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The Internet

WHO Bid To Regulate Health Sites 157

Andy Smith writes "This BBC story reports on efforts by the World Health Organisation [?] to improve the quality of health-related web sites. They want a new TLD -- .health -- to be introduced. All .health sites would then be regulated by the WHO. Here's the press release, which predicts that 'dot health could soon be as well known as dot com'." It's quite an issue - do you want to be able to "trust" the health sites, assuming that's what regulation means, or do you worry more about the innovation of the sites being quashed by an organization?
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WHO Bid To Regulate Health Sites

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Anyone sponsored by the world health organisation should return the favour by putting who after their title.

    We need a new Doctor WHO.
  • I'm consolidating replies. Deal.

    1) Impartiality != inability to judge merit. Judges are in theory impartial, but their very job is to discriminate true from false, legal from illegal.

    2) .health != censorship. Still plenty of room for .med. Or .medicine. Or www.realtruemedicalfactsIswear.org. If the WHO doesn't do a good job with their resource, nobody will use it, at which point they'll have economic incentive to give it back and let someone else have a go.

    3) People *are* too dumb to decide for themselves when specific expertise outside of their domain of knowledge is required. There are many things which each of us is too dumb to handle. I should not be allowed to make design decisions for particle accelerators. A nuclear physicist should not be allowed to set himself up as an authority in treating disease. If there are regulations on who can bill themselves as an MD and hand out medical advice in meatspace, why should the same rules not apply in cyberspace? The information doesn't gain extra validity from being on the Web.

    4) The WHO is probably as qualified as any organization to set up a global database of summarized and easily-digestible medical knowledge. They're one of the biggest names in international medicine. I certainly wouldn't want something like this limited to just the AMA.

    5) If not them, then who else? What would you use .health for? .xxx? Somebody's got to run it. Why not have people actually exercise a bit of discretion over what goes in what TLD, so that .orgs really are non-profit and .coms are only companies and .nets are only ISPs and so on? (And I personally still don't see .xxx as censorship; I see it as an excellent way for people who want porn to get porn and people who hate porn to avoid porn.)
  • OK, a lot of people are probably tired of my voluminous posts on this, my pet issue. But I want to drop out of satire mode for a minute and try to lay out the systematic case against all these new value-related TLDs, i.e. TLDs that are supposed to be either good (.health, .kids) or bad (.porn).

    1. Values are subjective and cultural
    An American's PG-13 movie is an Iranian's porn flick. Or as fishbowl wote above, What are the odds that any "medical marijuana" information sites will ever be allowed a .health domain, for instance?

    2. Positive-value TLDs are a form of censorship.
    The agenda behind positive TLDs is the feeling that people are too stupid to make up their own minds. KahunaBurger wrote I'm tired of this crazy internet attitude where people honestly think you can throw all the claims into the same pot and the accurate ones will rise to the top naturally. As a physics professor, I devote my entire professional life to making people smart enough to make their own decisions. From what I've seen, a definite characteristic of ignorance is to distrust the right sources of information because they contradict one's prejudices or assumptions. Even if we had a .health run and censored by WHO, there would still be uneducated people who wouldn't trust WHO as a source of information telling them that cell phones and power lines can't give them cancer, and there would still be a large number of people in L.A. who would seek out sleazy inyeccionistas rather than trusting WHO's statements that they should take fluids and aspirin if they have the flu. The solution is education, not censorship.

    3. Negative-value TLDs are the back door to censorship.
    These may sound like they're more benign, since they aren't content-controlled. But the agenda is to force unpopular speech into an internet ghetto, where it can be easily filtered out.

    4. Linking and subdomains work fine for endorsing content
    All these organizations that are applying for positive-value TLDs are free to make their own web portal sites, with links only to the content that they deem OK. They are also free to give subdomains to people they approve of.

    5. Power over an entire TLD's contents is too much to entrust to any one organization
    Many people seem to think that it's OK to give power over .health to WHO because it seems like a scientific and objective subject. Who ever said governments or unelected bureaucrats were objective? Think back to Galileo's trial for heresy. Think back to the judge who ordered Lavoisier's execution, with the words "The state doesn't need scientists." Think of the politicians in Alabama who require all public-school biology textbooks to have disclaimers in the front about how evolution is "just a theory," and can't be proven because nobody was there to see it happen. Nobody, elected or unelected, can be trusted with power over a sphere of human activity as vast as .health or any other TLD.

    6. What if they do a bad job?
    None of the organizations applying for positive-value TLDs like .health or .kids have shown they have what it takes to put together a world-class web portal. If Yahoo or Open Directory does a bad job, people will stop going there and they'll be replaced by somebody better. But once the fix is in on a TLD, it becomes a permanent entitlement. The likely result is that the TLD namespace will become polluted with low-quality, sparsely populated TLDs, just as the .com domain list currently reads like an unabridged dictionary worth of placeholder sites.

    7. You would never know what you were missing.
    Suppose your local library, under political pressure, starts allowing access only to high-quality TLDs like .health and .christian. They block access to .com and .org, because, well, they has too much yucky stuff on them. If the library is your only way to get internet access, then you'd never know what was censored. Far-fetched? Let's not underestimate the cluelessness of politicians.

    --

  • Why not use the system the way it was designed to be used?

    --

  • These are not the people who should be determining what is and is not good for you. A more valid approach would be convening an independent group of experts who would look at sites and give them their stamp of approval. They could also maintain a list of sites they considered quacky.
    ...
    Political organizations are always tainted by their quest to increase their funding and power. If you doubt that, a close look at the EPA or the FDA should convince you rather quickly


    So this group (WHO) is political and useless, but we should make another group because it would be better? How will this new group of people get funding and stay away from politics if they are rating all the medical information on the web?

    You seem to be saying "these guys suck because they were appointed experts by the world" and that the solution is to appoint another group of experts by the world (just without all the bad parts).

    ---------------------------------------------
  • I agree with Harlequin Jones. If WHO wants to show that it deserves any standing among websites it could start by setting up a high-grade site of their own. yaWHO or something. Let's see if they know what they are doing on the Internet. (Do they already have a site? Never heard of it.)(Don't have the resources for a web site? Then they don't have the resources to regulate other sites, do they?)
  • Right on, laetus! It's as if having your own domain makes you trustworthy, so having your own TLD makes you automatically even more trustworthy.

    --

  • The advantage of a domain over an "Approved by the WHO" graphic is that it is much easier for them to control.

    Say I run a snake oil web site and I want to mislead the public into thinking that it is approved by the WHO. All I have to do is go to an approved site, save the graphic, and add it to my page.

    Sure the WHO can take me to court and ask me to remove the graphic. But first they have to notice the violation, next they may have to spend the legal fees and a possibly a fair amount of time in court. In the meantime, who knows how many people have been to my site and been misled?

    If they are the ones that grant the domain name, they don't have to spend any resources looking for and dealing with pirates who are misappropriating their "approved by the WHO" graphic and they don't have to worry about the misinformation that is spread before they can take action.

    That seems to me to be a significant advantage (from the WHO perspective) that a .health domain carries over an "Approved by the WHO" graphic.
  • My god, you mean WHO hasn't single-handedly solved every health problem on earth yet? For shame! They're obviously corrupt because they spend any time on tobacco while people are starving (of course, they also do stuff about the starving people, but it's not solved yet so they're obviously not doing enough!)...

