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XYZ says it won’t block censored Chinese domains

Kevin Murphy, November 6, 2015, 13:11:36 (UTC), Domain Registries

New gTLD registry XYZ.com has said it will not preemptively censor domain names based on the wishes of the Chinese government.

Over the last couple of days, CEO Daniel Negari has sought to “clarify” its plans to block and suspend domain names based on Chinese government requests.

It follows XYZ’s Registry Services Evaluation Request for a gateway service in the country, first reported by DI and subsequently picked up by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a Wall Street Journal columnist, Fortune magazine and others.

The clarifications offered up by XYZ probably did more to confuse matters.

A blog post on Wednesday said that XYZ will not reserve any .xyz domain names from being registered, except those ICANN makes all new gTLD registries reserve.

Subsequent comments from Negari stated that XYZ will, as the RSEP stated, prevent names that have been banned in China from being registered.

However, there’s one significant difference.

Now, the registry is saying that it will only put those bans in place for domain names that have been specifically banned by the Chinese government when the name had already been registered by a Chinese registrant.

So, if I understand correctly, it would not preemptively ban anyone anywhere from registering [banned term].xyz.

However, if [banned term].xyz was registered to a Chinese resident and the Chinese government told the registry to suspend it, it would be suspended and nobody would be able to re-register it anywhere in the world.

Negari said in a blog comment yesterday:

if we receive a Chinese legal order tomorrow (before the gateway has launched) which requires disabling a domain name registered in China and properly under Chinese jurisdiction, then it will be disabled at the registry level, and not by the gateway. When the gateway launches the name will continue to be unavailable, and the gateway will not implement the action on a localized basis only in China. The normal registry system would continue to be the only system used to resolve the name globally. Again — the specific stability concern ICANN had was that we would use the Chinese gateway to make .xyz names resolve differently, depending on what country you are in. I completely agree that our [RSEP] re-draft to address that concern came out in a way that can be read in a way that we sincerely did not intend.

So there is a list of preemptively banned .xyz, .college, .rent, .security and .protection domains, compiled by XYZ from individual Chinese government requests targeting names registered to Chinese registrants.

Negari said in an email to DI yesterday:

To clarify the statement “XYZ will reserve domains,” we meant that XYZ will takedown domains in order to comply with “applicable law.” Unfortunately, the inaccuracies in your post caused people to believe that we were allowing the Chinese government to control what names could be registered or how they could be used by people outside of China. The idea that XYZ is going to impose Chinese law and prevent people outside of China from registering certain domain names is simply incorrect and not true. To be 100% clear, there is no “banned list.”

That was the first time anyone connected with XYZ had complained about the October 12 post, other than since-deleted tweets that corrected the size of the list from 40,000 domains to 12,000.

The RSEP (pdf) that causes all this kerfuffle has not been amended. It still says:

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.

This fairly unambiguous statement is what XYZ says was “misinterpreted” by DI (and everyone else who read it).

However, it’s not just a couple of sentences taken out of context. The context also suggests preemptive banning of domains.

The very next sentence states:

When the Gateway is initially implemented we will not run into a problem whereby a Chinese registrant has already registered a name prohibited for registration by the Chinese government because Chinese registrars are already enforcing a prohibition on the registration of names that are in violation of Chinese law.

This states that Chinese residents are already being preemptively banned, by Chinese registrars, from registering domains deemed illegal in China.

The next few paragraphs of the RSEP deal with post-registration scenarios of domains being banned, clearly delineated from the paragraph dealing with pre-registration scenarios.

In his blog post, Negari said the RSEP “addressed the proactive abuse mitigation we will take to shut down phishing, pharming, malware, and other abuse in China”.

I can’t believe this is true. The consequence would be that if China sent XYZ a take-down notice about a malware or phishing site registered to a non-Chinese registrant, XYZ would simply ignore it.

Regardless, the takeaway today is that XYZ is now saying that it will not ban a domain before it has been registered, unless that domain has previously been registered by a Chinese resident and subsequently specifically banned by the Chinese government.

The registry says this is no different to how it would treat take-down notices issued by, for example, a US court. It’s part of its contractual obligation to abide by “applicable law”, it says.

Whether this is a policy U-turn or a case of an erroneous RSEP being submitted… frankly I don’t want to get into that debate.

Disclosure: during the course of researching this story, I registered .xyz domains matching (as far as this monoglot can tell) the Chinese words for “democracy”, “human rights”, “porn” and possibly “Tiananmen Square”. I have no idea if they have value and have no plans to develop them into web sites.

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Comments (20)

  1. Nate Hayes says:

    Page 10 of the RSEP says:

    “XYZ will treat the registration of a domain name that is deemed to be prohibited by Chinese law after the name is already registered as follows. If the name is registered outside of China through a non-Chinese registrar, then no action will be taken and the registration will continue as it normally would.”

    And then:

    “If the name is registered inside China, whether through a Chinese registrar or a non-Chinese registrar and subsequently deemed prohibited by Chinese law, the registry will not proactively take any action against the registration. However, if we receive a specific notification that the registration of the name is illegal in China, we will treat it the same as we treat any
    notification from any other government that a registration is illegal.”

