ICANN: Stick to Technology, not Morality - Keep the Core Neutral
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If ICANN maintains only a technical focus on the approval process for gTLDs, this will not force a particular morality down the throat of others. If the Vatican isn’t happy about .jesus, they can simply block it, as China has done with sites it does not wish its citizens to see. This can be done at the country level (China again), the individual level (every parent who puts a nanny program on their child’s computer), and plenty of levels in between.
This isn’t simply an attempt to project U.S. beliefs onto the rest of the world. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted nearly 60 years ago by the United Nations, states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Attempting to curtail generic top level domains for any reason other than technical could be seen as a restriction of this right.
Taking that article as its inspiration, a new coalition launched at the ICANN meeting in Puerto Rico. Taking the name “Keep the Core Neutral” and boasting more than 100 members from around the world, the group is collecting signatures for a petition urging ICANN “to resist efforts to evaluate applications for new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) based on non-technical criteria such as ideas about morality and competing national political objectives.”
The Keep the Core Neutral coalition, composed of both individuals and organizations, is concerned – with reason -- that ICANN’s new policy for accrediting gTLDs will include “evaluation criteria that go well beyond technical considerations of operational stability and security” that exceed “the organization’s mandate of technical coordination,” according to the coalition’s web site. The policy itself is set to be finalized before the end of the year. We can only hope that ICANN actually hears these voices, and chooses to follow the path most clearly set out by its mandate.
Bill Thompson writing for the BBC said it best. “Regulating the network to conf[o]rm with community standards and local laws is one thing, but limiting what it can do just in case it upsets someone is short-sighted, dangerous, and indefensible.” Attempting to build non-technical criteria into the gTLD application evaluation process limits it from the very start. This is the kind of restriction we can’t afford to place on the future of the Internet.
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