Obama wants the power to veto future top-level domain namesSubmitted by silentboom on Fri, 02/11/2011 - 13:01
The Obama administration is quietly seeking the power for it and other governments to veto future top-level domain names, a move that raises questions about free expression, national sovereignty, and the role of states in shaping the future of the Internet.
At stake is who will have authority over the next wave of suffixes to supplement the venerable .com, .org, and .net. At least 115 proposals are expected this year, including .car, .health, .nyc, .movie, and .web, and the application process could be finalized at a meeting in San Francisco next month.
Some are likely to prove contentious among more conservative nations. Two different groups--the dotGAY Initiative and the .GAY Alliance--already have announced they will apply for the right to operate the .gay domain; additional controversial proposals may surface in the next few months. And nobody has forgotten the furor over .xxx, which has been in limbo for seven years after receiving an emphatic thumbs-down from the Bush administration.
When asked whether it supports or opposes the creation of .gay and .xxx, an official at the U.S. Commerce Department replied that "it is premature for us to comment on those domain names." The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a nonprofit based in Marina del Rey, Calif., that has a contract with the U.S. government to manage Internet addresses, is overseeing the process of adding new domain suffixes.
A statement sent to CNET over the weekend from the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, or NTIA, said its proposed veto procedure "has merit as it diminishes the potential for blocking of top level domain strings considered objectionable by governments. This type of blocking harms the architecture of the DNS and undermines the goal of universal resolvability (i.e., a single global Internet that facilitates the free flow of goods and services and freedom of expression)."
Another way of phrasing this argument, perhaps, is: If less liberal governments adopt technical measures to prevent their citizens from connecting to .gay and .xxx Web sites, and dozens of nations surely will, that will lead to a more fragmented Internet.
In addition, giving governments more influence inside ICANN may reduce the odds of an international revolt that would vest more Internet authority with the not-exactly-business-friendly United Nations. Last year, China and its allies objected to the fact that "unilateral control of critical Internet resources" had been given to ICANN and suggested that the U.N. would be a better fit.