Thursday, October 25, 2018

Could activists pressure ICANN, domain registrars and monitors over abusive owners?

Given the vitriolic political climate and the emerging trend, especially from the political Left, to pressure private companies to deplatform “offensive” speakers (especially since Charlottesville in Aug. 2017), I thought it would be good to review ICANN’s own policy documents, here.

There’s nothing there to suggest any specific pressure on them, and the company says it complies with local law enforcement as necessary (about the only TOS issue mentioned specifically is drugs) yet it’s obvious that the blatant misuse of “rogue” or “amateur” domains by dictators in some countries to feed social media must be of concern even at the registration level.

It is significant that there are some restrictions on how some TLD’s may be used. “.com” had been intended for transactional businesses at first, but soon everyone used it and the commercial context got buried.  This might be of some increasing concern today (as respect to political campaign interference with misleading labeling). There were some similar expectations in the early days for “.org” and “.net”.

Some TLD’s have explicit restrictions, like “.name” is only for individuals.  This would raise the question, is any given individual limited to one instance? 

But it also seems that the “.name” TLD could create a way to name a domain to prevent any future trademark dispute.  

I can recall some bizarre disputes in the Web 1.0 pre-2000 period, where domains were sued by companies with similar names when the companies hadn’t even set up websites yet. One of the targets was a stage theater in Portland, OR.
Various TLD’s are managed by separate companies that themselves could come under activist pressure. For example, .com, .tv, and .name are managed by Verisign.  Could individuals be limited to the number of domains (such as maybe only ".name" and only one instance), or have to show transactional business use some day, out of political motives from activist much more concerned about hidden propaganda than anyone imagined even two years ago?  I wonder.  Such a development could seriously hinder the capability of individuals to rebrand themselves if their legacy careers became obsolete and difficult to keep promoting.  People would have to network and cooperate a lot more, and possibly pay heed to the solidarity demands of activists. 

Update: Oct. 28

I misspoke about ".name".  DailyStormer (not an individual) was allowed to have a ".name" domain which works (I tried it on my phone, not on a computer;  it has plausible-looking stories.)  CNN pointed this out Sunday morning.  Will activists pounce on this? 

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