    ---------------------------------------------
  • "Other posts mentioned the AMA, FDA, etc, and each of these certainly has no more *legitmate* (as oppposed to politically delagated) authority in such matters than the WHO."

    Any body (formally or informally organized) serves, first and foremost, to ensure its own existence and to spread its influence. I was trying to point out that any organization serves its own needs first, even if it labels itself with a "non-profit" or "health" tag. Perhaps TLDs should also be handed out to individual corporations, so that, say, Microsoft can regulate the 'Net's contents of Microsoft related information. In this way, MS consumers could be sure that they recieve only the offical and correct information from the obvious single authority on such matters.

    An MD thinks as economically as an MBA. Wise to keep in mind

  • Nothing stops you from faking the information. What makes you trust any doctor?
  • Probably becuase health.com is already taken. And .com doesn't make too much sense for a information providing non-profit (?) organization.
  • This is reminiscent of the Oklahoma land grab. The territory of Oklahoma was off limits to settlement until 12pm on a certain date. The people who wanted a piece of land lined up at the border and raced into the territory to stake their claim before someone else got there.
  • This is just a certification mark institutionalized in the domain naming system. As such, it doesn't bother me so much. The validity of the certification mark is entirely dependent on the percieved trustworthiness of WHO. If they mess up and start not including good information because it doesn't come from sources they approve of, the certification mark will lose its validity.

    As for the comments people are making about whether or not the Internet is authoritative... It is no more or less authoritative than any other source. Every piece of information you get needs to be picked through critically. The idea that some source or another is somehow 'official' exists because of mass broadcast media. It's a historical anomoly that I think is in the process of being rectified.

  • by Mike Schiraldi ( 18296 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @05:51AM (#622796) Homepage Journal
    "WHO bid to regulate health sites"

    "I don't know, who bid to regulate health sites?"

    "Exactly."

    "Oh, exactly bid to regulate health sites?"

    "No, WHO bid to regulate health sites"

    "Exactly."

    "Now you've got it!"
    --
  • Just like you can't call your local GNC store a health facility and you can't claim that the products they sell can make you healthy then sites who don't want to be subject to the regulation wouldn't opt in to that domain. OTOH sites that do would have a defacto baseline certification like a seal of approval, for what it's worth. I think this whole topic has more to do with services than sites. So for example the eating disorder treatment specialist I saw on the news and who handles all his patients online only would have to certify into the .health domain in order qualify. By extension you would have all of your financial dealings through intermediaries in the .health domain such as HMO's <keeping with the myth that HMO's have anything to do with health, wink> and so on. Of course all of this implies some kind of audit and policing to insure compliance.
  • by Wellspring ( 111524 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @05:52AM (#622798)

    First, this violates the first Amendment (not that the UN cares, but people in democracies should be concerned about attempts to regulate any content).

    Second, intelligent people do disagree on medical issues. For instance, herbal remedies or chiropractic medicine. Some say it's quackery, and others say it works, and shouldn't be banned just because the mechanism by which it works hasn't been understood yet.

    Third, the whole value of the internet is its freedom. ANYONE can make a web site. But if the WHO is going to regulate anything, they will have to have prior approval. If they do, that pretty much bans all 'unofficial' health web sites. If they don't, that just guarantees that hospitals, companies, doctors and other credentialled providers have a huge regulatory hurdle to jump through, when the quacks and con men don't.

    Really, what does this accomplish which the WHO can't do already with a gif, a review committee and a 'seal of approval'. If they like a web site, just give it the seal and the right to use the trademarked gif.

    Answer: Noone cares what the WHO does or thinks. By getting the force of law behind them (through ICANN's power over TLDs), they are hoping to grab legitimacy and importance by force-- when they certainly haven't earned it.

  • Wouldn't the best way to do this be with an SSL certificate from the WHO? Provided browsers could present this certificate in a way that ordinary users understand.

    (Hey, Rob sneaked in another reference to the WHO on Slashdot :-))
  • Hi, but what about web sites of people which a sick of a determinated illness. Usually you can more help (in the case of rare diseases) from other people experience.
    Check the case of Diabetes insipidus and the site of Diabetes Insipidus Foundation [maxinter.net].

    bye
    OverLord
  • which was to expand the namespace and heal some of the damage done by clueless domain-name homesteaders.

    Interesting experiment: (1) Open the dictionary to a random page and pick a random English word. (2) Check, and you'll almost certainly find that word.com is registered. (3) Now go to word.com and see if there's any useful content there. There almost certainly isn't.

    The beauty of adding TLDs is that it increases the number of intelligible, memorable domain names by many orders of magnitude, which would make it economically impossible for the same losers to buy up every domain name. (Well, I'm sure Internet Solutions would love to see them try ;-)

    But proposals like this will just pollute the TLD space in the same way the .com space has already been polluted. All that's going on here is a type of inflation. It's no longer sufficiently prestigious to own a .com or .org domain. Now, you need your own TLD to show how important you are. If ICANN starts approving all these censored TLDs, you can bet that in a few years, the same dictionary experiment will yield the same result for TLDs that it currently gives for .coms. The only difference is that a TLD is thousands of times more expensive, so ICANN will rake in the bucks, and the internet namespace will become the property of big corporations.

    If WHO is so wonderful, let them build their who.int site into a world-renowned, high-quality portal that everyone will go to because it's so great. Yahoo and Open Directory did it without having .yahoo and .dmoz TLDs.

    --

  • Innovation in making up bogus medical reports? It should only be facts.
  • Why should an international organization like the WHO which is not beholden to the people of the world be allowed to regulate? I say let each country decide how it will or will not regulate. The UN (the WHO is a UN agency) smacks of elitism more than anything else. They don't trust the popularly elected democratic governments in the west to run their countries and internet access.
  • Assuming that the WHO takes the time to be impartial about stuff at the edges of knowledge (as in "we have no clue why this works, and we haven't entirely proven that it *does* work, but we're pretty sure it's not going to hurt you"), this would be a Very Good Thing. There is an ungodly large amount of health misinformation on the net, and most of the sites that have true scientific data force you to pay or be affiliated with an institution to access it.

    Being able to simply look at a domain name and know "this is solid peer-reviewed stuff" would be great, and it'd be even better to be able to tell patients "If it comes from .health, it's probably right; with other stuff, be careful." It'll probably be turned down, following the same precedent as .xxx, but I wish it wouldn't be.
  • What, you don't want .peace run by NATO, and .socialharmony run by the Chinese government?

    --

  • As long as they don't try to shutdown health related websites that aren't in the .health TLD, more power to them. Most people are intelligent enough to decide if they want FDA approved drugs, or if they're willing to do their homework and try alternative medicines, why not the same thing for web sites?
  • .. relevant fact that the anti-WHO propaganda you linked to was compiled by a pro-tobacco organization funded by the tobacco industry.

    OK, another example, vaccinations [home.iae.nl]. The WHO are rather keen on assaulting everyones immune system with these foreign proteins.
    Sure there are plenty of raving nutters [biblebelievers.org.au] who oppose the WHO. However that is no validation of WHO's actions. There are some very odd people opposing Micros~1, does that make free OS's wrong & Windows a stable, useful OS? Probably not.

  • The Rolling Sttones are going to regulate all the websites by all the drug companies.
  • Alternative medicine is a weird name anyway. Isn't acupuncture now used by lots of doctors anyway? When does something stop being called 'alternative'?

