New domains proposed to serve protesters

In an effort to thwart cyberprotesters who try to erect protest sites against them, companies often buy up domain names like so-and-sostinks.com or so-and-sosucks.com.

Bell Atlantic, for example, owns BellAtlanticsucks.com.

This tactic disturbs Green Party presidential candidate and consumer gadfly Ralph Nader who, along with activist groups Consumer Project on Technology (www.cptech.org) and Essential Information (www.essential.org), have asked the Internet's authorities for permission to build 10 new "top level" domain names that would join the likes of .com and .org. The new domain names, which are intended to secure free-speech rights for the disgruntled, include .sucks, .complaints, and .isnotfair.

The March 1 letter to The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) says the idea is "to facilitate criticism of a firm or organization" by prohibiting an organization that owned a particular domain name to also own .sucks. Under such a plan, then, anyone except Bell Atlantic could own Bell-Atlanticsucks.com.

The money raised by selling access to the domain name would be given to a nonprofit group, The Dot Sucks Foundation, to help fund free-speech battles on the Internet.

Other top-level domains proposed by Nader and company include .customers and .union. Under the plan, .customers would be used "to create democratically managed membership organizations of the customers of particular companies."

Customers of, say, Microsoft would have the exclusive right to use the domain Microsoft.customer to collectively monitor the company's habits and products and complain until their hearts were content.

The letter says that the .customers domain would be a "cyberspace version" of Citizens Utilities Boards that began popping up in the 1970s. These state-based nonprofit organizations act as watchdogs over local utility companies.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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