GAC backs off TLD censorship a bit – but not enough

by on February 24, 2011 · 1 comment

ICANN has posted an official “GAC Indicative Scorecard” in advance of the Feb. 28 showdown in Brussels between the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) and the ICANN Board. The “scorecard” is intended to identify the areas where the small number of governmental officials who participate in GAC differ from the positions developed by ICANN’s open policy development process. The scorecard constitutes a not-so subtle threat that ICANN should throw out its staff- and community-developed policies and make them conform to the GAC’s preferences. Amusingly, the so-called GAC position follows almost verbatim the text submitted as the “US position” back in January. It’s clear that the US calls the shots in GAC and that other governments, including the EU, are cast in the role of making minor modifications to U.S. initiatives.

There is one interesting modification, however. The new GAC scorecard still allows GAC to conduct an initial review of all new top level domain applications and still allows any GAC member to object to any string “for any reason.” But GAC has been publicly shamed into pulling back from the U.S. government’s recommendation that a single GAC objection, if not overruled by other governments, would kill the application. Instead, the GAC as a whole will “consider” any objection and develop written “advice” that will be forwarded to the Board. This would put such advice in the framework of ICANN’s bylaws, and thus the advice would not be binding on the board.

While it is heartening that public pressure has forced the governments to pull back from their more outrageous demands, the resulting procedure is still arbitrary and an unacceptable incursion on free expression and free markets. For a more complete analysis, see the IGP blog.

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