    "alternative" is a bad name because it implies that you have to do one or the other. Many of the non-wacko practitioners of such fields as herbalism, accupressure/puncture, massage, etc now refer to their practice as "complementary" or "suplementary". This sort of use is supported by many mainstream doctors as well, with the understanding that you have to tell your herbalist what "regular" medicines you're on, and your doctor what herbs you're taking. It's all chemicals, whether its produced in a medical plant or a medicinal plant. (ok, that pun probably failed miserably, I was trying to play off of plant=green thing, herb, vs plant=manufacturing building.)

    Note to the orriginal poster - what the hell are you talking about? WHO is not the AMA, and from what I have seen, has a broad yet appropriately scientific attitude on alternative/complementary medicine. And when did the WTO come into this? Lose the ultra-independant mindset, a large organization dedicated to world health acting as a gatekeeper for all the BS out there is a good thing, and the snake oil peddlers can still hang out in .com making folks like you believe them even more because "the medical establishment is afraid of our challenge to their power, and refuses to let our wisdome be heard!" What a ripe load of BS.

    -Kahuna Burger

  • I believe that the WHO is better at providing information on health issues than any HMO in the US. In fact I think HMO's in the US often try to keep information from people and flout WHO guidelines when its their interest.

    Giving the WHO control over .health sites would hopefully let them influence other health organizations and maybe even provide a forum for individuals to share information on health organizations in their region.

  • Definitely!
    That is the right way to do it.
    Medical information is a serious thing. I definitely sympathise with an effort, not to ban alternative medicin from the net, but to clearly mark approved advice as approved.
    I might be able to tell a quack from a working alternative, but there are a lot of suckers out there.

    Actually, I'd like to see something similar in the other sections. Make "controlled" TLD-s for those who wish to play it safe, and leave the "normal" net to those who think they have clues enough to separate a hoax from a serious site, a parody from an imposter and an art gallery from a porn site.

  • Excellent point. They, or the AMA or FDA or whoever I choose to trust, could also create an "approved" branding scheme with a trademarked graphic and have a page of links to approved sites. Having a single, largely unaccountable bureaucracy have control over a domain is unnecessary.
  • Hell, in Santa Fe, a person can't go ten with being offered Rolfing (whatever the hell it is, I live in SF and I sure as hell can't figger it out) or acupuncture (there's a shop/clinic like every 10 feet). I don't know what so special about all that stuff, but some chinese herbs sure are handy. I remember getting a urinary tract infection once, my mom gave me so strange tea an PEWF it was gone!

    The AMA can quite literally suck me off. They are another unsactions hate-mongering machine, similar to the WTO, which is unregulated, and for some reason people seem to care what they have to say. WELL I SAY if your doctor is well trained, no matter what discipline, you are in better hands than some rich white boy who's daddy bought him a degree any day of the week.

    Now if we could just get the US gov't past the marijuana thing...

  • I can't think of any reason to oppose it.

    Really? I think most people would want to find out more [forces.org] about any group that they were going to trust with their lives.
    Bet you'd trust Jeb Bush to declare an election result, too ;-p

  • How reluctant would Time Warner be to give up that domain, and who would want to be responsible for zoning off all the subdomains?

    Registrant: TimePublishingVentures(HEALTH5-DOM) 1271AvenueoftheAmericas NewYork,NY10020 US Recordlastupdatedon28-Jan-1999. Recordexpireson23-Mar-2001. Recordcreatedon22-Mar-1995.

  • The day people start judging the reliability of medical information based on the URL is going to be a sad day for medicine. Personally, I like to judge web sites based on their content rather then on their URL. If my expertise is insufficient to let me judge, I usually go to a reliable portal like Open Directory. I sure don't base my trust on the URL.

    If it was something really critical to my health, I'd probably start looking in medical journals, which are peer-reviewed. I assume WHO isn't going to duplicate the peer-reviewing structures that the journals already have in place, so what would they really be adding that would be valuable?

    Assuming that the WHO takes the time to be impartial about stuff at the edges of knowledge (as in "we have no clue why this works, and we haven't entirely proven that it *does* work, but we're pretty sure it's not going to hurt you"),
    Oh my God! The last thing on earth I want is for medical authorities to be impartial. I want them to be scientific. Science is not supposed to be impartial when it comes to claims that are objectively wrong. Should I be spending money on worthless herbal dietary supplements just because someone is "pretty sure" they're "not going to hurt" me?

    If people want to disseminate information about homeopathy and fat-dissolving soap, let them do it uncensored. If people want to build reliable health-information web sites, let them do it uncensored. The purpose of the TLD system is not to provide support for censorship.

    --

  • I mean, I'm opposed to any new TLDs.. but beyond that.

    This is not conspiracy.. this would actually not be bad (if I didn't disagree with the concept of adding new tld's in the first place).

    Nothing is stopping them from doing this under who.int! or getting health.int up! After all, they are the world health organization!

    The idea of 'okaying' things is just fine (ever read the Oceania constitution? Same idea). There is absolutely nothing wrong with an organization giving it's approval to many sites, and telling the public what that approval means.

    So long as they don't try to eradicate sites that DON'T want their approval, I say it's perfectly fine.

    This already happens to a degree. You can try alternative medacines if you want (kind of hard if the treatments you want require prescription drugs though). You do not HAVE to go to the health-board approved people. You only have to understand the difference.
  • I think this is a fabulous idea. Why? Because anytime you go to a site in the .health domain you can be confident that you're getting medical information that agrees at least in part with the opinions of the medical establishment. As much as we gripe about doctors and HMOs and other features/bugs of Western medicine, they do a pretty decent job.

    So what does this mean for health sites that the WHO won't sanction? Are they out of luck? Certainly not! They can set up a beautiful website under .com or .org or .ws or any other TLD they choose. Perhaps we can even form a new gTLD, .ill, for health-related sites that aren't WHO-sanctioned. =]

    Seriously--the fact that a .health site is guaranteed to contain valid medical knowledge, does not imply that a non-.health site is guaranteed not to contain medical knowledge. That's one hell of a fallacy. If WHO were proposing to regulate all health websites, I'd be up in arms. But they're simply proposing to carve out a hunk of the DNS namespace and set it aside in the name of conservative medicine. If I open my own health website under a different TLD (sex-prevents-heart-disease.com?) and it's popular enough and useful enough, then its domain name really won't matter.
  • But, if a comittee of unrelated physicians disagrees or supports your results

    But all physicians are related - they've all been through medical school, they've all been through the state-sponsored "health" monopoly gateway program ("licensing" exams), and they're (almost) universally whipping boys of drug company. Most doctors don't care about dealing with what causes health problems, they only deal with symptoms. An example: I've been troubled by an RSI for quite some time (almost a year now). A month ago I went to the student health center to get a referal to a chiropractor (as recommended by various parties on slashdot). The guy basically said "haha, what do you know? A chiropractor can't help you. Here's some drugs, if they don't work we'll send you to the surgeon". I didn't want to be dependant on drugs, so I bought a copy of Pain Free at Your PC [amazon.com], and am now able to type without as much of a problem. (I believe that I should be doing the exercises in the book more often to be completely pain-free...)

