Saudi Arabia has opposed the roll out of a number of a number of new gTLDs (Generic Top Level Domain) with its Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) labeling them “offensive” to some societies and cultures.
The main area of controversy lay in the .GAY “string”, which four different organisations have applied to own. The filing could now mean a long wait before a ruling on ownership is made.
Icann (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) received 1,930 applications for gTLD strings (the application window closed in June) which could be used as an alternative to .com, .net, .org or other suffixes currently supported by the web space. However, before deciding on who will own a gTLD, third parties are allowed to oppose its creation.
Saudi Arabia has also opposed the following gTLD strings:
.SEX because they believe it will increase the volume of pornographic material on the web.
.VIRGIN, .SUCKS, .DATING and .BABY because they have pornographic connotation.
.TATOO because such practice is opposed by religions such as Islam and Judaism.
.WINE and .VODKA because such strings may encourage the consumption of alcohol.
.AFRICAMAGIX because it implies that Africa is linked to Black magic and thus is offensive
Saudi Arabia already censors its citizens web access to gay and lesbian forums, and homosexuality is still punishable by death. If ICANN ignore the objections the strings are likely to be censored by the government, anyhow. And so unless ICANN receives further substantial opposition, the regulator is unlikely to reject the applications.
The opposition may become a bigger thorn in the side of the entire gTLD rollout– because the controversy is likely to rouse new opposition from other hard-line countries and religious groups, who previously may not have realised the implications of the new gTLDs.
What isn’t clear is just how many complaints are needed to thwart the creation of a particular gTLD string. Neither is it clear what power any opposition has over implementation. It is entirely feasible that countries could opt out and choose to censor stings based on religious/ethical grounds, but then surely this would greatly affect the value and success of the gTLD in question. This may also lead to applicants withdrawing bids.