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ICANN Board Discusses Policy to Censor New Domain Names: Public Encouraged to Attend LA Meeting and Voice Concerns

Keep The Core Neutral - Media Release
Monday, 28 October 2007

Media Contacts:

Dan Krimm, Campaign Director, Keep The Core Neutral
Email: dan@ipjustice.org
Robin Gross, IP Justice Executive Director
Email: robin@ipjustice.org

ICANN Board Discusses Policy to Censor New Domain Names
Public Encouraged to Attend LA Meeting and Voice Concerns

(Los Angeles) – ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, holds its 30th International Public Meeting in Los Angeles from 29 October through 2 November. ICANN is the private corporation set up by the US Commerce Department to manage the assignment of Internet domain names and numbers in 1997. An important item on the meeting’s agenda is a proposed policy to allow for the registration of new Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs, such as “.com” or “.net”). On 6 September 2007 ICANN’s Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) Policy Council voted to approve this policy and sent it to the Board of Directors, who may vote on it during this meeting. The Keep The Core Neutral Coalition (KTCN) opposes several recommendations in the GNSO’s final report that threaten freedom of expression, and urges the Board to either reject the policy, reject specific recommendations, or to refrain from voting on the policy until its harmful ramifications are addressed.

The GNSO report included policy recommendations to include criteria of “morality” and “public order” in the evaluation of new domain name applications, and to create a complicated and subjective challenge process that would allow powerful special interests to oppose domain name applications for non-technical and non-operational reasons. The policy recommendations allows for the denial of domain names that are considered offensive or controversial, or coveted by others. KTCN strongly opposed these provisions from its inception, and continues to view them as serious threats to freedom of expression and ICANN as an inappropriate political venue to legislate such matters.

KTCN launched in June 2007 with a petition urging ICANN to “stay within its technical mandate and refrain from embedding particular national, regional, moral, or religious policy objectives into global rules over the use of language in domain names.” As of Friday, 26 October, the petition had received over 260 signatures, including over 80 organizations and the rest individuals. The KTCN petition will be officially delivered to the ICANN Board with a final signatory list during its public forum on Thursday, 1 November, from 8:30 am to 1:00 pm.

Online Public Comments May Be Ignored

KTCN alerted the public to raise the freedom of expression problems with the proposed policy during an open comment period at ICANN in August, resulting in an overwhelming proportion of public comments in accord with KTCN’s position. However, it remains unclear what formal role such comments may play in ICANN’s policy-making processes, if any. ICANN staff prepared a summary of comments for the ICANN web site and for the GNSO Council meeting, but the Council did not discuss them in detail and the comments appear to have had no impact on the Council’s deliberations and vote. Furthermore, it is unclear whether the Board has any formal mandate to address such comments and explicitly account for them in its decision processes. KTCN’s Campaign Director Dan Krimm comments: “If ICANN were considered to be an official U.S. government agency, it would be subject to formal notice-and-comment procedures detailed in an important federal law called the Administrative Procedures Act. If so, ICANN would likely be in violation of that law, which requires formal consideration of (and reasonable response to) all substantive points raised by the public about it proposed policies.”

ICANN is holding a public workshop on new gTLD policy on Monday, 29 October, 1:00 pm to 7:00 pm, at the Hilton Los Angeles Airport, and KTCN encourages members of the public to attend and make their voices heard in person. There are three sessions to the workshop, and the recommendations threatening freedom of expression (#6 and #20) will be considered during the Session 3: “Allocation Methods for New gTLDs.” The ICANN Board meets formally on the last day of the meeting, Friday, 2 November, and has included an agenda item “10. Discussion of New GTLD Policy and proposal for Implementation.” Members of the public may attend and observe the Board meeting, but may not comment or otherwise participate. The Thursday public forum is open to anyone for participation, in addition to the Monday workshop. There is no registration fee required to attend the ICANN meeting and members of the public can take the floor to express their concerns publicly.

Links:
Keep The Core Neutral campaign:
http://www.keep-the-core-neutral.org/

IP Justice webpage on new gtld policy:
http://ipjustice.org/wp/campaigns/icann/gtlds/

Workshop on New gTLDs at ICANN Los Angeles meeting:
http://losangeles2007.icann.org/node/45

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