    How would a comittee of physicians deal with something like a report on how to achieve superhealth? Sure, some might be open minded, but most would turn off their critical thinking skills after reading the fourth line: "Consider the possibility that people in general, and the "medical profession" in particular, do not understand very much about the etiology (causation) of heart disease." When your comittee of physicians disagrees with information, it's defacto censorship. People searching out information to "become their own doctor" will look at a report such as the one above, but then think "well, the WHO said it's mostly bullshit, time to move on". The next site they go to will probably be by some "authority", such as the mayo clinic's site or the AMA's site. And their money stays in the hands of the state-sponsored health monopoly. In short, most doctors just don't have a clue.

    Not all physicians are closed minded though... If you can find one who really cares about making his patients truly health, you're in luck.

  • Sure, but the keyword in my post was "serial number", so that it's possible to check back with the WHO and verify the rating.


  • of statements like this
    The WHO are the people who successfully rid the world of smallpox

    when posters are talking about how dubious some alternative health information is on the web.

    Try some facts [unc.edu]:
    Japan experienced yearly increases in small pox following the introduction of compulsory vaccines in 1872. By 1892, there were 29,979 deaths, and all had been vaccinated. [1] Early in this century, the Philippines experienced their worst smallpox epidemic ever after 8 million people received 24.5 million vaccine doses; the death rate quadrupled as a result.[2]

    As for

    may soon succeed in eliminating polio

    Improved sanitation and hygienic practices lead to a drastic reduction in this disease before mass vaccination was even introduced.

    (1) Trevor Gunn, Mass Immunization, A Point in Question, p 15 (E.D. Hume, Pasteur Exposed-The False Foundations of Modern Medicine, Bookreal, Australia, 1989.) (2) Physician William Howard Hay's address of June 25, 1937; printed in the Congressional Record.

  • Okay, so I read through all the posts (rated at 1 or up anyways) and heres what I see from it.

    A "WHO Certified" graphic is not a good idea. It is too easily stolen and put on non-approved sites. Certificates and other such authentication requests get more complicated than we need to.

    Some of you don't like/trust WHO. That's fine, that's your right. People have linked to various web sites showing the evil that WHO has done. Regardless, WHO has been responsible for some very GOOD things, like the elimination of small pox (Okay, they do have some stored, but there has not been a person infected for I believe over 20 years). In any case, imagine the following.

    WHO gets granted and begins using the .who domain. Lets say I am a strong believer in the WHO and trust their findings. As a reasonably informed user of the internet, I know that by going to www.cancer.who (or whatever disease/virus/ailment you want) I am getting accurate information from an agency I trust. Is this wrong? Lets say I distrust the WHO, I know that anything in the .who domain is something I won't necessarily believe or at least take with a grain of salt.

    So maybe this will expand and other national health organizations will want their own TLD (Health Canada, AMA, etc). That's something that can be decided at a later date. Remember, the WHO is generally well respected in the world as backing up reccommendations with evidence. I won't say facts, as previous posts have mentioned, you can't say Drug X will cure Ailment Z.

    Personally, I'd say don't let them have .health, but give them .who.

    Yes, TLD was not meant to be flat, but how deep does it have to get before we become a little more free with TLDs. I'm in favour of this, .xxx for porn, and probably more proposals I haven't heard of.

  • Never mind that Oklahoma had originally been promised to be the exclusive territory of native people (Indians), especially those who had been illegally booted from their homelands (like the Cherokee.) When it was no longer convenient, this promise was forgotten like all the others.
    ---
  • Dammit Hemos, don't go echoing Bill Gates now!

    Seriously. All the WHO wants is to ensure that the materials on these sites are accurate. I doubt they give a hoot about how it looks, so long as it isn't deceitful.

    If you leave it in private hands, then the bottom line becomes more important than accuracy and truth of the information. WHO is an unbiased organization run by the United Nations. "WHO" better to oversee .health sites?!

  • You can bet they'll try. The AMA and other "establishment" medical organizations don't want you to know about anything outside of their god complexes. Accupuncure, herbal remedies, and other alternatives to the western model of hospitialization, overmedication and invasive surgery are simply not tolerated (in the US at least)

    Gee, good thing WHO isn't the US, isn't it (rolls eyes). I hate to break your paranoid bubble, but WHO is an international organisation (first hint : the W stands for "world" not "wow the United States is great and noone else knows anything) and draws heavily from European nations (where midwifery is the norm). And the "medical establishment" isn't as monolithic as you seem to think, even in the US. For instance, if you're smart (or lucky) the midwives you worked with were CNWs or certified nurse midwives. They are part of the medical establishment, even if they argue with other parts. There are also obsetricians who work with midwives in case a high risk condition emerges.

    Anyway, the worldwide "medical establishment" has eliminated smallpox, decreased the danger of polio and generally improved the lives of millions of people. Maybe you shouldn't insult thousands of dedicated people just because you had a bitchy OB/GYN.

    Kahuna Burger

  • Would this be the same World Health Organisation that was accused by New Scientist of supressin g information on cannabis [bbc.co.uk]?
  • I don't understand your logic. Because traditional modern medicine doesn't have all the answers they can't have a TLD?

    The TLD will just mean certified by the WHO. If you trust the WTO you can trust .health sites (to some extent). If you don't trust the WTO, than just ignore the .health sites.

    For instance I don't trust the government to tell me the truth about a lot of issues, but I'm still glad there's a .gov, so I can go to irs.gov and d/l my tax returns without having to worry if irs.gov is REALLY the irs's web site or not.

  • what would be best would be notifications prominently displayed on any given .health site of the medical community's acceptance of said treatments, regimens, drugs, etc. That way you could have alternative treatments, new drug therapy combinations (drug cocktails), yoga, exercise sites and the like. As long as there was some sort of cohesive rating system and the ratings were updated, both internal and for the actual sites, on a regular basis, I don't have a problem.

    Of course, being in glowing health (for a computer geek) means that I won't be using it as much.

    Eric Gearman
    --
  • by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @05:57AM (#622829) Journal
    Since, if you don't agree with WHO, you don't have to be in .health. After all, no one seriously thinks that .mil violates the 1st amend since it's restricted to US military? Or .edu being restricted to schools?
  • by spellcheckur ( 253528 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @05:57AM (#622830)
    ...and it sure would be nice to know that .sex and .xxx domains really will be qualified smut, not just the head of some high profile actress cut-and-pasted onto another body.
  • The day people start judging the reliability of medical information based on the URL is going to be a sad day for medicine. Personally, I like to judge web sites based on their content rather then on their URL. If my expertise is insufficient to let me judge, I usually go to a reliable portal like Open Directory. I sure don't base my trust on the URL.

    *snort* you go to a "reliable portal" but don't want people to judge trustworthyness by a reviewed URL group? You just contridicted yourself.

    The problem with judging sites based on content, is that they can just plain lie. They can claim references, they can claim studies, and its really not realistic to expect the average joe to track down every claim. We have doctors and researchers and experts for a reason.

    If you think about it, what the med student proposed to say is really no different than telling someone "the Time Life references on complementary therapies are pretty good, and so are these other publishers, but anything else you should be aware that there is no editorial control for accuracy in most cases." This is great guidence for someone who wants to judge by content, but needs some sort of trust baseline before they can accurately judge.

    I'm tired of this crazy internet attitude where people honestly think you can throw all the claims into the same pot and the accurate ones will rise to the top naturally. reputation and review are part of any real marketplace of information, and that is exactly what WHO is trying to bring into this. More power to them.

