November 3, 2000
TO: The Internet
Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ("ICANN").
Health Organization ("WHO")
Top Level Domain Name
These comments are submitted on behalf of Pfizer
Inc ("Pfizer") in response to the application for ICANN to establish dot.health as
a new top level domain name ("TLD") to be managed and operated by WHO. Pfizer
is the world's largest pharmaceutical company. It discovers, develops, manufactures,
and markets leading prescription medicines for humans and animals, and many of the
world's best known over-the-counter brands.
Pfizer strongly supports the
right to use the Internet as a means for providing accurate and scientifically reliable
information on medicines in a responsible manner for the benefit of patients and
healthcare professionals. In this respect, Pfizer shares the WHO's objective
to ensure the quality of health information on the Internet. At the same time,
however, Pfizer fundamentally disagrees with the proposition that a quasi-governmental
organization, such as WHO, should be responsible for setting policy on how the dot.health
TLD is distributed, for promulgating rules on who may register under it and how the
registrations can be used, and for establishing enforceable standards and policies
that it would police to determine when such a registration should be suspended or
Our concerns about WHO's regulatory responsibility under its
dot.health TLD proposal are analogous in part to the concerns about prior government
censorship under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution
of the United States. "It is not merely the sporadic abuse of power by the
censor but the pervasive threat inherent in its very existence that constitutes the
danger to freedom of discussion." Thornhill vs. Alabama, 310 U.S. 88, 97 (1940).
Measures to regulate the content of health-related information on the Internet could
impose inappropriate and unacceptable constraints on legitimate communication.
Experience teaches that under such a regime the "bad actors" will always find a way
to evade controls while the law abiding will comply. This, then, would result
in a situation where unregulated and unreliable sources of information remain available
on the Internet unchallenged by reliable authorities.
for Assigned Names and Numbers
November 3, 2000
dot.health TLD may itself cause confusion and be misleading. This is because
its use may imply that the dot.health domain is the only one on the world wide web
with "accurate" health-related information. If this is the implication--and
we suspect it is--then patients, health care professionals, and others who visit
sites such as Pfizer's own Pfizer.com or one of Pfizer's product-specific sites would
be misled into believing that the information there is not accurate, and that it
therefore must be false or misleading. Such a misimpression would work a great
disservice to millions of individuals who seek truthful and fully substantiated health-related
information from pharmaceutical company web sites.
Consistent with the position
articulated by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers in its
statement on the The Use of the Internet for Pharmaceutical Information (October
1998), Pfizer believes that self-regulation, self-auditing, and implementation of
Codes of Good Practice are the methods of choice for controlling the type and quality
of health-related information on the Internet. In Pfizer's view, a self-regulatory
approach would best serve not only the interests of the pharmaceutical industry but
also those of patients, physicians, and consumers throughout the world. Additionally,
there are already places on the world wide web that provide links to health-related
web sites whose content is determined to meet certain prescribed standards.
With all respect, both private sector and governmental initiatives to provide such
third party verification based on objective, neutral, and equitable standards available
to all applicants are preferable to any single organization, such as the WHO, being
given an effective monopoly on determining the accuracy of health-related information
on the world wide web through control of the dot.health TLD.
For these reasons,
we urge ICANN to deny the WHO's application.
By: Ray Jordan
Vice-President Communication & Information