Summary/analysis of this public comment period
As ICANN's former general manager of public participation, I was hired by ICM Registry to produce an objective summary and analysis of this comment period. The Executive Summary of that analysis is pasted below and the whole summary/analysis is attached as a Word document. If you have difficulty reading the text or seeing the graphics included, then you can see the full version online at my website at: http://kierenmccarthy.com/2010/05/18/summaryanalysis-of-dot-xxx-issue/. Or on ICM Registry's website at: http://www.icmregistry.com/blog/?p=240. Thank you Kieren McCarthy ------------------------------------ Summary/analysis of the following comment period: Report of Possible Process Options for Further Consideration of the ICM Application for the .XXX sTLD Date opened: 26 March 2010 Date closed: 10 May 2010 Prepared by: Kieren McCarthy Executive Summary The comment period attracted a very high response from the ICANN community, the Internet community and the general public due to the nature of the topic. It also generated some press interest. The vast majority of responses arrived through organized online campaigns. In overall terms, there was a clear split between those who wish the Board to accept all findings of the IRP Declaration (“option 1”) and those who want the Board to adopt the Declaration’s dissenting opinion (“option 3”). No respondents spoke in favour of “option 2” where the Board accepted in part and rejected in part the Declaration. The main argument put forward by those supporting Option 1 was that ICANN has a duty to follow its independent review process and its credibility will be damaged if it were to reject the result of that process. The main argument put forward by those supporting Option 3 was two-fold: first, that pornography itself is damaging and since the dot-xxx top-level domain is designed specifically for this sort of content, the Board should reject its creation; and second, that the dot-xxx applicant, ICM Registry, had not met the necessary sponsorship requirements for approval. Affected Parties Affected parties are taken to be: the dot-xxx applicant, ICM Registry; members of dot-xxx’s sponsored community; and members of the wider online adult entertainment industry. ICM Registry argued that ICANN is obliged to follow “option 1” i.e. to accept the IRP Declaration in full. It also argued that option 1 itself includes a number of “unnecessary and inappropriate processes” which go against the Declaration, ICANN’s own bylaws and international law. It concluded that the only course open to ICANN is to enter into a registry agreement with it at the earliest opportunity. This request for an expedited process in signing a dot-xxx registry agreement was also put forward by other affected parties, the majority of whom posted comments through an online campaign organized by ICM Registry. At the same time, a significant number of affected parties took the opposite view: that the Board should choose “option 3” and reject the dot-xxx application, arguing that since they were potential members of the sponsoring community for dot-xxx but did not want the top-level domain, ipso facto ICM Registry did not meet the sponsorship criteria for approval. The majority of the comments in favour of option 3 came in response to two online campaigns: one by the Free Speech Coalition (FSC), an Adult Entertainment Trade Association; and a second by the Adult Entertainment Broadcast Network (AEBN), an adult content provider with a large affiliate network and an FSC member. ICANN’s Supporting Organization and Advisory Committees The At Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) and Non Commercial Users Constituency (NCUC) supplied responses to the comment period. ALAC ALAC noted the thoroughness of the independent review process and requested that the Panel’s decision be taken into account. It also asked that the issue be dealt with swiftly and transparently, but did not explicitly advocate any of the options. Two of ALAC’s Regional At Large Organizations (RALOs) submitted additional statements: APRALO (Asia Pacific) said the issue was one of “procedural justice” and that ICANN should follow its procedures; NARALO (North America) gave its support to “option 1” and said in addition that ICANN should approve the dot-xxx application “without further unwarranted process”. NCUC The NCUC argued that the Board should accept the Declaration in full and prepare to add dot-xxx to the Internet’s root. To do otherwise would “seriously undermine ICANN’s credibility and raise fundamental questions about its accountability mechanisms”. It also argued that ICANN should “focus exclusively on compliance with its own appeals process” rather than consider the issues of content, free speech and censorship raised by other commenters. External Parties A very large number of comments were received, the vast majority through a number of online campaigns, both for and against the dot-xxx application. (See “Broader community and campaigns” for full details.) The campaigns were organized by the same three groups that have dominated dot-xxx public comment periods since 2004: 1. Pro-xxx. Organized by the applicant ICM Registry and its sponsoring organization, IFFOR. A few hundred respondents representing both the general public and the adult industry presented a clear preference for “option 1” arguing that ICANN needed to follow its own independent review process. Many also argued for an expedited process in approving a contract for the dot-xxx top-level domain. 2. Anti-xxx. Organized by the Free Speech Coalition (“the Adult Entertainment Trade Association”), and the Adult Entertainment Broadcast Network (AEBN), an adult content provider with a large affiliate network. A few hundred respondents within the adult content industry presented a clear preference for “option 3”. Many argued that the application did not have support of the adult industry and expressed concerns surrounding the running of a dot-xxx registry. 3. Anti-pornography Organized by a number of Christian groups within the United States, including the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, Women for Decency, Utah Coalition Against Pornography and PornHarms.com. More than 10,000 respondents asked for the rejection of the dot-xxx top-level domain, mostly out of concern for the moral impact of pornography on society. Press interest The nature of the public comment period provoked press interest, particularly in the technology press. Articles regarding the comment period appeared in the following outlets (in no particular order): the BBC, The Register, Domain Name Wire, DomainIncite, The UWM Post, Tech.Blorge, WorldNetDaily, CircleID, PC Magazine, PC World, ZDNet, GeekSugar, Silicon Republic, V3.co.uk, The Domains, Xbiz, among others. In general, the articles that expressed an opinion came down in favour of “option 1” and the approval of the dot-xxx application. This opinion was also largely reflected in comments to the articles from readers and in online polls. Analysis and Conclusion This comment period was characterized by a very large number of form-responses to active campaigns from a small number of organizations. This reflects ICANN’s experience with previous comment periods concerning the dot-xxx application. Many of the arguments raised during the comment period have been raised in previous rounds by the same organizations. As such, they may be considered to have been addressed during the Independent Review Process itself and so form part of the IRP Declaration. In particular, the Independent Review Panel specifically reviewed the two main arguments put forward by those opposed to dot-xxx, namely the moral nature of content that would be hosted on dot-xxx domains, and the question of whether the applicant had met the necessary sponsorship criteria. The controversial nature of adult content has also drawn into the comment period many thousands of individuals who may have only limited knowledge of either ICANN or the issues at the heart of the process options paper put out to review. Seen overall, there is a clear polarization of views between those who wish the ICANN Board to approve the dot-xxx application (as well as remove the additional processes included as part of “option 1”) and those who wish the Board to reject the dot-xxx application with finality. The ICANN community itself has expressed a clear preference for the Board to accept the Independent Review Panel’s majority conclusions and react accordingly, swiftly and in a transparent manner.