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Saudia Arabia Stamps Foot, Demands TLDs Wiped From the Web

Saudia Arabia Stamps Foot, Demands TLDs Wiped From the Web

Today in international tech news: Saudi Arabia asks ICANN to prohibit a laundry list of top-level domains -- .gay, .wine, .sex among them. Also: A Briton is sentenced to four years in prison for operating the streaming site surfthechannel.com; Walmart ups its stake in a Chinese e-commerce company; Ecuador has not, in fact, made a decision about the Julian Assange asylum case.

By David Vranicar
08/15/12 9:06 AM PT

Saudi Arabia has opposed the creation of various top-level domains, including .gay, according to the BBC.

The nation's Communications and Information Technology Commission declared that URLs ending in .gay would be offensive because homosexuality can be objectionable to nations' "culture, morality or religion." The commission has filed an official objection with ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, according to BBC.

Last year, ICANN announced that it would allow the suffixes of Web addresses to go beyond the standard ones like.com, .org, .gov, and so on.

A spokeswoman for the Lesbian and Gay Foundation, a British organization, said that it is "even more important" for citizens of Saudi Arabia to have information about homosexuality because of its vilified status in the Middle-Eastern country.

Saudi Arabia has also objected to URL suffixes such as .sex, .virgin, .sucks, .wine and others, according to BBC.

Locked Up for Links

Anton Vickerman, the British man who created the streaming website surfthechannel.com, has been sentenced to four years in prison, according to The Guardian.

Vickerman, 38, made nearly US$50,000 per month from the site, which linked users to pirated copies of TV shows and movies. He was not charged with copyright offenses but was instead convicted on charges of conspiracy to facilitate copyright infringement.

Vickerman, who is the first Briton to be jailed in the UK for operating such a website, set up surfthechannel in 2007 and cleared hundreds of thousands dollars through advertisements.

It is unclear, according to The Guardian, what, if any, impact Vickerman's sentence will have on the case of Richard O'Dwyer, the 24-year-old UK resident who faces extradition to the U.S. for his website, tvshack.net, which also featured links to various pirated materials that were hosted elsewhere.

Surfthechannel is not to be mistaken for channelsurfing.com, a similar but unrelated site set up in the U.S. The founder of ChannelSurfing also faces copyright charges.

Walmart's Chinese Connection

China's Ministry of Commerce has granted "restricted approval" to Walmart Stores to increase its stake in Chinese e-commerce company Yihaodian, according to Reuters.

The move would make Walmart the controlling shareholder of the company.

Walmart announced in February that it would raise its stake in Yihaodian, but the deal was first subject to antimonopoly review.

China is well on its way to becoming the world's largest e-commerce market. China's e-commerce market could reach $2.86 trillion by 2015, according to the state-run China Daily.

This is part of Walmart's ongoing push into the Chinese market. The company also has enormous stores throughout the country, similar to the U.S. stores (with a few twists).

Misreporting on Ecuador's Assange Decision

Ecuador is considering whether or not to grant asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. That much we know.

Anything more, however, is pure speculation, according to Ecuadorian officials.

News broke Tuesday that Ecuador was indeed mulling whether to grant asylum to Assange, who took refuge in the Ecuador Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted on sexual assault charges.

The Guardian reported Tuesday that Ecuador had indeed offered Assange asylum, but BNO News then reported that no decision had been made. Ecuador president Rafael Correa corroborated that report with a tweet which, translated to English, reads something like, "Assange asylum rumor is false. There is still no decision. I hope Foreign Ministry report.

Mashable -- which was among those to pounce on the false Guardian report -- tracked the evolving decision/non-decision here.


Tech Trek is a blog that looks at tech news from around the world. David Vranicar is a freelance journalist. His ECT News Network archive, with links to articles and podcasts, is available here. You can email him at david.vranicar@newsroom.ectnews.com.



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