[NA-Discuss] Regarding the .health applications

Evan Leibovitch evan at telly.org
Sun Mar 10 11:57:00 UTC 2013

Hello fellow NARALOers,

I have given a great deal of thought about this issue. Having been a former
chair of the ALAC gTLD working group and still an active member of that
group, I have a deep interest in this area.

If only there was as much debate about other ICANN  policies. This one
attracts so much attention because of the money potentially involved. But I
personally don't think it's that big a deal in the grand scheme of things.
These applications and subsequent objections are but a blip in a gTLD
expansion that, on the whole, is harmful to the public interest IMO.

As a result, I find myself as one of the few who have no strong feelings
about this particular vote.  binary choice of supporting the objections or
not, to me, is a choice between lesser evils. And I have promised not to
abstain. So for the sake of transparency I will outline the thought process
behind my thinking, indicate my current leaning, and invite any discussion
intended to either confirm my judgement or change my mind.

The actions of the WHO and other IGOs, elsewhere in ICANN policy making
activities, clearly demonstrate that they really do not care about the
public interest in domain name matters. So I have zero trust in the
position of the WHO or its surrogates, especially since they have refused
to put forward an application of their own, outlining positively in this
round what their vision of the  .health TLD should be.

Then there are the applicants. While I reject their for-profit status used
as a reason for objection, let’s not have any misconceptions that they have
any interest at heart besides their own. They will have no hesitation to
sell sub-domains to quacks and snake oil sellers, to the
vaccinations-are-evil crowd, or to approaches to "health" that  could very
well be lethal. At least one sees use beyond medicine, believing that the
TLD will be really appealing to those wanting to promote financial,
automotive, or all kinds of other forms of "health".

While some applications refer to public interest in either original or
subsequent submissions, they cannot be trusted either without concrete
enforcement regimes with explicit penalties. Given ICANN's existing
compliance track record I take as a given that any  "commitments" currently
on offer will be broken with few negative consequences.

So I have no delusions that any of the applications will be forces for
public good. But then, I would doubt that even in an application from the
WHO unless it was heavily policed.

What remains, then, is whether the current set of applications, if
successful, will cause harm. Will an un-curated  .health threaten either
the community of people interested in health (that is, everybody) or the
miniscule subset of that community which submitted the original objection.
Specifically, will it compound the harm already inflicted by the rest of
the TLD expansion, or for that matter by the current pre-expansion state of
the domain name system?

It is here, for the most critical question, that so little real evidence
exists to back up the claim. There is, for instance, no public damage done
by having a superficial fitness magazine run health.com. The existence of a
new cohort of new, untrustworthy names neither improves nor impedes access
to quality health information that already exists. This is, after all about
the phone books and not the phones.

So, in conclusion, I am impressed with neither the applications nor the
quality of the objections. But, on the balance, given the lack of logic or
evidence to prove harm to the entire health interested community (which
includes myself) my inclination is to vote against the objections.

I am willing and ready to change my PoV and eager to hear why. So far what
I have seen has been unconvincing.

- Evan

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