Saturday, August 07, 2010

U.S. and Canadian Governments Support Chinese-Style Censorship of DNS in ICANN

Milton Mueller writes on the Internet Governance Project (IGP) Blog:

The Chair of ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee has issued a statement [.pdf] 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.

The GAC openly states that the goal of its policy is to ensure "the absence of any controversial strings" in the top level domain name space. Why this goal? The statement equates the absence of controversy in the content domain to the "security, stability and universal resolvability" of the domain name system.

The idea that any domain name that is "controversial" constitutes a threat to the security, stability and universal resolvability of the internet is an absurdity that flies in the face of all internationally recognized standards of freedom of expression. We need to protect expression especially when it is controversial. In effect, this principle gives governments a blank check to smother any dissent, any hint of disagreement on the internet because it might lead some government, somewhere, to block a domain.

This position is an outrage to freedom of expression principles. Its appeal to "universal resolvability" implies that the threat of authoritarian governments like China, or totalitarian dictatorships like North Korea or Iran, to block domains they object to is so horrible that all content on the internet should be pre-censored in order to ensure that it doesn't happen. Obviously this puts the most conservative, pro-censorship regimes in the drivers seat. It is the most idiotic position one could imagine. That it is put forward by the U.S. government and a supine Canadian follower is an unspeakable tragedy.

More here.


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