February 19, 2012

Domain diversification, or why wendy.seltzer.is

Filed under: Chilling Effects, censorship, code, domain names — wseltzer @ 12:45 pm

Early last week, jotforms.com, a platform for user-generated webforms, found its domain name suspended, breaking and all its users’ hosted forms. When its founder inquired why, registrar GoDaddy responded that the name had been “suspended as part of an ongoing law enforcement investigation” — apparently instigated by the U.S. Secret Service. Commentators jumped on GoDaddy, already in the doghouse for supporting SOPA, but also linked the problem to earlier U.S. government domain takedowns: ICE’s year-long unexplained seizure of music blog dajaz1, and more recent seizure of megaupload.com’s domain, along with its principals. The problem comes from both: GoDaddy is too willing to suspend first, ask questions later; and the U.S. government is to eager to use and encourage takedowns, disregarding their free speech implications.

foxylad on Hacker News gave us “Today’s sysadmin todo list:”

0. Get corporate membership with EFF.

1. Identify all applications with user-generated content.

2. Move all associated domains to a non-US based registrar.

3. Migrate DNS, web serving and other critical services to non-US based servers.

4. Migrate yourself to a non-US controlled country.

I’m sorry for US sites and users. Your government is hell-bent on turning the internet into a read-only device like TV, easily regulated and controlled.

Now I still believe that the United States’ First Amendment gives strong protection to free expression, online or off. But so long as the administration’s enforcers are playing with domain takedown like a shiny new toy gun, aimed without regard due process of law, online speech that depends on U.S. registries or registrars is at risk. I’ve registered my domains through the excellent Canada-based Hover, but the .com, .net, and .org registries are still located in the U.S. and hence vulnerable. I don’t think anything on my sites infringes, but that’s one more chance than I’d be taking outside U.S. jurisdiction.

Iceland, on the other hand, has expressed a strong commitment to free, online expression. I’m happy to support Iceland’s free-speech haven by moving some of my business there. If enough others do too, perhaps that jurisdictional arbitrage will show the U.S. government the harm that bad law-enforcement and bad law inflict on U.S. business and society.

Plus, what’s not to like in such fun URLs as http://wendy.seltzer.is/blogging (which redirects here) and http://wendy.seltzer.is/writing (which I’m counting on to inspire me to do more!)


  1. So … how do you register a .is domain, then?

    Comment by Ben Laurie — February 19, 2012 @ 1:31 pm

  2. Register at http://www.isnic.is/en/ , and 1984.is offers free nameservice.

    Comment by wseltzer — February 19, 2012 @ 1:38 pm

  3. We plan to move some of our Tor infrastructure from USA to Iceland soon as well. It is quite expensive, but I believe it is the right signal to make these days.

    Comment by Moritz Bartl — February 19, 2012 @ 2:15 pm

  4. I too have been watching the increasing questionable seizures that have been taking place but was unsure what to do. Thanks for providing a reminder.

    However, that has to be the most painful registration process I’ve been through in some time. Not that any one step was particularly difficult - it was just jarring after a decade and a half of well thought out payment forms and helpful hints to go back to something so spartan. I’m not looking forward to the configuration of my new *.is domain, even if it is the right thing to do.

    Comment by Matthew Reinbold — February 19, 2012 @ 10:43 pm

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