This article evaluates ICANN’s claims to legitimacy by means of a case study of the process for approving the controversial .XXX gTLD. An analysis of the disputes involving .XXX reveals flaws with ICANN’s structural and procedural safeguards. As this article argues, however, ICANN’s weak claims to legitimacy do not necessarily mean that DNS management and policy-making should be transferred to an international treaty-based organisation.
In June 2008, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) embarked upon an ambitious program of expansion at the top-level of the DNS. The policy underpinning expansion is notable for its adoption of new mechanisms that target the unauthorised use in new gTLDs of names the subject of legal – in particular trademark – rights. This article examines the rights protection mechanisms which emerged at the end of 2012, and the ICANN organisational structure and operational processes.