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.xxx to tackle piracy, child abuse and censorship

Kevin Murphy, December 5, 2011, Domain Policy

The International Foundation For Online Responsibility, the policy oversight group for .xxx domains, says it wants to help fight piracy, child abuse material and internet censorship.

Those are the three priorities to emerge from IFFOR’s inaugural two-day meeting last month, according to the organization. It has set up three working groups to look at the issues.

On filtering, a pretty hot topic given the various pieces of copyright-related legislation currently under consideration in the US and elsewhere, IFFOR said:

The filtering working group will review the state of global filtering laws, regulations and plans with a view to educating legislators and others about the advantages and effectiveness of user-defined filtering as opposed to mandated filtering or blocking at the ISP or router-level.

While there’s yet to be a proven case of an entire nation blocking .xxx domains, some countries have said they are considering it and I’ve heard several anecdotal cases of companies blocking the TLD.

IFFOR also said wants to find a way to help combat piracy “that can work across the entire dot-xxx registry” and is looking at both technical and legal measures.

The child abuse imagery working group, headed by veteran cyber-cop Sharon Girling, plans to work with existing third-party organizations on reporting and policy-making.

All three goals are self-evidently noble. Whether IFFOR will be able to make a noticeable impact on any will of course depend on what policies its working groups come up with.

IFFOR’s Policy Council comprises nine members: five from the porn industry, a free speech advocate, a child protection advocate, a security expert and an ICM Registry representative.

ICANN fights government gTLD power grab

Kevin Murphy, July 22, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN has opposed a US move to grant governments veto power over controversial new top-level domain applications.

Cutting to the very heart of Obama administration internet governance policy, ICANN has told the National Telecommunications and Information Administration that its recent proposals would “undermine the very principle of the multi-stakeholder model”.

The stern words came in ICANN’s response to the NTIA’s publication of revisions to the IANA contract, the contract that allows ICANN to retain its powers over the domain name system root.

The NTIA’s Further Notice Of Inquiry contained proposed amendments to the contract, including this:

For delegation requests for new generic TLDS (gTLDs), the Contractor [ICANN] shall include documentation to demonstrate how the proposed string has received consensus support from relevant stakeholders and is supported by the global public interest.

This was widely interpreted as a US attempt to avoid a repeat of the .xxx scandal, when ICANN approved the porn gTLD despite the unease voiced by its Governmental Advisory Committee.

As I noted in June, it sounds a lot like code for “if the GAC objects, you must reject”, which runs the risk of granting veto powers to the GAC’s already opaque consensus-making process.

In his response to the FNOI (pdf), ICANN chief Rod Beckstrom says that the NTIA’s proposal would “replace” the “intensive multi-stakeholder deliberation” that created the newly approved Applicant Guidebook.

He also pointed out the logical inconsistency of asking IANA to remain policy-neutral in one part of the proposed contract, and asking it to make serious policy decisions in another:

The IANA functions contract should not be used to rewrite the policy and implementation process adopted through the bottom-up decision-making process. Not only would this undermine the very principle of the multi-stakeholder model, it would be inconsistent with the objective of more clearly distinguishing policy development from operational implementation by the IANA functions operator.

NTIA head Larry Strickling has been pounding the “multistakeholderism” drum loudly of late, most recently in a speech in Washington and in an interview with Kieren McCarthy of .nxt.

In the .nxt interview, Strickling was quite clear that he believes ICANN should give extra authority to governments when it comes to approving controversial strings.

The NTIA concern – shared by other government entities including the European Commission – is that controversial strings could lead to national blocking and potentially internet fragmentation.

While Strickling declined to comment on the specific provisions of the IANA contract, he did tell .nxt:

If the GAC as a consensus view can’t support a string then my view is that the ICANN Board should not approve the string as to do so in effect legitimizes or sanctions that governments should be blocking at the root zone level. And I think that is bad for the Internet.

Where you’re dealing with sensitive strings, where you’ve engaged the sovereignty of nations, I think it is appropriate to tip the hat a little bit more to governments and listen to what they say. On technical issues it wouldn’t be appropriate but on this particular one, you’ve got to listen a little bit more to governments.

He also indicated that the US would not necessarily stand up for its principles if confronted by substantial objections to a string from other governments:

So we would be influenced – I can’t say it would be dispositive – if a large number of countries have a problem with a particular string, even if it was one that might not be objectionable to the United States government.

And that is out of interest of protecting the Internet’s root from widespread blocking at the top-level by lots of governments.

Does this mean that the US could agree to a consensus GAC objection to a .gay gTLD? A .porn? A .freespeech? It certainly sounds like it.

More government domain name censorship?

Kevin Murphy, April 28, 2011, Domain Policy

The government of Turkey has reportedly just kicked off a Draconian crackdown on domain names that contain words relating to sex and pornography.

According to the Hürriyet Daily News, a local daily newspaper, the telecommunications authority today send a list of 138 banned strings, many of them English words, to Turkish web hosts.

If the report is to be believed, any web sites containing any of the banned words in the domain will be shut down, even if the offending string is caused by two unrelated words running together.

The affect of the decision could see the closure of many website that feature the banned words. For example, the website “donanimalemi.com” (hardwareworld.com) because the domain name has “animal” in it, a banned word and likewise “sanaldestekunitesi.com,” (virtualsupportunit.com) would not be able to operate under its current name because it has “anal” in it; also among the 138 banned words.

In addition to many Turkish and English words, apparently the number 31 is also verboten, because it is local slang for “masturbation”.

The report suggests that the ban affects domain names in .com, not just in Turkey’s .tr country-code domain, but that it only affects web hosts, rather than access providers or registrars.

If the report is accurate (a machine translation of this regulator press release, in Turkish, suggests that it may be), it may be the strangest piece of government domain censorship in the internet’s short history.

Thankfully, if it only applies to web hosts (rather than to ISPs and domain registrars) I can’t see it having much of an impact.

If you host in Turkey, I expect that switching to a foreign provider will in many cases be fairly straightforward.

If there are any Turkish speakers reading this who are able to shed light upon this bizarre story, please do get in touch.