    -Kahuna Burger

  • Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise
    --Benjamin Franklin

    Franklin's quote shows that there are at least two more TLDs that we should be considering here.

    By the way, I'm now the (unelected and unaccountable) administrator of the new organization ICANT (Internet Censorship Administered through New TLDs). ICANT's previous TLD proposals are here [slashdot.org] and here [slashdot.org].

    I'm glad that the proposed registrar for .health is an unelected, unaccountable, international organization with a big enough budget that they can afford to throw $70,000 at ICANN for a new TLD, without having any proven track record of operating a top-drawer web portal, even at the domain level. Based on the same criteria, I propose that .wisdom be administered by the Church of Scientology, and .wealth by either the Sultan of Brunei or the Kennedy family.

    By the way, ICANT has been getting lots of annoying e-mails from people saying that they want information freedom. We wish they'd shut up. The problem is that freedom is too much work for most people. Censorship is much easier.

    --

  • Hopefully we never /..health. :

  • I'm tired of this crazy internet attitude where people honestly think you can throw all the claims into the same pot and the accurate ones will rise to the top naturally.
    Thanks for explicitly making the case for censorship: people are too dumb to decide for themselves.

    *snort* you go to a "reliable portal" but don't want people to judge trustworthyness by a reviewed URL group?
    You just contridicted yourself.
    Open Directory is just a big links page. Yahoo started out as some guy's set of bookmarks. There's a big difference between deciding whether to link to a page and deciding whether to censor it out of a broad swath of the internet namespace like a TLD.

    --

  • Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise
    --Benjamin Franklin

    Franklin's quote shows that there are at least two more TLDs that we should be considering here.

    By the way, I'm now the (unelected and unaccountable) administrator of the new organization ICANT (Internet Censorship Administered through New TLDs). ICANT's previous TLD proposals are here [slashdot.org] and here [slashdot.org].

    I'm glad that the proposed registrar for .health is an unelected, unaccountable, international organization with a big enough budget that they can afford to throw $70,000 at ICANN for a new TLD, without having any proven track record of operating a top-drawer web portal, even at the domain level. Based on the same criteria, I propose that .wisdom be administered by the Church of Scientology, and .wealth by either the Sultan of Brunei or the Kennedy family.

    By the way, ICANT has been getting lots of annoying e-mails from people saying that they want information freedom. We wish they'd shut up. The problem is that freedom is too much work for most people. Censorship is much easier.

    --

  • A couple of years ago they did a very comprehensive, well designed study on the issue of Second Hand Smoke. Much to their displeasure and horror, they found that it caused no harm at all. They tried to bury the report. When the British press, though constant hounding, embarrassed them into publicizing their results, they issued a press release. In the body of the release they admitted that the tiny increases they found were not at all statistically significant, but they outright lied in the headline.

    Thats odd, my uncle died from lung cancer caused by cigarette smoke and he never smoked! His secretary, however, was a chain smoker.

    Another strange note is that I heard the exact same story but with pot smoke inserted instead of second hand smoke. Could this be an Urban Legend (tm)?

  • Sorry, I didn't mean to make a second, nearly identical post. Could any moderators out there please bring this second post down to -1? I'd rather lose a couple of karma than continue to show the world what a clueless user I was today :-(

    --

  • Answer: Noone cares what the WHO does or thinks. By getting the force of law behind them (through ICANN's power over TLDs), they are hoping to grab legitimacy and importance by force-- when they certainly haven't earned it.

    Oh yeah, a international health organization respected worldwide and having done more for health than any other group in frigging history is trying to "grab legitamacy and importance by force". What the hell are you babbling about?

    WHO has earned legitamacy a thousand times over, and I hate to break it to you, but they don't need a lousy domain to do it. What they are doing here has nothing to do with getting power or importance or any other the other petty little goal that is all you can envision. They are following their mission of improved worldwide health onto the internet where they can do some good. And stupid little twerps like you scream censorship when they try to improve people's lives with additional information.

    -Kahuna Burger

  • I run a site for a rare eye condition called central serous retinopathy. The URL is http://www.geocities.com/timjosling/csr.html. The site exists because official sources of information are limited and are in some cases marred by conflicts of interest. The conflicts of interest arise because clinics are pushing treatments that have been shown to be ineffective but which are good money earners. There is some speculative information on the site which I label as such.

    My site has been instrumental in at least two cases in preventing people being treated for CSR with the very thing - cortisol - which causes it. Because it is a rare condition, incompetent treatment is not uncommon.

    I am adamantly opposed to this proposal. The WHO should do what everyone else does - put up their web pages, and earn their reputation. Instead what they are proposing is that they become gatekeepers to all health information on the internet. I don't object if they want to create a system whereby you can have a 'WHO approved' logo on your site, but putting one highly bureacratic organisation into such a powerful position is a recipe for disaster.

    This is not in line with the internet model which is that people should be able to decide for themselves what they believe. Anyone who believes that officials have their own best interests at heart and that they have no conflicts of interest is naive. This system would also introduce huge delays in getting information online.

  • At first, it just seemed like they want a little bit of flash and a soundbite, with the possibility of having a lot of flash later. Then I got reading the press release, and found this little beauty:
    Others rely on "trust-marks" or a seal designating that the site abides by a given standard. Problems with these approaches have been that 1) ratings can never be complete nor comprehensive and depend heavily on the tools used, and 2) adherence to trust-mark standards cannot be enforced.

    Haven't these guys ever heard of a contract? Someone infringes on your service mark, and you can lay the smackdown upon them in the court system. These guys obviously just want a little more ink in the newspaper than would be given if they created a seal of approval.

  • Actually, the WHO is one of the few organisations that uses .int - who.int. Quite what the position would be in giving out subdomains of that to unrelated organisations, however, I dunno -- it would probably be frowned upon, as the purpose of .int is quite clear.
  • will probably always be around as long as there is progress in real(?) medicine.
  • Well, trying to get a TLD out of it under their own control is very ambitious, but if I read their project right, it could be worth a TLD to do it (or it might not).

    If they can manage to get enough sites under their TLD, that means thta they can offer a lot of information to a lot of subjects. Reliable information on a subject as important as your health and those of your loved ones, how important is that?

    How many go to the library to consult medical dictionnaries when they have a health problems? Most importantly, how many people in the general population, in the global population?

    To give them an easy way to get the information would be a big bonus. And existing sites could probably get their sites there rather quickly (if they can get the approval done in a reasonable manner). That gives a seal of approval and trust for people who might not know a lot about the subject.

    This kind of things would be inconvenient to put under a subdomain name I would think. It is more combersome, and more difficult to reach the whole population as easily like that. BTW, if that is ever done, it would be under a .org, not a .com. We're talking about the WHO here after all, not a pharmaceutical company.

    Of course there are all the alternative medecine sites, but they don't want to remove those, only put the "right sites" on the spotlight. Comparatively it could harm those sites if they can't get in there, but in this I'd side with the WHO. You don't really want to be using hemeopathy to treat your cancer. I'm fine with people using it, but I would sure never recommend it to anyone like that. Not when I don't know the active principles and how it works and study thereof.

    And if there's any organization who could and should put something like that off, I think it's the WHO, I hope they manage to get the project going (and hope they will even if they can't get their TLD).
  • This is exactly right, or at least part of it is. I don't think the .com part is central.

