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Porn domain firm sues US government

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nick

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ICM Registry LLC, the company behind the proposed .xxx internet porn domain, is to sue two departments of the US government for access to documents it claims show the US pressured ICANN into rejecting the domain.

The Florida-based startup will sue the Department of Commerce and the Department of State to get them to release documents that they redacted when they responded to a Freedom Of Information Act request that ICM filed last year.

The suit is expected to allege that the documents released to ICM so far show that the US "exerted undue political influence on ICANN's consideration of the .xxx domain application", and that the redactions were unlawful under FOIA.

We've seen about 100 pages of these documents, most of them emails sent between staff at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a branch of Commerce.

The documents we've seen suggest that last summer the NTIA reversed its quiet tolerance of the .xxx application, which was on the way to approval, after lobbying from conservative groups, then set about trying to persuade foreign governments to back its position.

ICM claims the documents show that the US government "solicit[ed] foreign government intervention to achieve DoC's domestic political goals".

One of these goals, the documents suggest, was appeasing the Family Research Council and Focus On The Family, right-wing groups run by radio host James Dobson. Dobson was credited by some with winning the 2004 presidential election for Bush, by bringing out the anti-gay vote.

"What really matters in this mess is Jim Dobson," one Commerce staffer emailed to his colleagues on June 16. "What he says on his radio program in the morning will determine how ugly this really gets--if he jumps on the bandwagon, our mail server may crash."

He did jump on the bandwagon. While it's not known if the server crashed, it is known that tens of thousands of form email complaints were ultimately sent to Commerce and ICANN as a result of Dobson's outreach.

ICANN has an international membership, but its power to decide what domains are allowed on the internet comes from an agreement with the NTIA.

NTIA's role is supposed to be hands-off. The primary governmental input ICANN's board of directors is supposed to consider are the consensus position papers of its 100-nation Governmental Advisory Committee.

ICANN's board rejected ICM's .xxx application recently, after almost a year of delays, in a 9 to 5 vote. Several directors said they cast negative votes because they didn't think ICM had adequately addressed the concerns of the GAC.

But ICM thinks the GAC was captured by the US. The documents we've seen contain evidence that the US tried to persuade other GAC member nations to back up its position that .xxx would not be a good thing.

The company thinks this is inappropriate, given the US position as ICANN's overseer.

ICANN president Paul Twomey told us that he's not privy to negotiations within the GAC. But he added that if the US did push for other nations to support its position, that's exactly what the GAC is there for.

"If one government wants to try to get consensus on an issue in the GAC, that's exactly the kind of thing that ICANN's structures are set up for," Twomey said.

The documents we've seen do seem to show that the US administration allowed policy to be guided by right-wing religious groups. Offensive as that may be to secular liberals, it's about as surprising as an American team winning the World Series.

What the documents we've seen do not appear to conclusively show is that the US government directly pressured ICANN's directors into voting the way they did. Whether that's because it didn't pressure them, or because the smoking guns have all been redacted, time may tell.

The documents do show that the NTIA gave the Family Research Council the phone numbers of several ICANN staff, including Twomey. Twomey is the only person who is both on the ICANN board and a member of staff.

Another indication of communication between an ICANN director and NTIA comes in the form of a September 2005 email exchange between an NTIA staffer and Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi, the Malaysian telecommunications regulator who chairs the GAC.

In that exchange, the NTIA staffer forwards to Tarmizi an email from Swedish communications minister Ulrica Messing. The Messing letter is addressed to ICANN chair Vint Cerf, copied to Twomey and to Tarmizi himself.

Since the Swedish letter was not made public by ICANN until November, the inference ICM makes is that either Messing, Cerf or Twomey passed it to the NTIA before even Tarmizi had seen it. This, ICM says, suggests closer NTIA-ICANN ties than thought.

Twomey said he does not know how NTIA got the Messing letter. He acknowledged that ICANN does communicate with the US government, but said that it talks to many governments about many different issues.

Another indication that the US influence on the GAC was significant comes in another exchange between Tarmizi and an NTIA staffer from August last year, around the time when the US suddenly started expressing concern about .xxx.

"I am just wondering if you could share with me how far the USG is going to take this issue," Tarmizi wrote. He later adds: "I need to know what the acceptable future course of action might be so that we can do some strategizing."

ICM says this backs up its contention that the GAC was used as a smokescreen to deflect attention from the fact that it was really the US government pulling the strings.

It should be noted that in addition to the US, varying levels of concern over .xxx and/or the processes used to approve it have also been expressed by Sweden, the UK, Brazil and Denmark.

ICM is suing for alleged breaches of FOIA. One of its lead attorneys is Robert Corn-Revere, who has tackled several notable internet cases in the past.

The company alleges that the redacted portions of the documents will show an inappropriate influence on ICANN, and hopes that fresh information coming to light will help it get ICANN to reconsider its decision to reject the .xxx proposal.

Source: Datamonitor
 

DomainCat

New Member
What in the world is the world coming to. Well glad they didn't allow the porn domain names. Imagine the families and religious groups anger and the law suits that could come from all of this. And now some idiots want to sue the US for not allowing such filth on the internet. Well most of the US gov't has budget cuts, and I don't think they'll have much left over after all the budget cuts and fighting the war to pay some pornography group anything. This makes me a bit angry.
 
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nick

Guest
ha hhah ah. Right. The US gov't will not have enough to pay them $$$'s :D

And I don't think that they even have a chance to win this case. It is totally based on wrong motives.
 
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