European Commission Charges U.S. Interference in Death of .XXX

Michael Hayes
BRUSSELS — While the battle of .XXX looks to be over, the war for Internet dominance continues to rage, as the European Commission leveled charges that ICANN’s decision to dump the controversial sponsored top-level-domain was nothing more than a U.S.-influenced power play.

“We see here a first clear case of political interference in ICANN,” Martin Selmayr, a spokesman for Viviane Reding, the European commissioner for information society and media, said.

Selmayr claimed that correspondence between ICANN and the U.S. Department of Commerce marked what he classified as “interference.” He went on to say that the recent 9-5 vote against .XXX demonstrated the need to make ICANN independent by fully privatizing the organization.

The European Union and other countries had hoped to achieve that goal last year.

According to ICANN, the decision to deny .XXX centered on issues of sponsorship, compliance and public policy concerns.

Still, many in Europe are suspicious of ICANN’s claims.

In an opinion piece for the English paper, The Register, Kieren McCarthy charged that .XXX died because of too much influence from right-wing Christian groups, a comment echoed by a recent news story in the Wall Street Journal.

“What happened behind the scenes was that the U.S. administration told ICANN Chairman Vint Cerf and head Paul Twomey that it did not approve of the domain,” McCarthy wrote. “But due to the difficult political position that it would put both ICANN and the U.S. government in were it to be seen to be directing Internet policy (against its publicly stated ‘hands off’ policy), there has been a carefully coordinated effort to kill the registry through delay.”

Calling the .XXX decision a “hot potato,” McCarthy surmised that the split vote at ICANN represented “a new breed of board member [who] has tired of the secretive approach the organization.” However, she closed the article by saying that ICANN been “compromised by political pressures.”