Some of you may know about the research I and colleagues around the world have been pursuing on the new health-related domains published in the Lancet, JMIR, Globalization and Health, and featured by news outlets such as NPR, Kaiser Health News, the CBC, and others. Right now we have the unique opportunity to make an impact by demanding that that public health interests are a priority in the future of the Internet.
Currently, about a dozen health-related generic top level domains (gTLDs) are being added to the Internet. They include domains such as .healthcare, .med, .doctor, .clinic and MOST IMPORTANTLY a new .health. Unfortunately, ICANN is now in the process of awarding this hugely important domain space that could shape the very future of health information online to a company that has no interest nor expertise in public health. Basically, ICANN has ignored key stakeholders including the World Health Organization, World Medical Association, Save the Children, IMIA, France, Mali, and others who have expressed great concern about ICANN’s treatment of the .health. This recently ended in a secret and private settlement to award the .health that was scheduled to go to a public bidding process.
This decision is important as it will impact global public health and the health of individual consumers. As people increasingly use the Internet for health information and use that information to make crucial treatment decisions, the quality and trustworthiness of health information online has never been more important. A .health that was properly governed, had sufficient participation from the medical and public health community, and that was structured as a global public good for the broader community, could have been a game changer for ensuing the reliability of health information online and improving health outcomes. This has not happened, as ICANN has focused on economic and commercial interests over public health.
What you can do
We are now engaged in a last ditch push to make a real difference here and we have an opportunity to do so. Right now ICANN is having their annual meeting in Los Angeles. After discussions with friends at WHO, other academics, and even those sympathetic to our cause within ICANN, we’ve learned that only the broader public health and medical community can make a difference. For this reason, I am hoping you will join our coalition in letting ICANN know that the concerns of the public health community for the .health need to be addressed immediately.
You can make a difference by directly engaging in ICANN’s policy processes via an online public forum this THURSDAY, OCTOBER 16 - 14:00-17:00PM PDT. Participation is easy and will not take much of your time:
All you have to do is visit the following URL (http://la51.icann.org/en/schedule/thu-public-forum), and then click the “Virtual Meeting Room Stream Live” link, click the option to participate as a guest, and you will be entered into an adobe connect chat room where you can participate and voice your concerns. Some of the concerns that could be addressed are:
- why has ICANN ignored calls by the WHO, World Medical Association, France, Mali, and others about the .health
- why did ICANN award the .health with no transparency through a secret settlement?
- why has ICANN not responded to multiple letters sent to their board about the .health asking for a moratorium/suspension of the process?
- why does ICANN treat other domains such as .wtf, .sucks, with better safeguards than the .health?
- why has ICANN not listened to the public health community about the .health and other health-related domains?
- health is such an important issue, shouldn’t we have a place on the Internet where we can trust our health information?
I will be personally attending the ICANN meeting in LA and meeting with certain key ICANN officials to try to make an impact. Please join us so that we can ensure the .health is a place to improve your health, not harm it.
If you have any questions feel free to contact me at anytime attmackey AT ucsd.edu. Only with your help can we hope to make a difference.
References and Sources
- Mackey TK, Liang BA, Kohler J, Attaran A. The Fight over dot-health: Ensuring the Future of Health Information Online.<http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(13)62215-1/fulltext?rss=yes> The Lancet. 2013; 382:1404.
- Mackey TK, Liang BA, Kohler JC, Attaran A. Health Domains for Sale: The Need for Global Health Internet Governance<http://www.jmir.org/2014/3/e62/>. J Med Internet Res. 2014;16(3):e62.
- Mackey TK, Eysenbach G, Liang BA, Kohler JC, Geissbuhler A, Attaran A. A Call for a Moratorium on the .health Generic Top-Level Domain: Preventing the Commercialization and Exclusive Control of Online Health Information<http://www.globalizationandhealth.com/content/10/1/62>. Global Health: 2014; 10:62.
- National Public Radio: (http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/09/26/351416992/will-dot-health-make-it-more-likely-that-youll-get-scammed)
- Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/health-websites-could-be-overrun-by-commercial-interests-experts-fear-1.2779128)
- TechDirt (https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140926/08041428649/health-experts-issue-call-to-prevent-icanns-commercialization-new-health-domain-leading-to-exclusive-control-online-health.shtml)
- Medical News Today (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/283165.php)
- Kaiser Health News (http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Daily-Reports/2014/September/29/health-IT.aspx)
- Medpage (http://www.medpagetoday.com/PracticeManagement/InformationTechnology/44766)
HIFA profile: Tim K. Mackey is an Assistant Professor at University of California, San Diego - School of Medicine. He is also a current term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. tmackey AT ucsd.edu
My source: HIFA: Healthcare Information For All: www.hifa2015.org
HIFA Voices database: www.hifavoices.org