FTC wants ICANN to address overarching issues with new TLDs rather than one-off cases.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has responded to ICANN’s request that it investigate the practices of top level domain name registry Vox Populi over its rollout of the .sucks domain name.
I’d summarize its response as: “yeah, we told you this would happen with your rollout of new TLDs”.
FTC’s Chairwoman Edith Ramirez wrote (pdf) that the FTC cannot comment on the existence of any pending investigations, yet noted that the FTC will “monitor the actions of registries and other actors in this arena”.
She reminded ICANN that it brought up many of these consumer protection issues during the process of designing the new top level domain name program:
At the same time, the questions you and [President of Intellectual Property Committee] Mr. Shatan have posed regarding Vox Populi’s .SUCKS rollout raise important and broader consumer protection issues that the Commission previously highlighted prior to the launch of ICANN’s new gTLD program. Indeed, Mr. Shatan observed that other registries have also engaged in troubling tactics, even if not as egregious as those of Vox Populi. In view of the exponential expansion of gTLDs, these are not issues that can be feasibly addressed on a case-by-case basis. I therefore urge ICANN to consider ways in which it can address the concerns raised with respect to .SUCKS, as well as consumer protection issues more generally, on a broader basis.
I read this to say that the FTC doesn’t plan to pursue Vox Populi, and would instead like ICANN to fix “holes” in its program.
Ramirez then makes several specific recommendations, the first of which would be highly controversial: that site owners “prominently identify themselves to the public on their individual websites so that people do not confuse an “activist” site with a company-owned site”.
Although she was using .sucks as an example, this is a far reaching suggestion that I think a lot of “activists” would oppose. .Sucks aside, being an activist sometimes requires anonymity.
Ramirez also encourages ICANN to make sure the rights protections mechanisms for new domain names perform their intended functions and to reevaluate top level domain names targeted to highly regulated industries, such as banks and pharmacies.
Vox Populi has come under fire over .Sucks for charging brand holders stiff premiums to register their domain names before other people do.