Medical Experts Worry That Commercial Interests Are Quietly Taking Over Health Resources On The Internet

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A coalition of health policy academics and clinicians believe commercial interests and the generation of profits will take over the future integrity of what they call the Health Internet.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) plans to launch health-related generic top-level domains such as .health and .doctor.

In commentary published in the journal of Globalization and Health, the experts call for a moratorium on use of the new internet domain .health.

They say the six-figure application costs and the bidding award system puts the domain delegation process out of reach for health care non-profits.

The group of experts, headed by Tim Mackey of the Global Health Policy Institute, says the oversight body has failed to acknowledge concerns submitted by groups such as the World Medical Organization, the World Health Organization and Save the Children.

“While ICANN has chosen to disregard these cautions, it has favoured applicants from other sectors including larger corporations,” they say.

When ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee protested that certain new proposed domains such as .wtf, .fail, .gripe and .sucks, could be wielded against businesses by angry customers, ICANN singled these out and suspended further plans.

Tim Mackey says little is known about the characteristics of health-related generic top-level domain applicants.

He says:

“What is clear, however, is that several privately held, for-profit businesses, many of which are completely unknown to the public health field and have no such expertise, are actively seeking or have already been awarded these new health domains and propose few if any needed restrictions on future use.”

The future web could see: www.smoking.health, owned and administered by tobacco companies and unscrupulous vendors operating www.cancer.doctor to lure vulnerable patients.

The authors recommend the formation of an expert working panel comprised of a diverse set of eHealth stakeholders to constructively discuss the role and governance of generic top-level domains to ensure universal access to quality health information online.

This includes discussion on consumer privacy and protection, methods of assurance and verification of quality/trusted health information, proactive prevention of online fraud and abuse.

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