ICANN's recent initiative to expand the pool of top-level domain names has sparked speculation about how much veto power the U.S. and other governments will have over proposed TLDs as well as all Internet addresses in general.
The U.S. Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has proposed veto power for all governments against applications for the new TLDs. In fact, the NTIA is asking for the power to object to any proposed Internet address for any reason.
With over 100 TLD applications expected to be made at ICANN's three-day conference in San Francisco next month, the sky's the limit on which names will be proposed. While names like .health, .car, .web and .nyc are already on the roster, the government has expressed disapproval about more controversial names. The .xxx domain, for instance, was initially approved by ICANN but the Bush administration blocked its use seven years ago and the government has never given it official approval.
The dotGAY Initiative and the .GAY Alliance have already stated they will apply for the .gay TLD despite the whopping $185,000 application fee. But there have been concerns that if world governments are given absolute veto power of TLDs, names like .gay, .jihad and .humanrights will never see the light of day.
“Ironically, the US has become the most formidable world advocate of burdensome government oversight and control in internet governance,” said Milton Mueller, a Syracuse University professor. He added that the U.S. is basically demanding that the national sensibilities of Germany, Vietnam and other countries be applied to domain applicants and Internet entrepreneurs in countries like Canada and Russia.
Mueller said national or international law is not mentioned as a basis for veto rights in the NITA proposal. "If governments believe that gays (or other controversial ideas and communities) have a right to express their identity, they would not make their ability to get a domain name reflecting their identity contingent upon a review by a world government committee in which some members are sure to be hostile to their culture and lifestyle. Any government that really wants to uphold individual rights would not do what the U.S. is doing," he said.
A special ICANN Board meeting has been scheduled for Feb. 28-March 1 in Brussels to vote on the NTIA's proposed changes.
Edited by Tammy Wolf