APC calls on ICANN to prioritise human rights when deciding on new top-level domain names

Montreal, Canada, 28 August 2012


The Association for Progressive Communications calls on ICANN to prioritise human rights when deciding on new top-level domain names

MONTREAL, 29 August 2012 – The Association for Progressive Communications, an international network and nonprofit specialised in human rights and the internet, joins the Non Commercial Users Constituency in calling upon ICANN to consider human rights when deciding on new generic top-level domain names.

On June 13, the so-called reveal day, ICANN published a list of applications for new gTLDs, along with their applicants. In the next two years, ICANN will evaluate the applications before deciding on the sucessful ones. Overall, 1,930 new gTLD applications from 60 countries were listed. The evaluation process is supported by five stakeholders, including a Non-Commercial Users Constituency (NCUC). “With real voting power in ICANN policy making and Board selection, NCUC develops and supports positions that favor noncommercial communication and activity on the Internet”.

The NCUC, of which APC is an active member, submitted a comment to ICANN during the open comment period on new gTLDs. The purpose of the comment is to outline human rights related public policy issues arising from this round of new gTLD applications.

ICANN has a responsibility to make public policy decisions in a manner which respects human rights. In the evaluation process of new gTLDs, we believe that ICANN needs to take into account the intended purpose of the TLD. As drawn from its submission to ICANN, APC and the NCUC raise the following human rights issues in relation to the applications for new gTLDs.

First, freedom of expression is the human rights starting point for decisions on new gTLD applications. This freedom can only be limited in narrowly prescribed circumstances even in an online context, as noted by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Frank La Rue. ICANN’s consideration of objections to new gTLDs must take into account these narrow grounds on which freedom of expression may lawfully be limited. When in doubt or where issues are finely balanced in applications ICANN should favour free expression over limitations.

Second, applications that affirm the human rights of marginalised or vulnerable communities, including their rights to free expression and non-discrimination, should be given distinct consideration. Community applications may also affirm their rights to freedom of association and should be given particular attention.

Third, where multiple human rights issues arise or appear to be in conflict, ICANN should favour availability of the gTLD and take the approach that affirms most and restricts least rights.

Last, should ICANN receive advice from any committee while evaluating new gTLDs, including the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), it should reject advice that contradicts the resolution on human rights and the internet, passed in June 2012 at the United Nations Human Rights Council. The resolution states that “the same human rights people have offline must also be protected online.” Human rights standards including freedom of expression and freedom from discrimination should therefore always outweigh issues of sensitivity. “Sensitivity” – which has been invoked in the past for discarding new gTLDs – is not a clearly defined legal standard, it is subjective and potentially arbitrary.


- For the NCUC’s full comment to ICANN, please contact David Cake, interim NCUC chair – dave@difference.com.au

- For more information on APC’s position, please contact Joy Liddicoat, Project Coordinator
Internet Rights are Human Rights, Association for Progressive Communications – joy at apc.org

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