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ICANN Clarifies its Position in Response to Purported Threats Posed by Children-Related New gTLDs

7 April 2017
By Akram Atallah

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Recently, the Children’s Charities Coalition on Internet Safety raised concerns that new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) may become new grounds for the functioning and distributing of child abuse content. ICANN wants to confirm its position.

Child abuse and child pornography is a crime. It is illegal and as such there are many appropriate, already available, forms of law enforcement mechanisms to address issues like these. All ICANN’s contracted parties are required to abide by the laws of countries they operate in and laws that address these areas.

This is not an issue ICANN takes lightly. The organization’s authority, with respect to registries and registrars, is derived solely by contract, and ICANN acts as an administrator of those contractual arrangements. There are safeguards in the new gTLD Registry Agreements (RA) related to highly-regulated or sensitive strings which were incorporated, as identified by the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC).

As an organization, ICANN is governed by a bottom up, consensus-driven multistakeholder model. The ICANN organization cannot unilaterally impose guidelines or requirements on registries, registrars or other stakeholders in a top-down manner. Policy recommendations, as per ICANN’s bylaws (see section 6.1)  are developed and refined by the ICANN community through its Supporting Organizations and influenced by Advisory Committees – all comprised of volunteers from across the world – in a "bottom-up," multistakeholder, open and transparent process. Each Supporting Organization has its own specific policy development process.

For anything unlawful, we rely on courts and governmental regulatory authorities to police illegal activity. As an organization, ICANN does not require registries to regulate web content, but some registries have voluntarily promised the community that they would do so and have asked ICANN to make these commitments enforceable via the registry agreement.

ICANN is cognizant of the seriousness of this issue and others, which is why we have been working closely with the public safety community, including law enforcement, to ensure that they understand and make correct use of policies and processes. ICANN and the Governmental Advisory Committee’s (GAC) Public Safety Working Group have been working together to create awareness on how to participate in ICANN and engage effectively in the GAC and ICANN’s policy making processes. One of the main areas of work has been capacity building within law enforcement agencies and the review of the Domain Name System (DNS) and its impact on public safety.

Additionaly, ICANN takes steps to remind all new gTLD registry operators of the Governmental Advisory Committee’s view expressed in Buenos Aires Communiqué on the importance of protecting children and their rights, consistent with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. (For more on this important topic, see entry #13 in Annex 1 to ICANN NGPC Resolution No. 2014.02.05.NG01 at http://www.icann.org/en/groups/board/documents/resolutions-new-gtld-annex-1-05feb14-en.pdf [PDF, 371KB].)

ICANN’s mission is to ensure the stable and secure operation of the Internet's unique identifier systems. As a global organization, we aim to realize our mission through our multistakeholder model, which depends on open, inclusive, transparent and accountable engagement, participation and policy development contributions from all stakeholders, ranging from businesses to governments to individual Internet users.


Akram Atallah

Former President, Global Domains Division