Frustrated with the contradiction between the limits of jurisdictional authority and the Internet’s globalized access to information, more and more governments are instituting measures to block access to web sites which are deemed illegal in their territory but are located outside their jurisdiction. A bill introduced in the U.S. Senate on Monday would start to put into place an infrastructure for maintaining a black list of censored domain names. The purpose is not political censorship but blocking in the name of copyright and brand protection. The proposed bill is called the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA). It’s a radical change in internet policy masquerading as a strengthening of copyright enforcement. COICA and similar measures are not designed to identify and catch the perpetrators of crimes or even, primarily, to take down the illegal web site or content. They are designed to prevent ordinary users of the internet from being able to connect to or transact with the infringing sites. In other words, they substitute regulation of the general public’s internet access for prosecution of crimes committed by specific people in specific locations.
A real name registration policy for mobile users in China was issued on September 1st, 2010, requiring people to show their national identification card and complete a registration form when purchasing a new SIM card to activate mobile services.
The Chair of ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee has issued a statement on the censorship of top level domain names. We are sad to report that the alleged GAC position is deeply flawed and outrageously wrong-headed. It is a recipe for global censorship, and although at this point it only applies to the DNS it can lead to the erosion of all internet freedom of expression unless it is stoutly resisted.
It still isn't over.
At its public forum Thursday, the ICANN Board indicated its willingness to accept and act in accordance with the findings of an Independent Review Panel that ruled it had treated the .xxx top level domain application unfairly. In a presentation from its General Counsel, ICANN bowed to justice and issued two important declarations.
At the Brussels meeting between ICANN's Board and its Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), a fascinating and important discussion took place over the right of ICANN to censor or restrict the kind of words that can be used as top level domain names. The issues being debated here have profound implications for global regulation of internet content.
Last month, in a speech to China's top legislature, Wang Chen, director of State Council Information Office of China, introduced that “we are also exploring an identity authentication system for users of online bulletin board systems”. Identity authentication, or real-name registration in China’s online environment has been discussed intensively in the past few years, however, Wang Chen’s speech is regarded as the first official announcement of the government enforcement to disable anonymity in popular news portals and business websites.
Two Italian law scholars, G. Sartor and M. Viola, have written up a nice description and analysis, in English, of the Judge's decision convicting Google executives of “processing health data without authorization,” apparently a criminal offense. Based on their description, the decision seems like a technically incompetent one as well as having bad policy implications.
The most recent episode of The Ask Mr. DNS Podcast offers up some disturbing corroborating evidence as to the extent of DNS filtering and outright blocking occurring in China. VeriSign's Matt Larson and InfoBlox's Cricket Liu, who co-host the geeky yet engaging and extremely informative show, held a roundtable discussion including technical experts from dynamic name service providers (better known as “managed DNS” services) DynDNS, TZO, No-IP, and DotQuad, as well as Google and Comcast.
After recalling the recent episode where queries to Net Nod's instance of the i root were intercepted and tampered with resulting in incorrect responses being returned inside and outside of China for facebook.com and other websites, Larson posed the question whether others were having similar experiences. (NB: Net Nod's i-root server instance in Beijing is still shut down, as their CEO has apparently stated it is not possible to offer authoritative root service in China) Unfortunately, several of the managed DNS services providers answered affirmatively.
We knew – and we suspect that ICANN knew – that calling for public comment on the future of the .xxx domain after ICANN was slapped on the wrist for its mishandling of the proposal was a useless procedure. Now we have confirmation. As we approach the comment deadline (May 10), we have a flood (6,000 and counting) of comments from the same rightwing religious groups that mobilized against .xxx back in June and July of 2005. We also have another 150 comments from the Free Speech Coalition – a group of online porn providers who also didn’t like the idea 5 years ago and mobilized against it. And a petition with thousands of signatures for xxx. Does this sound vaguely familiar?