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Wartime Is a Bad Time To Mess With the Internet

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Like most people, we at the EFF are horrified by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Also, like most people, we are not experts in military strategy or international diplomacy. But we do have some expertise with the internet and civil liberties. As such, we are deeply concerned that governments around the world are pressuring Internet companies to interfere with basic Internet infrastructure. Messing with the internet as part of a political or military response can backfire in many ways.

Social media platforms are already under a lot of pressure. Russia demands that companies ranging from Facebook to Google to Netflix handle state-owned content. In an unprecedented move, the European Union has decided to ban the broadcasting and distribution of content by these media throughout the European Union. Ukraine urges the European Commission to: do much more.

But now the Ukrainian government Request to ICANN Disconnect Russia from the Internet and make Russian websites and emails more difficult for outsiders to access by revoking the top-level domain names ‘.ru’, ‘.рф’ and ‘.su’ from the root zone I’m doing it. like in Russia. Ukraine also contacted RIPE, one of five regional registries in parts of Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia, asking the organization to revoke its delegation of IP addresses to Russia.

As a practical matter, some of these calls are inherently impossible. ICANN cannot take a country offline with the push of a button. RIPE cannot revoke IP addresses. But the problem doesn’t stop there. Reworking the basic Internet infrastructure protocols can have many dangerous and long-term consequences.

Here are some:

It deprives people of their most powerful tools for sharing information when they need it most.

While the internet can be used to spread misinformation, it is important for everyone, including activists, human rights defenders, journalists and the general public to document and share real-time facts and resist propaganda. In fact, Russia has reportedly been trying for years to “unplug” from the internet so that it can take complete control of domestic communications. Internet providers should not help the Russian government or other governments keep people trapped in information bubbles.

It sets a dangerous precedent.

Once intervention pathways are established, states and state-backed actors will have additional tools to control public interactions. As processes and tools for removing representations are developed or expanded, businesses are expected to be inundated with demand to apply them. Inevitably, these tools are applied to speeches for which the company was not originally designed and aimed at targets.At the platform level, states and state-sponsored actors have long Weaponized frag tool to silence dissent.

Everyone’s security and privacy are compromised.

Any attempt to compromise the infrastructure of the Internet affects the security of the Internet and its users. For example, IP address revocation refers to the Routing Policy Specification Language (RPSL) used by ISPs to describe routing policies and the Resource Public Key Infrastructure (RPKI) used to improve the security of BGP routing on the Internet. ), etc. Infrastructure is at serious risk. This exposes users to man-in-the-middle attacks, jeopardizes everyday activities such as banking, and compromises privacy as users have nowhere to hide.

It erodes trust in the network and the policies on which it is built.

Trust is paramount to how networks self-organize and interoperate with other networks.It is the guarantee of a resilient global communications infrastructure that can withstand pandemics and war. That trust rests on imperfect but painstaking work. Multi-stakeholder process Develop neutral policies, rules and institutional mechanisms. Bypassing these mechanisms irreparably undermines the foundation of the Internet: trust.

We were relieved to see that ICANN When ripe has refused to comply with the Ukrainian government’s demands and hopes other infrastructure organizations will follow suit. In moments of crisis, we are often tempted to take previously unthinkable measures. Here we must resist the temptation and get rid of such suggestions altogether. In dark times, people must be able to reach the light, reassure loved ones, keep themselves and others informed, and escape walls of propaganda and censorship. An important tool. Please don’t mess around.

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