Dealing with DNS Abuse is NOT a “Freedom of Speech” or “Censorship” Issue

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Late last week my company joined with some of the biggest names in the internet industry in announcing our adoption of a framework (PDF) on addressing DNS abuse.

For many of us the framework formally codifies what our businesses have been doing and, in some respects, it’s actually less stringent than what many of us do on a daily basis.

While most of the feedback we’ve received has been positive there have been others who take issue with what we’re doing.

They’re in two camps:

  • the “you aren’t doing enough camp” – a lot of these people want the internet infrastructure companies to act as the “internet police”.
  • the “you’re censoring the ‘net” or “this is a freedom of speech issue”

To those who call for “us” to do more all I can say is that we are not the internet police. None of us are interested in facilitating crime on our platforms, but at the same time we aren’t going to act as judge, jury and executioner. Yes, as we’ve stated, we can and we will take action to make the ‘net a better place and to remove or disable access domains etc., when we feel it is appropriate. But we aren’t going to turn our corner of the internet into a police state. I wouldn’t want to live or operate in a police state and I don’t think many of us or our clients would either.

But how about those who say that we are censoring the internet or infringing on freedom of speech?

I’ve stated publicly more than once in the past what my views are on this.

We are an actor in the internet ecosystem. We do not hold a monopoly for the services we provide and compete daily with both local and international players in the space (which includes many of the companies who have signed on to the framework).

We are not vigilantes and we have no interest in censoring anyone. However “doing the right thing” is something we should be able to do.

Should we allow paedophiles to share child abuse material?

Is it “ok” to leave domains online that are spreading malware?

We are a private company. Our business is 100% focussed on the internet. If the internet is allowed to degenerate into a cesspool then it doesn’t do us or anyone else any favours.

The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.

Mr Justice Holmes, Schenck v. United States, 1919

Freedom of speech is not an absolute right.

If you equate “freedom of speech” with allowing just about any kind of activity to exist online then I’m sure you can find providers out there that can facilitate you.

It just won’t be us!

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