Syracuse University School of Information Studies (iSchool) Professor Milton Mueller provided quotes for a blog post on Ars Technica entitled “If governments can block top level domains, is .gay doomed?”
The post concerns the upcoming Internet Corporation on Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) meeting in San Francisco on March 13, 2011, and March 18, 2011, to decide how to approve new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs), like .com, .us and even the controversial proposal for .gay. The meeting is contentious because the United States Department of Commerce has proposed revisions to ICANNs current policy concerning gTLDs that would allow nations to have veto power over gTLDs.
“There’s no system of global content regulation that has ever been established, and this is the closest,” Mueller told Ars.
The U.S. proposal would essentially allow any members of the Government Advisory Committee, the representatives from governments to ICANN, to object to the creation of a gTLD, like .com, .info, or the newly proposed .gay. Essentially, the recommendations say that if a country objects to the creation of a gTLD and if other nations do not argue against the objection, ICANN will not adopt the creation of the gTLD.
The United States defends its proposal, stating the proposed provisions will “diminish the potential for blocking of top level domain strings considered objectionable by governments, which harms the architecture of the DNS and undermines the goal of universal resolvability” and is “supportive of ICANN’s commitment to ensure that its decisions are in the global public interest.” In other words, the proposal will prevent other nations from easily blocking entire domains, creating a “fragmented Internet.”
Mueller, however, disagrees with this defense of the proposal.
“It is clear from conversations with government officials in a couple of conservative Arab countries that they object to .gay,” Ars quotes Mueller as writing. “This means that unless other governments are willing to counter this objection, ICANN will suppress an important form of expression for people who happen to be gay. Such expression could be blocked regardless of whether it contains content or words that are illegal in the objecting country; it can be suppressed regardless of whether it is illegal under international law; it can be suppressed regardless of whether it is legal and protected speech in the applicant’s own jurisdiction and markets. The U.S. is proposing that suppression take place because some government official doesn’t like it. Welcome to the 17th century.”
Mueller also argues that the US would not be able to defend against this kind of censorship on speech. “This is a completely false hope,” he added. “If governments believe that gays (or other controversial ideas and communities) have a right to express their identity, they would not make their ability to get a domain name reflecting their identity contingent upon a review by a world government committee in which some members are sure to be hostile to their culture and lifestyle. Any government that really wants to uphold individual rights would not do what the US is doing.”
Mueller is Professor at Syracuse University School of Information Studies, where he teaches courses on information and communication policy and telecommunication management. His research focuses on property rights, institutions and global governance in communication and information industries. His earlier book Ruling the Root: Internet Governance and the Taming of Cyberspace (MIT
Press, 2002) was the first book-length analysis of the political and economic forces leading to the creation of ICANN. Currently, he is doing research on the legal and regulatory responsibilities of Internet service providers, Internet Protocol addressing policy, the policy implications of Deep Packet Inspection technology and the security governance practices of network operators.
Mueller was one of the founders of the Internet Governance Project, an alliance of scholars in action around global Internet policy issues. As co-founder of the Noncommercial Users Constituency he has played a leading role in organizing and mobilizing public interest groups in ICANN. Mueller is on the Advisory Council of Public Interest Registry (.org).