that “uncontroversial” community TLDs, including those with cultural and linguistic ties, should be dealt with […]

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