ICANN seeks independent objector

In light of the opposition to the introduction of new gTLDs, it may come as a surprise that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) would seek to employ an official objector - but this is exactly what it is currently doing in inviting expressions of interest for the position of ‘independent objector’.
The role of the independent objector will be to file objections to individual new generic top-level domain (gTLD) applications where he or she determines, as a result of considering public comments submitted via the ICANN website's public comment fora, that there are valid reasons for doing so. Objections filed by the independent objector can be based on only two of the Applicant Guidebook's four objection mechanisms, namely those concerning morality and public order or where there is substantial opposition within the community targeted by the string.
Although the independent objector will work under the auspices of ICANN, neither ICANN staff nor Board members will have any influence over objections submitted by the objector.
Further, the independent objector should be impartial insofar as he or she should be "unaffiliated with any known potential TLD applicants" and will be expected to "act solely in the best interests of the public who use the global internet".
Whereas members of the general public or particular interest groups may easily submit comments via ICANN's public comment mechanisms, it would be more difficult, not to mention expensive, for individuals to file official objections. As such, the independent objector is intended to give an official voice to those whose objections might otherwise not be heard.
The independent objector may submit an objection based on one of the following two objection mechanisms enshrined in the Applicant Guidebook:
  • Limited public interest - this can be used when the gTLD string is contrary to generally accepted legal norms of morality and public order recognised under international principles of law; or
  • Community objection - this may be used when there is significant opposition to the gTLD application from a substantial portion of the community to which the gTLD is targeted.
Objections submitted on the above two grounds will be considered and a decision rendered by the International Centre for Expertise of the International Chamber of Commerce, and not by the ICANN Board.
One may wonder what the fate of the ‘.xxx’ TLD would have been had it been subject to consideration by such an independent objector in view of the substantial opposition the TLD faced from both the public, on the grounds of morality, and from within the adult entertainment industry itself. It may also mean that future strings such as ‘.porn’ and ‘.sex’ would be likely to fail, leaving ‘.xxx’ with a virtual monopoly as a standalone gTLD in its area of interest.
ICANN's call for expressions of interest and position description for the independent objector can be accessed here. A high level of skill and in-depth industry knowledge would appear to be required for the position, meaning that ICANN may well struggle to find suitably qualified candidates with the required degree of impartiality for the role.
David Taylor and Cindy Mikul, Hogan Lovells LLP, Paris

Get unlimited access to all WTR content