[AfrICANN-discuss] Breaking the Internet HOWTO: The Unintended Consequences of Governmental Actions

Anne-Rachel Inné annerachel at gmail.com
Mon Dec 19 09:51:02 SAST 2011

 Breaking the Internet HOWTO: The Unintended Consequences of Governmental
*McTim* <http://www.circleid.com/members/1420/>


*"Breaking the Internet"* is really hard to do. The network of networks is
decentralized, resilient and has no Single Point Of Failure. That was the
paradigm of the first few decades of Internet history, and most people
involved in Internet Governance still carry that model around in their

Unfortunately, that is changing and changing rapidly due to misguided
government intervention. Ever since 2000, when we witnessed the LICRA v.
Yahoo! <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LICRA_v._Yahoo%21> conflict, we have
had governments taking actions that move us away from the utopian vision of
early netizens <https://projects.eff.org/%7Ebarlow/Declaration-Final.html>towards
a dystopic,
unrecognizable Internet. <http://www.isoc.org/tools/blogs/scenarios/>

This past month has been incredibly busy in terms of misguided governmental
interference. Here is a short list of recent governmental bloopers and why
they are deeply flawed;

*1. Put out a RFP to run the core names and numbers
IANA) but limit it to US organisations.
* For over a decade, other governments have complained bitterly that the US
"controls the Internet". This move further entrenches that flawed
perception but serves no actual purpose since it is nearly inconceivable
that any entity other than ICANN (based in California) will get this no fee
contract from the Department of Commerce. Serving turkey at Thanksgiving is
an American tradition, but this move elevates the term "giving the bird" to
new heights. Governments unhappy with this decision have another reason to
try to "split the root" or build their own set of nameservers that they can

*2. Propose a UN Committee for Internet-related
* India has done this in the UN General Assembly. Earlier this year, India,
along with Brazil, and South Africa floated their "IBSA
to near universal criticism. Despite this, the Indian delegate at the
UN still said that CIRP would, *inter alia,*

*"coordinate and oversee the bodies responsible for technical and
operational functioning of the Internet, including global standards

 Since this is completely unlike the current situation in which the
technical and standards bodies operate independently, developing standards
and policies in open to all, bottom-up, transparent and consensus based
processes this proposal seems aimed at breaking the "Internet
This model, sometimes called the Internet
has given us the Goose that lays the Golden Eggs. An excellent
description of this<http://www.circleid.com/posts/20110910_governing_the_internet_the_model_is_the_message/>is
well worth reading, and as one commenter suggested "The model is so
important that a threat to the model is a threat to the Internet itself."
Because some governments are so angry about US unilateral control over
Critical Internet Resources (see #1 above), they are willing to kill the
Goose, thus ensuring no one gets the Golden Eggs.

*3. Start a new Thanksgiving tradition of censoring websites without due
* Last year the
quite a stir in Internet governance circles. It seems that ICE will
continue to do this until your lolcatz <http://icanhascheezburger.com/> are
replaced with this <http://www.circleid.com/images/uploads/6151.gif>, only
then will we see the public at large up in arms.

The rojadirecta case was striking in that ICE not only asserted authority
over content (found to be legal in Spain, where rojadirecta is located)
stored on a webserver outside the USA, it censored the website that only
carried (allegedly) infringing links, as rojadirecta does not have the
actual content that were thought to be infringing. Again, the US government
angers the rest of the world. It may also be useful to point out that
seizing the domain did not stop rojadirecta, they just moved their website
to multiple other domains.

*4. Be hypocritical.* Proclaim your support of Internet Freedom abroad and
actually fund projects that are doing excellent work to protect freedom of
speech online with one hand while using the other to restrict those
freedoms (see #3 above) not just for your citizens, but for billions of
Internet users worldwide.

*5. Make pressing a facebook "like"
criminal act.
* Well done, Thailand for giving us a humorous interlude in this long,
boring post!

*6. Issue a court order
<http://images.spaceref.com/news/2011/ProtectiveOrder.pdf> instructing
non-profit public interest organisations outside the USA (and one in
Virginia) to take specific actions in the databases they manage.* In some
cases, these actions may violate contracts the organisations have signed
with their members. Once again, a unilateral action by a government actor
throws sand in the gears of a well-oiled Internet policy system that has
taken decades to evolve.

*7. Propose legislation that not only censors Internet content on
allegations alone, but that requires ISPs and ANYONE who runs a caching DNS
server, a search engine, advertising or payment network to police
content.*In the USA, there is an intense battle over this
legislation that actually reaches in to DNS servers and mandates filtering
by server operators.

As the CDT<http://www.cdt.org/policy/cdt-warns-against-widespread-use-domain-name-tactics-enforce-copyright>and
myself as a signatory) have argued, the DNS is not the
appropriate place to do this.

DNS name queries should be and accurately translated into DNS name
responses regardless of query source or query subject. That's the design of
the DNS and it does its job billions of times per day. This legislation
would mandate that your DNS server send you a lie when you made specific
queries. Internet broken, plain and simple. In addition, our new DNS
Security extensions are incompatible with a lying DNS server. The DNS is
the wrong focal point to attack this problem.

Besides the breakage, the measure, as originally proposed (and as amended)
just wouldn't work to Stop Online Piracy (House bill) or PROTECT-IP
(Senate). It's trivial to register a new domain name, or find a new DNS
service provider and let's not forget the content "lives" on webserver
somewhere that has an IP address, so filtering DNS replies does not remove
the content. Of course, one domain name can have many sub-domains, so
taking down one domain can affect hundreds of perfectly innocent websites
(as happened in last years Thanskgiving ICE takedown).

*8. Hold hearings to put pressure on the organisation that manages Internet
name and number resources to delay a program that is a result of more than
7 years of bottom-up policy making processes.* Two separate House
committees put ICANN on the hot seat this week because Congress clearly
doesn't understand that they don't get to make these policies, they are
just one stakeholder among many. I applaud ICANN for sticking to their
agreed upon schedule<http://www.adweek.com/news/technology/house-hearing-icann-whats-dot-rush-137109>for
adding more gTLDs to the root;

*"This process has not been rushed," said Kurt Pritz, SVP of ICANN. "Every
issue has been discussed. No new issues have been raised. The people at
this table participated in this debate."*

 Even though I have never been a proponent of new gTLDs, I understand that
the Policy Development Process has finished and I accept the result.
Whinging to Congress is just bad politics for the ANA and others who
testified at the hearings if they ever want to be taken seriously in ICANN
policy making going forward.

On the face of it, all of these disjointed legislative, judicial and
executive actions would seem to argue for a global set of rules that all
governments would abide by. We saw during
that the US is not about to give up the one lever of control they
have over Internet names and numbers, nor are other governments willing to
give up sovereignty over what happens in their territories.

If, by some miracle, a deal was reached on a treaty, this would be even
more disastrous than individual governments making bad policy decisions.
Having nearly 200 UN Member States making Internet policy in a top-down
governments only setting would only multiply the badness of the bad ideas
listed above. Do we really want China, Burma and Iran (just to mention a
few) making decisions on what content we can consume or create?

Governments and Intergovernmental bodies are supposed to serve the public
interest. Unfortuantely, they don't grok the
their knee-jerk efforts are a threat to the Internet as we know it.
They can best promote the public interest by NOT regulating the Internet.

*By McTim <http://www.circleid.com/members/1420/>, Co-Chair of the African
Network Information Center Policy Development WG*
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