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Obama Administration Wants Veto Power Over New Domain Names

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The Obama administration is pushing for a new policy that, if implemented, would give the U.S. government the power to veto any top-level domain names submitted for approval.

The process of approving suffixes like .com, .org and .net is overseen by a non-profit called Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which operates under a contract with the government. Current procedures allow for governments to offer advice on submitted suffixes, but ICANN has the final say. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) thinks that states should play a greater role in the approval process, and is calling for all proposals to undergo a mandatory "review" by an ICANN advisory board (PDF). The board would consist of representatives from 100 nations, any of which may "may raise an objection to a proposed (suffix) for any reason." Unless another nation objects, the proposal in question will be automatically rejected.

In a statement provided to CNET, the NTIA argued that the veto "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)." This openness, the agency claimed, is critical to guaranteeing "the long-term viability of the Internet as a force for innovation and economic growth."

Last year, China and other countries voiced their concerns about the domain approval process, arguing that ICANN had seized "unilateral control of critical Internet resources," and suggesting that the U.N. would be a more appropriate forum for deliberation. In December, the national governments participating in the process issued a statement (PDF), saying they were "very concerned" that "public policy issues raised remain unresolved" -- including those pertaining to "use and protection of geographical names."

The current system will likely be tested very soon. Both the dotGAY Initiative and the .GAY Alliance have already announced that they'll be applying for the .gay suffix this year -- an application that is likely to draw the ire of conservative governments around the world. In the meantime, national representatives will continue to work toward a compromise with ICANN, which is currently compiling a so-called "scorecard" of governmental concerns. The scorecard will be published in two weeks, just ahead of a two-day meeting in Brussels, during which ICANN will meet with governments in the hopes of finding an "agreed upon resolution" to the ongoing international debate.

Tags: approval, domain names, DomainNames, government, ICANN, obama, Obama Administration, ObamaAdministration, politics, suffixes, top, veto, Web