Content police? ICANN mulls bylaws change

ICANN could change its bylaws to allow it to police internet content to an extent, it emerged this week with the publication of the Operational Design Assessment for the next stage of the new gTLD program.

Currently, ICANN’s bylaws state that the Org may not “regulate (i.e., impose rules and restrictions on) services that use the Internet’s unique identifiers or the content that such services carry or provide”, and it’s been adamant that it is not the “content police”.

But the community has recommended that future new gTLD applicants should be able to agree to so-called Registry Voluntary Commitments, statements of registry policy that ICANN would be able to enforce via contract.

RVCs would be much like the Public Interest Commitments many registries agree to in the 2012 application round, implemented before ICANN’s current bylaws were in effect.

As an example I’ve used before, Vox Populi Registry has PICs that ban cyberbullying and porn in its .sucks gTLD, and in theory could lose its contract if it breaks that rule by allowing .sucks sites to host porn (like this NSFW one, for example).

ICANN’s board of directors expressed concern two years ago that its bylaws may prevent it from approving the RVC recommendation.

But Org staff have now raised, in writing and on a webinar today, the prospect that the board could change the bylaws to permit RVCs to go ahead. The ODA published on Monday states:

The Board may wish to consider how and whether it can accept the recommendations related to PICs and RVCs. One option may be to amend the Bylaws with a narrowly tailored amendment to ensure that there are no ambiguities around ICANN’s ability to agree to and enforce PICs and RVCs as envisioned

How worrying this could be would depend on the wording, of course, but even the chance of ICANN meddling in content is usually enough to raise eyebrows at the likes of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, not to mention supporters of blockchain alt-roots, many of whom seem to think ICANN is already censoring the internet.

It’s not clear whether the change is something the board is actively considering, or just an idea being floated by staff.

The post Content police? ICANN mulls bylaws change first appeared on Domain Incite.

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