Law enforcement via domain names: caveats to DNS neutrality

8 November 2012 - A Workshop on Security in Baku, Azerbaijan


In many countries, Internet domain names and addresses in the global Domain Name System (DNS) are more frequently used for legal enforcement purposes, such as anti-piracy and counterfeit, attacking cyber-crimes and prevent pornography and obscenity, etc. Under the law enforcement measures, a domain names may be ceased resolving, redirected to a new location (i.e. legal warning page from authority) or transferred to another party. When domain names are subject to intellectual property protection, anti-phishing, protection of public order or morality or any other legal enforcement purpose, information flow on the Internet will inevitably be affected. The critical issues herein are whether the law enforcement purposes are justified to utilize the means of domain names, whether such utilization would tamper the security, stability and integrity of the Internet communications, and whether enforcement via DNS would become a short-cut to suppress free speech and other human rights without the sufficient legal supervision and check-and-balance mechanism. In addition, legal enforcement via DNS is a caveat that enforcement measures are penetrating from the application level through ISPs deep down to critical Internet resource level through domain name registries and registrars. After ISPs have been commonly used for taking down contents and even policing their network, it seems the turn of domain name registries and registrars to join the "private" enforcement model. However, apart from the domain name strings, do domain name registries and registrars have the expertise, resources and legal protection (such as safe harbor) to interfere the contents on the Internet? Shouldn't DNS neutrality be preserved against the aggressive legal enforcement advancement? The workshop will present a comparative study on these issues particularly from the prospective of the emerging global economies in Asia, such as India and China. Legal enforcement measures via DNS in these world-largest Internet communities would have note-worthy global impact.