Ukraine, earlier this week, made a plea to the global internet bodies to unplug off the internet. Ukraine’s representatives at ICANN, Andrii Nabok, and the country’s deputy prime minister and digital transformation minister, Mykhailo Fedorov in a letter asked the organisation to “permanently or temporarily, the domains “.ru”, “.рф” and “.su”.” Also Read - Google Play users in Russia can no longer update or download paid apps: All you need to know
“Contribute to the revoking for SSL certificates for the abovementioned domains. Shut down DNS root servers situated in the Russian Federation, namely: Saint Petersburg, RU (IPv4 22.214.171.124) and Moscow, RU (IPv4 126.96.36.199, 3 instances),” the letter said. Also Read - No more Spotify in Russia! Here's why
However, their request has been rejected by ICANN. ICANN President and Chief Executive Officer Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, Göran Marby, in a response to the letter said, “The Internet is a decentralised system. No one actor has the ability to control it or shut it down…we take actions to ensure that the workings of the Internet are not politicised, and we have no sanction-levying authority. Essentially, ICANN has been built to ensure that the Internet works, not for its coordination role to be used to stop it from working.” Also Read - Meta removes Ukrainian President Zelensky deepfake video: What are deepfakes, what are they used for?
Elaborating on ICANN’s decision, Marby said that complying with Ukraine’s request wasn’t possible for the organisation as it didn’t have the ability to revoke the specific SSL certificates for the mentioned domains. He also said that “such a change in the process would have devastating and permanent effects on the trust and utility of this global system”.
“It is only through broad and unimpeded access to the Internet that citizens can receive reliable information and a diversity of viewpoints. Regardless of the source, ICANN does not control Internet access or content,” he added.
Ukraine made a similar plea to the Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC), which was rejected by the organisation. “The Executive Board of the RIPE NCC believes that the means to communicate should not be affected by domestic political disputes, international conflicts or war. This includes the provision of correctly registered Internet numbering resources,” the organisation said in response.
What experts are saying about the request
Ukraine’s request is being met with caution from experts who have cautioned that removing Russia from the internet could have serious repercussions. In a series of tweets, executive director of Packet Clearing House that provides support and security to critical internet infrastructure Bill Woodcock, has said that this is a “heck of an ask on the part of Ukraine.”
He also elaborated on the repercussions of the decision. “Remove the Russian TLDs from the root zone. That would make Russian websites, email, et cetera, unreachable from outside Russia, and unreachable for some inside Russia as well, depending how their ISPs and recursive resolvers are configured,” he wrote in a tweet adding that complying with Ukraine’s asks would impact the common people in Russia the most.
“They would have little to no effect on the Russian government or military. Remember, this is _exactly_ the attack the Russians practiced for last July, which means their defenses are probably at optimum readiness right about now,” he added.
“In the short-term, this is a bad plan because it would cut the Russian man-on-the-street off from international news and perspectives, leaving them with only what the Russian government chooses to tell them. That’s not a great way to decrease Russian public support for the war.”
In the long-term, this would set the precedent that small industry associations in Los Angeles and Amsterdam would be playing arbiter in international conflicts, and messing with countries’ supposedly-sovereign country-code top-level domains.
— Bill Woodcock (@woodyatpch) March 1, 2022
His views were shared by the former president and CEO of ICANN, Paul Twomey who said, “I completely agree with this analysis. Keeping the protocol layer operating in Russia is the best way to ensure that sites carrying diverse views to Russian audiences are effective.”
I completely agree with this analysis. Keeping the protocol layer operating in Russia is the best way to ensure that sites carrying diverse views to Russian audiences are effective.
— Paul Twomey (@PaulDTwomey) March 1, 2022