Third Time No Charm: ICANN Rejects XXX Domain - Not ICANN's Jurisdiction
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When ICANN was originally created, its mandate was to administer the DNS, the index that permits translation of domain names into numerical IP addresses. It was NOT responsible for the content of any web site (except perhaps its own). Those who voted against the proposal for a .xxx domain expressed the belief that its creation could put ICANN into the position of regulating online content. That would change the role of the organization, something ICANN has no desire to do.
ICANN was also concerned that ICM's proposal raised public policy issues. Specifically, the organization pointed to possible problems with compliance with law enforcement agencies around the world. It hardly needs stating that the laws surrounding pornography vary from country to country. "There are credible scenarios that lead to circumstances in which ICANN would be forced to assume an ongoing management and oversight role regarding Internet content, which is inconsistent with its technical mandate," ICANN stated when it rejected the proposal.
Ironically, as some of those in favor of creating the .xxx domain pointed out, rejecting the domain is itself a content regulation decision. They also argued that such concerns should not prevent ICANN from approving the creation of new domains, insisting that local, state, and international laws could be applied. "The most fundamental value of the global Internet community is that people who propose to use the Internet protocols and infrastructures for otherwise lawful purposes, without threatening the operational stability or security of the Internet, should be presumed to be entitled to do so," explained Susan Crawford, a board member who voted in favor of the .xxx domain. "In a nutshell, everything not prohibited is permitted."
There are additional reasons as to why the potential content regulation issue and lack of community support (mentioned in the previous section) could be considered red herrings. As to the latter issue, "No applicant for any sponsored (top level domain) could ever demonstrate unanimous, cheering approval for its application," said Susan Crawford.
As to the potential content regulation issue, Stuart Lawley told an Associated Press reporter that "the part of the contract they are now claiming would lead them to content management was put in by them during the contract negotiations." In short, it is hypocritical -- or a case of ICANN looking for an easy way out of a political hot potato it doesn't dare touch.
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