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XYZ to put global block on domains banned in China

Kevin Murphy, October 12, 2015, 17:04:02 (UTC), Domain Registries

XYZ.com plans to slap a global ban on domain names censored by the Chinese government.

Chinese words meaning things such as “human rights” and “democracy” are believed to be on the block list, which an industry source says could contain as many as 40,000 words, names and phrases.

(UPDATE: Gavin Brown, CTO of XYZ back-end CentralNic, tweeted that the list is nowhere near 40,000 names long.)

The registry seems to be planning to allow the Chinese government to censor its new gTLDs, which include .xyz, .college, .rent, .protection and .security, in every country of the world.

And it might not be the last non-Chinese registry to implement such a ban.

The surprising revelation came in a fresh Registry Services Evaluation Process request (pdf), filed with ICANN on Friday.

The RSEP asks ICANN to approve the use of a gateway service on the Chinese mainland, which the company says it needs in order to comply with Chinese law.

As previously reported, Chinese citizens are allowed to register domains in non-Chinese registries, but they may not activate them unless the registry complies with the law.

That law requires the registry to be located on the Chinese mainland. XYZ plans to comply by hiring local player ZDNS to proxy its EPP systems and mirror its Whois.

But the Chinese government also bans certain strings — which I gather are mostly but not exclusively in Chinese script — from being registered in domain names.

Rather than block them at the ZDNS proxy, where only Chinese users would be affected, XYZ has decided to ban them internationally.

Registrants in North America or Europe, for example, will not be able to register domains that are banned in China. XYZ said in its RSEP:

XYZ will reserve names prohibited for registration by the Chinese government at the registry level internationally, so the Gateway itself will not need to be used to block the registration of of any names. Therefore, a registrant in China will be able to register the same domain names as anyone else in the world.

It seems that XYZ plans to keep its banned domain list updated as China adds more strings to its own list, which I gather it does regularly.

Customers outside of China who have already registered banned domains will not be affected, XYZ says.

If China subsequently bans more strings, international customers who already own matching domains will also not be affected, it says.

CEO Daniel Negari told DI: “To be clear, we will not be taking action against names registered outside of China based on Chinese government requests.”

But Chinese registrants do face the prospect losing their domains, if China subsequently bans the words and XYZ receives a complaint from Chinese authorities.

“We treat requests from the Chinese government just like we treat requests from the US government or any other government,” Negari said.

“When we receive a valid government or court order to take action against a name and the government has jurisdiction over the registration, we will take action the registration,” he said.

Up to a third of the .xyz zone — about three hundred thousand names — is believed to be owned by Chinese registrants who are currently unable to actually use their names.

The company clearly has compelling business reasons to comply with Chinese law.

But is giving the Chinese government the ongoing right to ban tens of thousands of domain names internationally a step too far?

ICANN allows anyone to file public comments on RSEP requests. I expect we’ll see a few this time.

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Comments (7)

  1. Hi Kevin. I’d agree with your source that there are tens of thousands of blocked terms in China. The non-profit GreatFire.org service, for example, lists 18,000 keywords/keyphrases which are forbidden to use on China’s internet (tests performed/matched on Baidu, Google and Sina Weibo link: https://en.greatfire.org/search/keywords). What subset of blocked terms may be applied to domains remains to be seen.

    What has become fairly clear over my 13 years in China is that these lists don’t tend to get shorter.

    I’m not a lawyer or an activist, but this proposal to push any one state’s list of forbidden terms up to the global internet is not a net positive for the domain industry, or arguably for any industry.

  2. page howe says:

    now we know why numbers are so popular.

    page howe
    dntv.tv

  3. Anonymous says:

    Greedy cowards

  4. Chinese domainer says:

    Fucking .xyz

  5. Somehow I missed this story entirely until TheDomains picked up on it today.

    There seems to be some ambiguity about the facts. The .XYZ registry has denied the allegations utterly in an article entitled “XYZ Stands for Freedom”. Daniel Negari says:

    “Speculation exists that there is some kind of banned list being driven by the Chinese government. This is not true. There is no banned list.”

    Kevin, what’s your opinion of that statement? It seems to contradict your article. Was there a list or not?

    Even if the .XYZ registry caved under pressure, I’d still applaud them for doing so. Freedom of speech matters more than consistency. Nevertheless I wonder if they did reverse their position.

    How do we reconcile .XYZ’s denial with your article?

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      My understanding is that there isn’t a single, fixed, written “banned list” created by China.

      But XYZ and/or CentralNic does have such a list. It would have to have such a list in order to be able to prevent registration of the banned strings.

      Negari’s blog post you cite questions the veracity of the Crovitz WSJ blog (which I also thought was bollocks) but not the veracity of the DI article.

      I asked Negari six hours ago whether he thought I had written something incorrect and have not yet received a response.

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