Wednesday, 4 July 2007

ICANN may ban domain names to avoid causing offence

Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ( ICANN ) was founded in 1988 by the US Government to take over regulating key aspects of the internet's technical architecture like domain names and IP addresses. It has had a troubled history.

A recent report from a working group within ICANN called for any new domain names to be carefully regulated demanding that names should be censored according to "legal norms relating to morality and public order". Thus banning rude, abusive or culturally sensitive words.

Here we have a slippery slope. For a start exactly who’s 'rude' are we talking about? As anyone who has ever tried to market a product internationally this can be a minefield. As we all know something can be perfectly acceptable in one country that is rude, or insulting in another, even in English speaking nations, if you factor in other nations the problem multiplies.

The idea that it is ok for ICANN to appoint it’s self as global censor for the network concerns Wendy Seltzer, a fellow at the Berkman Centre for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School.

She believes ICANN should only set technical standards and avoid setting it’s self up as some sort of moral guardian of the network and it should be left to individual countries and even institutions to decide what is acceptable. The whole network should not be limited because of sectional or local interests

Regulating the internet is certainly possible, as the governments of China, the US and the UK have all demonstrated in various ways. But we don’t all want to be bound by what may be acceptable or convenient for one county. If there is to be such regulation then local control would be the least restrictive of freedom and freedom of speech and association.

The core architecture should be as open as possible, not only technologically but also in terms of any limitations of freedom of expression, not locked into a limited and politically controlled framework.

As Noam Chomsky said: "Goebbels was in favour of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you're in favour of free speech, then you're in favour of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise. Otherwise, you're not in favour of free speech."


Johnny Midnight said...

That is really fucked up.

CFD Ed said...

Yep. Best if they stick to organising the technical stuff and keeping track of that.