- - Wednesday, April 15, 2015

President Obama’s two big decisions on the Internet are poles apart. In 2009, his Department of Commerce relinquished big chunks of America’s control over the Internet to ICANN. Six years later, Mr. Obama’s Federal Communications Commission now wants to dictate “fairness” by imposing so-called “net neutrality.”

From the recent FCC decision, the Web may soon suffer new taxes, along with bureaucrats who will try to control content. But from the 2009 decision it’s a certainty that massive cyberbullying is being unleashed. Bullying is quite profitable.

Mr. Obama gave control of Internet domains to a group that approves coarse and offensive tags known as domain suffixes because they are hugely profitable, and now we are all reaping the consequences.

Soon there will be 1,000-plus dot-this and dot-that extensions. Already awarded are 924 mostly new top-level domain suffixes that include .porn, .xxx, .sucks, .toys, .sexy, .adult, .poker, .love, .faith and .party. They join the original, familiar two dozen or so extensions such as .com, .net, .edu and .gov, plus country extensions such as .ru (for Russia).

These suffixes are known as “top-level domains” and they command top-level prices. Just to review an application, the newly liberated ICANN charges each applicant $185,000. Almost 2,000 applications have been submitted and half are still undergoing review (which is why .sex is not yet assigned). Do the math: That’s $370 million flowing through ICANN merely for processing.

ICANN also charges fees, such as a reported $25,000 annually just to keep an already-awarded domain. For 1,000 domains, that’s an extra $25 million.

ICANN — the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers — is a non-profit corporation based in California. Its revenues have soared thanks to the Obama 2009 decision. ICANN’s revenues in 2010 totaled $68 million, but its latest IRS filing shows $236 million in revenue for 2012 and corporate assets that have ballooned from $99 million in 2010 to $397 million.

Why would someone pay $185,000 just to apply for a name? Perhaps because controlling domain names like .sucks or .porn is a license to extort. Paris Hilton reportedly paid a small fortune so that nobody else gets parishilton.porn. How much will celebrities like Jessica Alba, Sandra Bullock, Justin Bieber and Beyonce pay not to have a site following their name with .porn? Taylor Swift reportedly protected herself by buying taylorswift.xxx. But will Miley Cyrus or Lindsay Lohan care?

Imagine the going rate for a site such as HillaryClinton.sucks or TedCruz.sucks. You don’t get them at GoDaddy.com prices — $2,500 per name per year is the starting price by the group that controls .sucks. For the Fortune 500 alone, there is lots of protection money available. The Hollywood Hot List adds another 1,400 names. There is no redeeming social value in such nastiness, but there is wealth.

We’re about to be inundated with a plethora of derogatory names. Our liberal media went wild when activists persuaded bureaucrats to declare that “Washington Redskins” offensive and unworthy of trademark protection. But what’s coming is far worse and genuinely offensive.

Businesses must defend themselves. Reports are that Microsoft, Google and Apple have paid protection money and bought the .sucks suffix that would go with their names, as has actor Kevin Spacey. But no word yet on cocacola.sucks, or chevy.sucks, ford.sucks, mcdonalds.sucks, etc.

It gets worse. There is also another new top-level domain known as .wtf.

Because ICANN is still processing applications (when not investing its hundreds of millions of dollars in fees), we have disparities that make no sense. There are now .fan, .football, .golf, .fish and .tennis domains, but not .baseball or .basketball. There is a new .cat but not a .dog.

Imagine how upset some entrepreneurs must be that similar names were approved. The new .date domain must be unhappy that .dates is also coming online. We are getting both .wed and .wedding. And .trade as well as .trading. For homebuyers, there are .homes, .house and .realtor. Perhaps the most confusing group gives you a choice between .photo, .photos, .photography, .pic and .pictures.

Businesses and individuals must buy all the extensions they can to protect themselves fully from the cyberbullying. The only consistency seems to be the grab for money.

In another era, the first telegraph message, sent by inventor Samuel F.B. Morse in 1844, asked, “What hath God wrought?”

Only God knows what is about to break loose on the Internet.

 — Former Congressman Ernest Istook is president of Americans for Less Regulation.


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