Will Blocking TLDs Fracture the Internet?

With blocking of internet content pervasive by many regimes around the world, the most well-known being the Great Firewall of China, Minds+Machines’ Antony Van Couvering examines the issue in light of ICANN’s approval of the .XXX Top Level Domain and the Indian government’s announcement that they will block access to any .XXX website.

Writing on the Minds+Machines blog, Van Couvering says “the creation of new TLDs which are offensive to someone, somewhere, will probably increase it. But will it fracture the Internet?”

He asks the question in light of ICANN George Sadowsky’s dissent when ICANN approved the .XXX TLD at their board meeting that concluded the recent Silicon Valley San Francisco meeting.

In part, Sadowsky said, as quoted by Van Couvering:
Fourth, and extremely important, I believe that the future of the unified DNS could be at stake [if .xxx were approved].

I submit that the approval of the application for dot xxx could encourage moves to break the cohesiveness and uniqueness of the DNS.

In my judgment, it would undoubtedly lead to filtering the domain, and quite possibly instigate the erosion, degradation, and eventual fragmentation of the unique DNS root.

Now, while we know that filtering already exists, I believe that the creation of dot xxx would mark the first instance of an action by this board that may directly encourage such filtering, posing a risk to the security and stability of the DNS.

In my judgment, the board should not be taking actions that encourage filtering or blocking of a domain at the top level.

Further, I believe that the filtering of so-called offensive material can provide a convenient excuse for political regimes interested in an intent on limiting civic rights and freedom of speech.

Further, I believe that such moves provide an incitement to fracture the root, a concern that we’ve recognized in preparation for the new gTLD program as a distinct threat to the security and stability of the DNS.

However even with Sadowsky’s considered view, Van Couvering concludes that “when we look at what blocking actually is, and what it does, I think the fears are unfounded. People will find a way to see what they want to see, and ignore stuff that they don’t like. Blocking of a TLD by a local government is not going to lead to the fracturing of the Internet. If the case of Egypt is any guide, it’s more likely to lead to the fracturing of the local government.”

To read this posting by Antony Van Couvering in full on the Minds+Machines blog, see:
www.mindsandmachines.com/2011/04/will-blocking-a-tld-fracture-the-internet