    But I agree completely about the hierarchical nature of the DNS system. The WHO should use subdomains under their own name -- who.org, or whatever.

    This is really the same issue as using .kids or .porn -- the idea that people who want to distribute some sort of rating or trust info ought to be able to use TLDs to do it. The problem with that idea is that there are countless possible ratings systems that we might need to distribute, and it really doesn't make sense to have too many TLDs.

    It makes more sense to look at the existing systems to deliver rating information, ranging from SSL's hierarchical key certification, to the W3's PICS standard to just putting a gif on a site that says it's certified, seeing where the shortcomings are, and coming up with a consistent, elegant, reasonable, and non-authoritarian way to deliver rating information consistently.

  • Okay, it had to be said. But how about if The Who regulates Woodstock 2019?
  • Who's facts? Your facts? My facts? His facts? One could get philisophical at this point and pose the question... "what is a fact?" and how do you concretely assert something as a fact?

    A lot of what we took to be facts are now good for a historical giggle. How does one propogate new ideas if one is bound to only the currently accepted "fact"?

    I'm sorry the idea of a globaly policed TLD is at best silly and at worst prone to facist tendancies.... is the WHO going to incorporate Chines notions of medicine as fact? Or is it simply going to apply Western notions of medicine as global fact?

  • You also have to be a lawyer to give legal advice (at least as long as we are being US-centric anyway), but that didn't stop you from offering the 'legal opinion' that websites that presents medical information should have a page...

  • Too easy to fake, I'm afraid.
    It's like those ads for revolutionary new herbal pills, where they always quote some doctor or professor saying this pill changed their life.
    If you look them up you'll find that they are doctors and professors allright. Just not in medicine...
  • You missed one important point: the people racing into Oklahoma discovered that most of the good land was already taken by those who snuck in (illegally) before the legal opening.

  • >> And health-industries are industries, aren't
    >> they? Should be under .com!

    In area's of the world where decent public health care isn't available, perhaps. In the rest of the non-US world this isn't a truism. I certainly hope that the TLD's aren't going to be *that* US centric ...
  • First, any TLD where there is limitations on who can use it is a good thing, as it would help to clear up much of the namespace problems we have now along with appropriate public education on how the domain name system works.

    This particular move, not only limiting the .health domain to health-related info, but to also have the information scrutenized by WHO, has several benefits; users know that the information there should be factual or otherwise they have a way to point out disputed information to some organization in order to have that information fixed or removed. What will probably happen is that sites that do go to .health will be generally more high-quality sites with better standards for information and will make sure to self-regulate themselves to keep them that way, and any site that is not doing so will be challenged by the WHO for why it should keep the .health domain.

    I dunno how much it will catch on as with .com, however; webmd.com, for example, is well established and I doubt they want to give up their name (though I bet they'd grab a webmd.health domain).

  • Health information is unique. It makes sense to have some form of objective evaluation of sites providing healthcare information.

    If that's your goal that the WHO is one of the worst choices you could make. They are a political organization with a political agenda, and as such their conclusions should be considered suspect, if not highly suspect.

    A couple of years ago they did a very comprehensive, well designed study on the issue of Second Hand Smoke. Much to their displeasure and horror, they found that it caused no harm at all. They tried to bury the report. When the British press, though constant hounding, embarrassed them into publicizing their results, they issued a press release. In the body of the release they admitted that the tiny increases they found were not at all statistically significant, but they outright lied in the headline.

    More information is available here [davehitt.com].

    These are not the people who should be determining what is and is not good for you. A more valid approach would be convening an independent group of experts who would look at sites and give them their stamp of approval. They could also maintain a list of sites they considered quacky.

    Political organizations are always tainted by their quest to increase their funding and power. If you doubt that, a close look at the EPA or the FDA should convince you rather quickly

    -- Get Smartenized! Read the Hittman Chronicle [davehitt.com]

  • Isn't this exactly why new TLDs are being created, that .com, .org, .net don't adequtely cover the full information space, and that they're pretty much useless now as a means of determining content?

    I think health information would be fine content for a .health site. Marketing hoopla and unsubstantiated information could be ruled out (as in no Bob dole talking about E.D.). Think about it with "diet suppliments" in the US. There are plenty of substances that claim to help you burn fat or put on muscle that all kinds of people SWEAR work, but most of them say "these claims not investigated by the FDA." It doesn't mean they don't work. It just means the FDA hasn't qualified the claim. If the WHO is going to do some kind of effort to set forth a qualification scheme, more power to them! At least you could then go to a .health site and know that it was approved by the WHO.

    If you don't trust the WHO or you think it's evil, great, ignore the approval. There's nothing that says you have to think that a .gov site has any kind of legislative authority over you, or that a .edu has any business teaching the masses, but for lots of people, those qualifications are significant and give the viewer some kind of trust in the information on those pages.

    Quite frankly, .com, .org and .net mean nothing to me, other than "we were lucky enough to find a domain we could buy."

  • Odds aren't so slim. Research on Selenium performed over the past several years has shown remarkable efficacy in prostate cancer. Research on St. John's Wort is turning up the heat for FDA to take some initiative in regulation because of potentially fatal interactions with your "AMA approved" drugs. And lets not forget the alternative therapies that get out into "mainstream alternative" practice sans research, like the fine art of pressing children to death during "rebirthing" procedures. And would you ever take anything called "rolfing" seriously? Not unless it has to do with Muppet pianists...
  • the cancelation of Dr. WHO. It was part of a secret deal to resolve a trademark dispute with the World Health Organization.
  • They have been infulenced by outside forces and therefore have their own intrests in each website as opposed to fighting for the good of the Internet.

    Nitpick, perhaps, but this proposal is not for the good of the internet, it is to promote health. The outside influences should be restricted to promoting health rather than one groups economic interests, but I don't think we need a broad coalition of sys admins and router managers involved.

    Its also funny that so many people are just assuming that alternative and complementary therapies will be ignored, instead of recomending that their advocacy groups try to get involved. Instead of assuming that chiropactic medicine, for example, will be completely excluded, the question should be "is a recognized chiro group getting involved to help seperate good chiro from bad chiro?" Unhelpful or dangerous alternative practitioners are a greater danger to the field than mainstream medicine could ever hope to be.

    -Kahuna Burger

  • In the early 1980s, I lived in a small town in Canada (Waterloo). There was a referendum then about whether or not to have fluoride in the drinking water. The "pro" side was strongly backed by the WHO.

    The "con" side was led by a fellow student. The student just kept repeating the same thing: "look at the evidence, then make up your own mind." I didn't take his advice. Instead, I assumed that if the WHO was advocating fluoridation so strongly, then it must be good. The majority of people seem to have thought the same: the "pro" side won the referendum.

    In the last few years the official story on fluoridation has changed. Fluoridation might be far more dangerous than was supposed at the time of the referendum. Children's toothpaste is now with very low--or no--fluoride, for that reason. The safety level for adults is not really known. In fact, at the time of the referendum, little was actually known about fluoride safety levels. Yet the WHO claimed that its proposed level of fluoridation was certainly safe for everyone.

    There is a good "con" site at http://www.npwa.freeserve.co.uk/ [freeserve.co.uk]. This site is an important part of the campaign that has kept Britain 90% fluoridation-free.

    I don't really know for sure, but I suspect that if the same situation existed today, the WHO would prevent a "con" website from going up under .health.

