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

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 [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.


    Domain Name System
    Internationalized Domain Name ,IDN,"IDNs are domain names that include characters used in the local representation of languages that are not written with the twenty-six letters of the basic Latin alphabet ""a-z"". An IDN can contain Latin letters with diacritical marks, as required by many European languages, or may consist of characters from non-Latin scripts such as Arabic or Chinese. Many languages also use other types of digits than the European ""0-9"". The basic Latin alphabet together with the European-Arabic digits are, for the purpose of domain names, termed ""ASCII characters"" (ASCII = American Standard Code for Information Interchange). These are also included in the broader range of ""Unicode characters"" that provides the basis for IDNs. The ""hostname rule"" requires that all domain names of the type under consideration here are stored in the DNS using only the ASCII characters listed above, with the one further addition of the hyphen ""-"". The Unicode form of an IDN therefore requires special encoding before it is entered into the DNS. The following terminology is used when distinguishing between these forms: A domain name consists of a series of ""labels"" (separated by ""dots""). The ASCII form of an IDN label is termed an ""A-label"". All operations defined in the DNS protocol use A-labels exclusively. The Unicode form, which a user expects to be displayed, is termed a ""U-label"". The difference may be illustrated with the Hindi word for ""test"" — परीका — appearing here as a U-label would (in the Devanagari script). A special form of ""ASCII compatible encoding"" (abbreviated ACE) is applied to this to produce the corresponding A-label: xn--11b5bs1di. A domain name that only includes ASCII letters, digits, and hyphens is termed an ""LDH label"". Although the definitions of A-labels and LDH-labels overlap, a name consisting exclusively of LDH labels, such as"""" is not an IDN."