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The Danger of Weaponising the DNS in the Ukraine Russia Conflict and Good News

As we watch the Ukraine and Russia conflict over boundaries and territories, I chanced upon a YouTube video showing the region of Europe and how, for the last 1000 years, national boundaries and names of nations have changed where in 1142, you had nations like Muslim Spain, Kievan Rus.

In 1143 the Kievan Rus included modern-day Ukraine and Crimea, and in 1163 bulk of Central and Southern Europe was the Holy Roman Empire, and in 1281 what was once the Kievan Rus was the Golden Horde Mongols. You can watch the video here.

In 1587 what is modern-day Ukraine was part of Poland. Over the 1000 years, the rise and fall of empires have caused political tectonic shifts and maneuverings that have led to invasions and the acquisition of land and territories.

Rise and Fall of Empires

Today, we are constantly watching the rise and fall of empires and the shifting of boundaries. It can be tempting to think that what the world is facing with wars and rumours of wars and changing boundaries is a new phenomenon. From the outset of time, nations continue to war against nations when interests are threatened, and boundaries continue to shift. Benedict Anderson defined the nation as imagined communities both inherently limited and sovereign in his book called “Imagined Communities” (1983).

Ukraine and Russia Conflict

As the newsfeeds continue to be inundated by the Ukraine and Russia conflict, I will, at this juncture, mention that I have friends in Russia and Ukraine who have been personally affected by the conflict. As this conflict escalates and sanctions increase, I watched with some measure of concern when I saw Ukraine’s Government Advisory Committee (GAC) member write and call for the removal of Russian administered top-level domains (.RU, .SU and .рф). Professor Milton Mueller also blogged about this; you can read his opinion on the matter, here.

Danger of Weaponising the DNS – Proceed with Caution

Were ICANN to decide to follow the GAC request from Ukraine to remove all Russian top-level domain names, it would literally mean that the 117588619 people and businesses, organizations, charities, churches, hospitals using the Internet in Russia would be deprived. It would also mean that the DNS can be weaponized. The danger of weaponizing the DNS is that innocent people will also suffer.

If I take us back several years, the Internet technical community will recall that similarly with .iq, the top-level domain name for Iraq, there were calls to take the .iq and subsequent reports indicating that the then delegated authority was connected to Hamas, and so this was taken away and prepared for redelegation later. For my non-technical friends who will read this, redelegation simply means when the top-level domain is reassigned to a new entity to manage the same.

The war at the DNS is a very fine line and has the ability to create a dangerous precedent as nations continue to battle and empires rise and fall. Simply put, it means that when the US considers a country a rogue state, it can choose through ICANN to weaponize the DNS. If we go down that path, it would not only be a slippery slope but one that ends up in a rabbit hole, completely justifying why the DNS would have to be stewarded by a custodian who could be neutral and apolitical.

As a member of ICANN’s At Large community, having once served as an At Large Advisory Committee member, I watched with great interest the “politicization” of the Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS). Management of the DNS has often been touted as a purely technical administration by the United States of America’s Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Far from being a technical task, DNS design and administration implicate public interest concerns such as trademark disputes, infrastructure stability and security, resource allocation and security (2018. Bradshaw and DeNardis). As a former co-coordinator for the Civil Society Internet Governance Caucus (IGC) can attest to the longstanding dispute and debates, and discord over the historical involvement of the US Department of Commerce (DOC) in overseeing aspects of DNS administration.

At the time I write this, there are 258 countries and territories that have been delegated country-code top-level domains as per APNIC Chief Scientist Geoff Houston’s potaroo website that keeps a running count of internet addresses distribution around the world.

Whilst the internet political wheels continue to turn, I wanted to point out a video I watched of Ukrainian and Russian Christians gathered in the same room praying for their people and praying that the Good News of Jesus Christ would be shared regardless. Today marks ten years since I joined CircleID, and I would like to use this opportunity to share the Good News that Jesus Christ is just a whisper away, that if you believe in your heart that God sent him to die on the cross for our sins and that he paid the penalty of sin which was death and that He was raised from death to life, we will be saved. All it takes is to believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. Whatever mountains you are facing in your life, whether it is a financial crisis, political crisis, illness, you can talk to God about it. This last decade has been full of adventure, crisis and hardships and the closest friend I have had is the Holy Spirit. The minute you receive Jesus into your life, you receive the Holy Spirit who comes alongside you to help you. He is the greatest comforter beyond any drug, person or material thing! Try Him Today!!!

To my Ukrainian friends, my heart is with you as you face these political challenges, and to my Russian friends, my heart is also with you, as I know many of you are subject to great adversity as well. Send me a message if you feel like reaching out to me to just talk, share, or pray.

I love you all very much and am thinking of you!

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I make a point of reading CircleID. There is no getting around the utility of knowing what thoughtful people are thinking and saying about our industry.

VINTON CERF
Co-designer of the TCP/IP Protocols & the Architecture of the Internet

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