    This seems consistent with what Daniel and XYZ have said all along, and frankly it’s hard for me to understand how this could have been interpreted in the first place that XYZ was banning or censoring domains.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      That deals with *post-registration* scenarios, as it plainly says in the bits you just quoted.

      That is, suspending a domain that has been registered as opposed to reserving a domain that has not.

      I’ve never said that XYZ will suspend domains registered to non-Chinese registrants. That’s not what the RSEP says, it’s not what XYZ told me last month, and it’s not what I reported.

      • Nate Hayes says:

        “When the Gateway is initially implemented we will not run into a problem whereby a Chinese registrant has already registered a name prohibited for registration by the Chinese government because Chinese registrars are already enforcing a prohibition on the registration of names that are in violation of Chinese law.”

        It seems to me this snippet refers to a Chinese registrant that “already registered a name,” i.e., a name that already received “a specific notification that the registration of the name is illegal in China” and was therefore subsequently suspended.

        • Kevin Murphy says:

          It says it will NOT run into that problem.

          • Nate Hayes says:

            Chinese registrant A registers name X. No action is taken. The government then provides a “specific notification” the domain is illegal in China. The illegal name is suspended. Chinese registrant B tries to register X, but cannot do so because the domain is now suspended.

            The scenario of registrant B trying to register illegal name X is avoided, and X was never on a list of reserved domains.

            • Kevin Murphy says:

              If that’s what XYZ intended to say, it should have. As it stands, it did not.

            • Nate Hayes says:

              No argument from me the language of the RSEP is complicated, but I don’t see it’s inconsistent with the clarifications Daniel and XYZ have made, either.

            • Kevin Murphy says:

              The language of the Bible is arguably not inconsistent with a treatise on Darwinian evolution.

              But obviously it helps if a Pope shows up a couple thousand years later to explain how it is supposed to be interpreted.

              πŸ™‚

            • Nate Hayes says:

              lol

              At least we didn’t have to wait a couple thousand years for the RSEP explanation.

              πŸ™‚

  2. “This states that Chinese residents are already being preemptively banned, by Chinese registrars, from registering domains deemed illegal in China.”

    How is that a situation that XYZ has anything to do with?

    “Disclosure: during the course of researching this story, I registered .xyz domains matching (as far as this monoglot can tell) the Chinese words for β€œdemocracy”…”

    …and if the WHOIS history at DT is correct, you caught it right on the drop, too. It was previously registered to a Chinese registrant through a Chinese registrar, expired September 6 and you nailed it right about at 60 days (give or take some time zone differences between the UK and China).

    How did you find a name that was bang-on at 60 days from expiration? I had no idea that people were dropcatching these things.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      I’m not sure if that’s a real question or not.

      I just went to NameCheap and hand-regged the name, same as anyone.

      • What do you mean by a “real question”?

        You caught it within what looks like minutes of the drop. That’s a “real fact”. If you want to say you hand-regged it, that’s fine. Out of 365 days in a year and thousands of possibilities, you just picked that one by chance within minutes of the drop.

        I was just curious how you managed to spot one that dropped on the day you registered it. If it was just a coincidence, fine. Please, come to Vegas with me, Kevin. I like your luck.

        A more jaded person than myself would think you might have had information from the registry, instead of it just being happenstance.

        The press bubble on this thing has the aroma of a scheme to induce people to register .xyz names because they are “banned”. It’s a classic marketing tactic. They used to sell movie tickets on the proposition the film had been “banned in Boston!”.

        I fell for it too, and registered the name of a religious group which the Chinese have been going after vigorously for a long time. What I did find out was that there are significant variations among registrars in how they implement IDN domain registrations. What I also found out is that a name I’m 100% certain to be on any “banned list” cost me 8 bucks and some change.

        But given the reporting on this by the WSJ and others, that there were these “banned names”, the main thing I learned is that I’m probably too willing to part with 8 bucks just to factcheck a newspaper story.

        So, should I just keep the name to see if anything happens to it, or just go with the apparent conclusion that I’ve been snookered out of $8 by hype?

        I have to wonder how many .xyz names were sold on the back of this thing, though.

        • Kevin Murphy says:

          My .xyz regs yesterday cost me $1 each. You got ripped off pal πŸ™‚

          But I promise you, hand on heart, on all I hold dear, that if I registered it at the moment of or shortly after the drop (I haven’t checked whether that’s correct) it was a pure coincidence.

          I have never used a drop catching service, largely because I’m not a domainer.

          Nobody at XYZ told me anything about any drop. In fact, Daniel told me minutes before I registered it that it was already registered to somebody else (using an out-of-date Whois record as evidence).

          I registered it myself just to see if I could. I thought maybe I’d found a bug.

          I don’t think my regs or yours prove anything, however, given that the system outlined in the RSEP is not live and neither of us used Chinese registrars.

    • Acro says:

      John, the same thing happened to f*ckchina.xyz – you can see cached WHOIS at DT but it’s deleted.

  3. John Berryhill says:

    @Kevin “But obviously it helps if a Pope shows up a couple thousand years later to explain how it is supposed to be interpreted.”

    If you insist…

    http://www.dnjournal.com/images/te2006/gallery/popejohn.jpg

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