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Ukraine asks ICANN to turn off Russia’s internet, but it’s a bad idea

Kevin Murphy, March 1, 2022, 17:32:18 (UTC), Domain Policy

Ukraine has asked ICANN to take down Russia’s top-level domains.

Andrii Nabok, the Ukrainian official on ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee made the request, asking the Org to “Revoke, permanently or temporarily, the domains .ru, .рф and .su” in a widely circulated email last night.

He also asked for DNS root servers in Moscow and St Petersburg to be shut down, and said he’s written to RIPE NCC to request IP addresses issued to Russian organizations to be withdrawn.

The request came on the fifth day of the Russian invasion, amid widespread, swingeing international sanctions targeting the Russian economy and high net worth individuals.

Accusing Russia of “war crimes”, Nabok wrote:

These atrocious crimes have been made possible mainly due to the Russian propaganda machinery using websites continuously spreading disinformation, hate speech, promoting violence and hiding the truth regarding the war in Ukraine. Ukrainian IT infrastructure has undergone numerous attacks from the Russian side impeding citizens’ and government’s ability to communicate.

Moreover, it’s becoming clear that this aggression could spread much further around the globe as the Russian Federation puts the nuclear deterrent on “special alert” and threatens both Sweden and Finland with “military and political consequences” if these states join NATO. Such developments are unacceptable in the civilized, peaceful world, in the XXI century.

Reaction in the community has been more mixed than I would have expected, but I think on balance more people are saying that turning off .ru et al would be a terrible idea, and I’m basically with that majority.

While there’s no doubt that Russia is spreading a lot of misinformation, I’m not sure there’s a direct, clear, demonstrable causal link between propaganda published on .ru domains and the missiles currently raining down on Kyiv that could be remedied by deleting a few lines from a database.

I’ve no doubt ICANN now has a painful decision to make, but I don’t think ICANN is the place to achieve this kind of goal and I think ICANN agrees with me.

We don’t want those clowns deciding what can and can’t be published on the internet, trust me.

Not even in the extraordinary circumstances we find ourselves in today.

ICANN is not competent enough, smart enough, or ethical enough to have that kind of power.

It is smart enough to accept its own limitations, however, and it has a strong enough sense of self-preservation to know that to accept Ukraine’s demands would be to sign its own death warrant.

ICANN only has power, and its execs only pull in the big salaries, because it has the consensus support of the internet community.

For 20 years outsiders, such as the ITU and more lately blockchain projects, have sought to chip away at that consensus and replace the multistakeholder model with multilateralism or crypto-based wish-thinking.

Turning off a nation’s TLD would play exactly into the narrative that DNS oversight is dangerously centralized, dangerously Americanized, and ripe for replacement.

That could not only lead to the death of ICANN but also the death of the open, interoperable, international internet.

As much as I support sanctions against Russia, and have nothing but respect and admiration for the people of Ukraine, I fear this is an ask too far.

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Comments (3)

  1. This is RIPE’s take:

    “Dear members,

    At its meeting yesterday, the RIPE NCC Executive Board approved the following resolution:

    The RIPE NCC provides critical services to its membership spread across a diverse geographical and political region.

    The Executive Board of the RIPE NCC believes that the means to communicate should not be affected by domestic political disputes, international conflicts or war. This includes the provision of correctly registered Internet numbering resources.

    The Executive Board of the RIPE NCC is committed to taking all lawful steps available to ensure that the RIPE NCC can provide undisrupted services to all members across our service region and the global Internet community.

    The RIPE NCC will publicly document all its efforts to ensure that the registry is not negatively affected by laws, regulations or political developments.


    It is crucial that the RIPE NCC remains neutral and does not take positions with regard to domestic political disputes, international conflicts or war.

    This guarantees equal treatment for all those responsible for providing Internet services. This is a fundamental reason why the RIPE NCC has been able to maintain its operations in the way it has for the past three decades. It also means that the information and data provided by the RIPE NCC can be trusted as authoritative and free from bias or political influence. Failure to adhere to this approach would jeopardise the very model that has been key to the development of the Internet in our service region.

    The Executive Board also expresses solidarity with those operators who have the difficult task of maintaining Internet access to assist the people suffering from the terrible effects of armed conflicts and war.

    Kind regards,

    Christian Kaufmann
    Chairman of the RIPE NCC Executive Board”

  2. Mark Thorpe says:

    I have no problem with the idea. Shut them down!

  3. Alexander says:

    Thank you Kevin.
    People really need (not must but need) not be overreact and check independent sources for information before their actions but such root organisations must keep full independence from any kind of politics and be the reliable source of assority of trust for everybody.
    Otherwise they are depending on cortels and political blocks.

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