    The WHO can make mistakes, there is lots of internal politics, and there is a great deal of conservatism in what is called "medical science". The WHO will face up to none of that on their own.

    Another good example is with acupuncture. It is only in the last few years that proper experiments have been done, showing that stimulation of acupuncture points affects related areas of the brain. For example, stimulating the acupuncture point associated with hearing affects the part of the brain associated with hearing. And stimulating nearby skin has no effect. (There is an excellent summary article in The Economist here [economist.com] and another good summary from Britannica here [britannica.com] ). Again, although the WHO might accept such sites now, they would likely not have done so ten or more years ago.

    If the WHO really wants to encourage health, how about a special seal/label/badge that could be put on websites: "This cite certified by the World Health Organisation"? Such a seal would have many advantages, and avoid the main disadvantages, of a regulated .health TLD.

  • There's a big difference between deciding whether to link to a page and deciding whether to censor it out of a broad swath of the internet namespace like a TLD.

    Not really. All the pages that currently exist will still exist, will still be accessable, will still make all the claims that they make now. But there will also be a set of pages with a higher bar to entry.

    Is it censorship if I write a personal advice page about being audited and they don't let me put it under .gov? Is it censorship for a non-profit group that prints medical advice pamphlets to exercise editorial control? I don't see any censorship here, except to the extent that letting people know which sites may be full of shit is somehow "censoring" them.

    Kahuna Burger

  • >Creating .health would set a precenende for
    >hundreds and hunderds of toplevel domains.

    This is a little known fact, but there is only *one* top level domain in existence. Since every address has that single top level domain, it's implicit and we don't have to type it. *.com, *.org, *.net, and the upcoming *.health are actually subdomains of that one toplevel domain that exists. You can't actually type the toplevel domain on addresses because all the routers have been optimized to reject address with the redundant toplevel information. But, just for the record the official toplevel domain that is implicit in every internet address is .biff. The person who invented the naming heirarchy had a dog named Biff, and now Biff is implicitly immortalized in every internet address name in the world.

    Believe it or not!
  • A "fact" is often wrong. 1+1=2 is a "fact". So is 1+1=10. The latter is true if you're utilizing the binary number system. The former is true in any larger number system. What we consider facts are often based upon a number of assumptions, some obvious and some subtle. A^2 + B^2 = C^2, where A and B are the sides and C the hypotenuse of a right triangle. This is a fact taught in grade school. One problem - it's wrong. Sort of. The assumption is that space is Euclidian. Physics has shown that, in the real world, space isn't. The margin of error at our macroscopic level is minute. The law is close enough for almost any use in the real world. But it isn't a "fact."

    About the only place you have real "facts" is within mathematics, and there you have a carefully specified list of premises. The Pythagorean theorem is true within, and only within, the carefully defined world of Euclidian geometry.

    When it comes to medicine, things are much trickier. It's virtually impossible to say that medicine X curse ailment Z. The most that can usually be said is that medicine X appears to help ailment Z in Y% of cases. Does aspirin cure a headache? No. Does it provide relief for the pain of a headache? For a large percentage of people, it provides some relief. Does penicillin kill bacteria? We used to think so. But what about the new resistant strains that are showing up?

    It's easy to prove a fact wrong. You only have to find one case. To prove it true, you have to show that it's true in ALL cases. This is a much more difficult task.

    All of that being said, I have no real problem with the proposal so long as there is no attempt to force ALL medical web sites to use the .health TLD.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The World health organisation is one of the most significant organisations to encourage the use of dhmo as a medicine. While the health benefits seem to last for a couple of days, they have totally ignored the dangers.

    DHMO has been found in cancers, in vast concentrations in endangered species, and has been known to cause vomiting. Excessive use is dangerous. WHO makes no effort to warn people of its dangers, yet does seek to make it available as much as possible. Tis is simply irresponsible
  • by redhog ( 15207 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @05:39AM (#622889) Homepage
    Whst's wrong with .health.com? Why can't they just create a subdomain? Why do they need a topplevel domain? The system was intended to be hierarchical, not flat. And health-industries are industries, aren't they? Should be under .com!

    Btw, someone at some moment suggested here on /. that a good idea might be to have the price on domains raise with the numbers of domains an organisation wants - that way, the system would force hierarchy. I like the idea, but it is to easy to work around - just have an employee register the domain name on him/her, or a daughter-company...

  • by mpk ( 10222 ) <mpk@uffish.net> on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @05:39AM (#622890) Homepage
    There are an awful lot of websites covering an awful lot of fields that appear to be "authoritative" at a casual glance, but that are actually riddled with inaccuracies, bias and half-truths.

    Admittedly, not all of them are as downright dangerous as giving out dodgy health information, but people still need to learn to be critical of the information they may find on the web. "I saw it on the Internet" is still used by some people as an indicator that information is somehow more authoritative than that received from other, possibly more reliable, sources. Just look at some of the fantastical assertions that appear in the average day's load of spam, from "This cannot be considered spam as it is in accordance with House Bill 1618" upwards, for a fine example of this.

    One of the problems with the Web these days is that nifty graphical design is still considered superior to accuracy of information, and J. Random Luser needs to work out that frames and Shockwave don't necessary mean that a site's an authority on its subject.
  • According to the proposal, all health-related content would be pulled into .health. The UN has tried things like this before... while it demonstrates that they don't understand unrestricted TLDs like .com or .org, they are most certainly making an attempt to powergrab health resources on the internet by fiat.

  • The WHO is a well-respected organization and I should like to suggest that the title assigned to the post is horridly inaccurate ("WHO Bid To Regulate Health Sites"). First of all, if such a dot-health Top-Level-Domain (TLD) were to be created, they would only be able to regulate sites under that domain, or whatever provisions are agreed upon.

    There is a wealth of inaccurate medical information, of which there are many instances where "findings" are very unfounded, often in the name of a commercial investment. If the WHO were to certify information as either accurate, opinion, whatever .. this would greatly decrease the chances of the many gullible people being exploited by commercialism -- not to mention people need to educate themselves, talk to doctors, and stop being so damn ignorant. Nothing can replace the advice of a doctor with whom you respect .. be s/he a respected medical doctor you don't personally know but much about or your own doctor.

    In general, when we (as Slashdot readers/writers/editors/admins/moderators .. including myself, admitedly) complain about something being blatently inaccurate, we consider the stupidity of the creator and frown upon any attempts to censor this information, no matter how inaccurate. The WHO is attempting to establish a system whereby it is able to certify certain information or opinions or whatever. They are not censoring anybody: .com,.net,.org are theoretically "free" from censorship by everybody. They are basically allowing the credible sources in.

    I would like to apply a censorship theory often used when dealing Internet access in Libraries and apply it to this situation, where the logic speaks for itself: A library may not arbitrarily decide against acquiring a book or dismissing a book from the public shelves. Likewise, some claim, the Library should not arbitrarily filter certain key words or other things from the internet, since they've basically acquired the entire Internet, as they might have with books. As stated above, the WHO would probably have qualifications for obtaining a .health site, where the resident would maintain the site as agreed to.


  • What are the odds that any "medical marijuana"
    information sites will ever be allowed a .health
    domain, for instance?

