Is .Sucks controversy turning into ICANN’s major accountability stress test?

.Sucks domain issues have remained on the trend for weeks now since ICANN asked the FTC to investigate whether the registry running .sucks is acting illegally.

ICANN’s chief contract compliance officer, Allen Grogan, said it has taken these concerns seriously and decided to call on outside help to determine if Vox Populi’s behaviour is in any way illegal.

“Due to the serious nature of the allegations, we have sent letters to both the (FTC) and, because Vox Populi is a Canadian enterprise, Canada’s Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA) asking them to consider assessing and determining whether or not Vox Populi is violating any of the laws or regulations those agencies enforce,” he said in a blog post.

Philip S. Corwin of Virtualaw LLC in his concluding thoughts in the CircleID article “ICANN.WTF? FTC & OCA Asked Whether .SUCKS is a Law Breaker (Part II)”  says

ICANN’s decision to take the unprecedented step of asking two national consumer protection regulators to determine whether a new gTLD it had authorized was engaged in illegal activities raises extremely serious and multifaceted questions about ICANN’s future relationship with governments, as well as applicable jurisdictions for ICANN and its contracted parties, at a time when these very issues are at the forefront of the transition and accountability discussion. The repercussions may be extensive and serious.

They also raise the question, again, of why ICANN’s Board, management and overall community do not display more proactive foresight to avoid situations that result in ad hoc reactions of this type.

The .Sucks controversy also places the subpar performance, the technical shortcomings, and some questionable practices associated with the new gTLD program back on center stage. This will not likely bolster the perception of ICANN or of the proposed transition within an already skeptical U.S. Congress. It also may affect rules for any subsequent round of the new gTLD program — including the pricing of terms registered in the TMCH, and whether any pejorative string should be awarded to a for-profit entity.

Overall, whether the full fallout from this situation truly sucks for ICANN will depend on whether ICANN takes steps beyond those it initiated this week. It is extremely unlikely that the FTC can or will express any opinion on the legality of the .Sucks business model, much less do so in the abbreviated timeframe before the registry is opened to general availability.

Defining the public interest in the DNS as being circumscribed solely by law and regulations, rather than broader ethical concerns, also raises troubling questions. Ultimately this controversy is unlikely to be resolved unless ICANN’s Board and management step up to the plate and take on broader responsibility.

It may suck for ICANN, but the .Sucks situation is turning into a major accountability stress test.

Read the article here

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