The fallout from Friday 15 March 2019 continues to be felt by everyone in New Zealand. We know the consideration of the balances between freedom of expression, liberty and security, the rule of law and natural justice, are many discussions yet to be had across New Zealand.
For me, there is an element of immediacy to temporarily draw a line in the sand and allow the community time to consider what next.
There are a lot of big questions at play. And a big question top of mind for us since 15 March is what would we have done if it was a .nz domain name linked to streaming objectionable material and not a platform like Facebook?
I don’t know the right way to answer this big question other than my gut reaction which would be that we would have found a way in .nz policy or law to have taken the domain name down.
To safeguard the .nz domain name space at this time, the Domain Name Commissioner’s functions will include an ability to suspend a domain name. This will be at the request of the Commission’s two trusted Memorandum of Understanding holders — the DIA and CERT NZ. Transparency is important when undertaking these extraordinary actions, and we will ensure any such actions are included as part of our quarterly transparency reporting.
We want to make it abundantly clear that anyone considering registering a .nz domain name to spread objectionable material, linked to the events in Christchurch, will have an extremely hard time registering that domain name.
This approach has been tested against the standards of necessity, proportionality and likely effectiveness. Have we got it right? I can honestly say I don’t know, but not changing our mindset seems to me not a very good way to think about a healthy domain name space for all of New Zealand.
Since the event, the Commission has been in regular contact with our colleagues at the Digital Safety Office at DIA in the first week post the event — almost daily. We’ve also sent tailored communications to our Registrar community. In a first, we’ve sent more than 600 emails to our global equivalents around the world. We’re also keeping a close eye on new domain name registrations.
Deloitte, on our behalf, has already started interviewing various stakeholders across the domain name ecosystem to help us with our compliance strategy and annual work plan and will report back to us in early May.
Are the above reactions enough? I guess time will tell. I also don’t know where the conversations and discussions will end up about what role, if any, there now is for the .nz domain name space in the broader public policy discussions.
We will need to have a wide discussion about whether it has any permanency or role more broadly in the .nz domain name space. For now, this is what we have. If circumstances change, or are said to remain extraordinary, we can talk about it openly online. Within the next month or so, there will be various places for reflection during the upcoming .nz policy review starting in May this year and at the Royal Commission of Inquiry.
It’s important that these issues are debated openly and freely before any permanent moves are made to curtail various rights and freedoms.
This extraordinary and unique set of circumstances has required us to develop an emergency response to keep the .nz domain name space a safe one. For more information about this, see the letter I sent to the InternetNZ President that outlines this response.
Domain Name Commissioner