  • That's how I read it too, except my mind went directly to "WHO let the dogs out -- WHO! WHO! WHO! WHO!"
    --
  • Be a bloody good thing if homeopathy gets banished from the web because it's a pile of crap, but it's not going to happen. This is just a proposal for a way to allow you to have some confidence (or otherwise) in the standard of medical advice sites are giving you. I support it.

    Alternative medicine is a weird name anyway. Isn't acupuncture now used by lots of doctors anyway? When does something stop being called 'alternative'?

    BTW, what's ROlfing?

    ---
  • Read again, OK?

    First, this violates the first Amendment (not that the UN cares, but people in democracies should be concerned about attempts to regulate any content).

    Oh, given the choice between a government that complies to the UN declaration of human rights and one that only complies to the US constitution, that constitution can screw itself. Freedom of speech is not an american invention OK?

    Second, intelligent people do disagree on medical issues. For instance, herbal remedies or chiropractic medicine. Some say it's quackery, and others say it works, and shouldn't be banned just because the mechanism by which it works hasn't been understood yet.

    Intelligent people disagre on *unproven* medical issues. Why can't an authorative body indicate what is *proven* and not?
    Take your chances with "alternative" treatments if you wish, I prefer to play it safe.

    Third, the whole value of the internet is its freedom. ANYONE can make a web site. But if the WHO is going to regulate anything, they will have to have prior approval. If they do, that pretty much bans all 'unofficial' health web sites. If they don't, that just guarantees that hospitals, companies, doctors and other credentialled providers have a huge regulatory hurdle to jump through, when the quacks and con men don't.

    Duh! Read it again. They want to regulate a TLD, not the whole web. You want to make an uncertified health site? Fine! Just don't put it under .health!

    Really, what does this accomplish which the WHO can't do already with a gif, a review committee and a 'seal of approval'. If they like a web site, just give it the seal and the right to use the trademarked gif.

    The means to effectively revoke a license. Do you trust a site just because it has some officially looking gif? Want to buy a bridge?

    Answer: Noone cares what the WHO does or thinks. By getting the force of law behind them (through ICANN's power over TLDs), they are hoping to grab legitimacy and importance by force-- when they certainly haven't earned it.

    *I* care what they think. They have *my* approval. Sure it is a bureaucracy, but it is a bureaucracy focused on world health, not the stock value of a drug company.

  • Note: This is NOT a flame. I really feel this way.

    I agree with the poster above. People DO need to practice discretion in what they read on the web.

    That said, why in the hell do I need a UN agency to tell me which sites are factual? And what does oversite mean? Does WHO get to tell the site what they can and cannot post? Anyone ever hear of the first amendment in the US? Fine, if the rest of the world wants WHO to censor their health information, let them have it. But in the US, we have the right to publish what and when we want, as long as it's not libelous, inciting riots, etc.

    I think as a consumer, I can make an informed decision as to where I get my medical information. I don't need UN bureaucrats filtering/approving/officially stamping medical info for me.

    I mean, what's next, the UN's WAO (World Auto Organization) that will have censorship rights over any auto-related site?

    God, people are sheep. Always looking for someone else to tell them what's safe, what to do, what to say, what not to say.



    EMUSE.NET [emuse.net]
  • by JJ ( 29711 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @05:40AM (#622910) Homepage Journal
    Health information is unique. It makes sense to have some form of objective evaluation of sites providing healthcare information. They may not mean this form or proposal is appropriate and not that I am supportive of censorship. You should be free to claim anything you want on the web. But, if a comittee of unrelated physicians disagrees or supports your results, then they should have the right to say so, and if I ran a website, I'd want to advertise that fact. Making this international could really help a lot.
  • They could just as easily establish themselves as a powerful Internet presence simply by designing a very useful health-related website of their own. They could then "regulate" what other websites will be granted hyperlinks from their own.

    This whole notion of an entire top-level domain being regulated by a global government strikes me as yet another grab for power. They wish to control what individuals around the world may see, hear, and think.

    HJ
  • As with everything else online, telling what is real and what isn't is next to impossible for someone without expert knowledge in the field. Just look at some of the hoaxes that have fooled thousands of the more gullible users, and they are relatively unsophisticated. People tend to believe what they read, especially when it's dressed up in a respectable looking webpage.

    When it comes to health, a site that is pushing incorrect information, either through malice or incompetance, is endangering people's lives, and in much the same way as shouting fire in a theatre is illegal, it should be punished to the full extent of the law.

    Having a WHO-approved TLD would mean that people could be confident that the advice they are getting is at the very least accurate and safe. It's one thing moaning about porn sites taking misspellings of people's names, but having people's lives put in danger is a whole order of magnitude different.

    I think this is a great idea. I can't think of any reason to oppose it.

  • Or [whatever].health.int.
  • The WHO is the most credible of any of the UN institutions. The WHO are the people who successfully rid the world of smallpox (other than samples stored in high-security labs), and may soon succeed in eliminating polio. They get things done.

  • The change it had to come. We knew it all along. We were liberated from the fold, that's all. And the world looks just the same, and history ain't changed. Cause the banners were all flown in the last war.

    Yeah, meet the new boss... same as the old boss.

    -Chris
    ...More Powerful than Otto Preminger...
  • How is the FDA or AMA more "legitimate" than the WHO? The AMA is literally "self-appointed" -- it was made and always run by doctors, it's own members. No outside regulation of the AMA exists. The FDA is a branch of the executive government, so it is clearly "politically appointed".

    The WHO was at least set up by international cooperation as a "clearinghouse" for health cooperation and development. Doctors and governments participate in it...

    ---------------------------------------------
  • Geez, overreact much?

    No one is going against the first amendment -- the WHO is suggesting that they be given a domain for health information that they consider accurate and reliable. Nowhere do they suggest that they shoud be given the authority to shut down sites they don't like in other domains, or censor anyone. If you want to post health information wihtout the WHO's approval, then don't get a .who domain name, get a .com or whatever.

    This is like complaining about consumer reports (or good housekeeping) because they somehow are going to prevent you from being able to buy bad products.

    ---------------------------------------------
  • Read again, bucko. Nobody's saying they'll "banish" alternative medicine sites from the Web. They just want to regulate the .health TLD, that's all. Must everything be the fucking end of the world on Slashdot? Jeez!

  • by khanate ( 139360 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @05:46AM (#622935)

    There is innovation. Many slashdotters may not care, but for those of use who need this sort of information international regulation doesn't sound cool.

    Despite the professions arrogant claims, modern medicine does not know everything. What causes CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)? Is it physical or mental? A combination? What is the best way to deal with it?

    That is a real concern for millions of people (sufferers and families), and virtually no "facts" are known about it. What you would call "bogus," reports that have not gone through the wonderfully-quick process that is anything WHO, are useful. Being able to find a report from Israel that showed a x% remission rate for ages y-z was a godsend. Being able to show that report to my doctor, who said he never heard of any remissions, was more wonderful than you could believe.

    One of the internet's greatest benefits is allowing patients to learn so much about what ails them. To the patients who don't blidnly trust, but want to learn all the facts, the freedom of information on the internet is fantastic.

    Is everything on the web gold? Of course not. But is regulation by an bloated, international treaty organization the answer? You seem to think so.

  • by Baki ( 72515 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @05:47AM (#622937)
    Indeed. If the WHO wants to regulate and certify, than that information could use who.org and anything below it.

    Creating .health would set a precenende for hundreds and hunderds of toplevel domains.

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