XYZ.com CEO Clarifies Policy on Chinese Censorship of Internet Domains

by Tracy Knauer •

Is XYZ.com working with Chinese authorities to censor certain Internet domains for people across the world? That’s what some recent reports have said. Here’s what XYZ.com told us in response to questions about the issue.

A couple of weeks ago, reports began circulating on outlets like the EFF and the Wall Street Journal that XYZ.com had written a proposal to block the registration of domains it controls that contain words on a Chinese government blacklist. The censored words reportedly would include ones related to democracy and the Tienanmen Square protests in China, among other topics.

The plot thickened when XYZ.com CEO Daniel Negari denied those reports this week. “Speculation exists that there is some kind of banned list being driven by the Chinese government,” he wrote. “This is not true. There is no banned list.”

We contacted Negari to get some additional information about XYZ.com’s policy, and why he believes the confusion arose. Here (in italics) are our questions, followed by his responses:

The EFF has suggested that you make an unambiguous statement that Internet users in China and worldwide will be free to register strings that offend the Chinese government in any of the .xyz registry’s top-level domain. Could you do that now?

The purpose of this post was to make the clear statement that all internet users worldwide will be free to register any .xyz domains they want, even if they offend the Chinese government. We will continue to spread the message LOUD. I would be happy to connect with you for an interview.

The Domain Incite story seems to rest on a statement in your company’s Registry Services Evaluation Process document, where it is stated:

XYZ will reserve names prohibited for registration by the Chinese government at the registry level internationally, so the Gateway itself will not need to be used to block the registration of of any names.

Could you clarify that statement?

As international businesses, ICANN requires all registries and registrars to comply with “applicable law” in every country. However, neither ICANN nor the registry are law enforcement agencies. Practically speaking, this means a domain (regardless of extension) registered to a German citizen through a German registrar must follow German law, but we as the registry operator are not responsible for enforcing this. But if a German court were to issue an order for this domain due to illegal activity, then we have a responsibility to implement that court order by taking down the domain. Obviously, when a domain is taken down in Germany, it is taken down everywhere on the internet. Likewise, when a US legal action takes down a domain name in the US, it is taken down everywhere.

Regarding the above statement, we were clarifying to ICANN in a technical document that if a Chinese-located domain needed to be taken down by a court order under circumstances where it falls into Chinese jurisdiction, it would be treated the same as one taken down under US law or anywhere else in the world. This is an ICANN requirement for every registry. By stating “XYZ will reserve domains” we mean that XYZ will take-down domains in order to comply with “applicable law.”

The idea that XYZ is going to impose Chinese law and prevent people outside of China from registering certain domain names is simply incorrect and not true.

I understand your company must comply with Chinese law while it operates in China. Will your domain take-down process be similar to procedures you follow in response to take-down requests from other governments?

Yes, our internal take-down procedures are exactly the same across all governments, including China.

In a recent blog post you said “.xyz will soon be one of the first new non-China-based domain extension that can actually be used by Chinese citizens to have a web presence”. Could you expand on that statement?

China blocks websites like Facebook and Twitter from being accessible to their citizens. This same system also stops Chinese registrants from being able to launch websites on new domain extensions, unless the extension is accredited by the MIIT. We expect XYZ to soon become one of the first new registries to become accredited, allowing Chinese registrants to use their new domain names to get online. What we are doing is not only for the good of Chinese registrants, but sets a precedent for the allowance of freedom of speech globally.

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