Should domain name registrars have the right to cancel a domain because they don’t like the content of the website it supports? How many registrars’ terms of service contracts give them this right and how many don’t? Should ICANN’s Registrar Accreditation Agreement ensure registrar neutrality, or is competition sufficient to protect users’ rights?
These questions are explored in a new IGP research paper, “In Search of Amoral Registrars: Content Regulation and Domain Name Policy“, to be released next week at ICANN 60 in Abu Dhabi. The paper makes an empirical and conceptual contribution to the debate over domain name policy and Internet content regulation. We examine the Terms of Service from 74 ICANN contracted parties who operate more than 2,300 domain name registrars to find out how many have “morality” clauses of the sort that knocked the Daily Stormer off the Internet. We find that registrars with morality clauses in their ToS, or an operational equivalent, comprise around 59% of registrars and account for approximately 62% of the domain name market. We go on to analyze and discuss the role of private actors in governing Internet content, seeking to define a clear and principled position regarding content regulation by private actors in the DNS and the role of ICANN.
Please direct any inquires to the authors, Brenden Kuerbis, Ishan Mehta and Milton Mueller.