Date: April 22, 2022 14:00-16:00
- Kwo-Wei Wu, Chairman of Taiwan Internet Governance Forum (TWIGF)
- Tsung Han Wu, Assistant Research Fellow, Institute for National Defense and Security Research
- Xin-Xiong Shen, Senior Technical Specialist of National Communications Commission
- Ken-Ying Tseng, Attorney-at-Law of LEE AND LI
- Kenny Huang, CEO of Taiwan Network Information Center (TWNIC)
One week after Russian invasion of Ukraine, Ukraine government representative sent letters to ICANN (Internet Organization for Assigned Names and Numbers) and RIPE NCC asking to introduce sanctions against Russian in the areas of DNS and Ipv4 and Ipv6 address. The requests include revoking the domains of “.ru”, “.рф” and “.su”, shutting down DNS root servers situated in the Russian and withdraw the right to use all IPv4 and IPv6 addresses by all Russian members.
RIPE NCC and ICANN have both rejected Ukraine’s requests as they do not change the Internet resources management by political factors. The panel invited experts with rich internet policy making experiences to talk about how the Internet governance institutions respond to the Ukraine-Russia conflict, explore the possible changes of global Internet governance principles, and identify key factors Internet community in Taiwan may pay attention to in the future.
The Moderator Kwo-Wei Wu opened the session with a brief background introduction mentioning that the requests from Ukraine Government were rejected by the 2 international Internet resource organizations. He invited the panelists to discuss issues from the perspectives of regulations, technology and Taiwan’s position.
Dr. Kenny Huang was asked to explain about the fundamental TLDs (top-level domains) reference: RFC 1591 – Domain Name System Structure and Delegation. “RFC 1591 is a reference guide for defining all types of TLDs, including generic TLDs (gTLDs), United States only generic domains as well as the two-letter country-code TLDs (ccTLDs). The naming of ccTLDs is based on the ISO 3166-1 standard. There is no specification in the RFC regarding who is eligible to apply for the ccTLDs, if the significantly interested parties (such as governments) of the domain name agree that the designated manager is the appropriate party.” However, Dr. Huang further indicated that, “RFC is not internationally mandatory standards, but adopted voluntarily.”
Ken-Ying Tseng, Attorney-at-Law of LEE AND LI, referred ICANN’s GAC (Governmental Advisory Committee) document titled “Principles and Guidelines for the Delegation and Administration of Country Code Top Level Domains”. She said, the GAC document, which was written based on RFC 1591, mainly describes the tripartite relationship among ICANN, the government or public authority and the ccTLD registry. Tseng further stated that, “ccTLD is a national/local matter, when an abuse occurs, domestic/local law will be applied. ICANN will maintain a neutral and hands-off stance.” As a result, ICANN is not in the position responding to the Ukrainian government’s request. “However, this event bring to mind that we need to face up to the ccTLD governance matter.”, concluded by Kuo Wei Wu.
Xin-Xiong Shen, from the regulation body, supports the decision of ICANN and RIPE NCC not to revoke Russia’s ccTLDs and IP addresses. “Taiwan stands difficult position internationally, any decision made based on political factors is not good for the country.”
Dr. Tsung Han Wu, a research fellow from the defense think tank, believes that Ukraine’s request to ICANN is just one of the country’s strategic IT operations. Dr. Wu deliberated that, rather than blocking Russia from the Internet, the true purpose is to impose more international pressures to Russia. “What we can learn from Ukraine in this matter is the application of multiple approaches to impose pressures on the aggressors.”
Dr. Kenny Huang further explained that it is technically feasible for ICANN or any government to block another country’s ccTLD, while the issue lies in the legal applicability. The economic sanctions against Russia imposed by the European Union, the United States and its allies are legally bind. It is notable that some countries consider Domain Name and IP Address as virtual assets and they are applicable to the economic sanctions. As a result, IP addresses referring to more than 700 individuals and entities in Russia, including the country’s top three telecom operators, were blocked as the implementation of economic sanction. If the scope of the sanction extends in the future, it is possible that RPKI (Resource Public Key Infrastructure) be invalidated and dis-function the Internet routing in Russia. In addition, although ICANN rejected Ukraine’s request, chairman of ICANN Board announced future removal of .SU ccTLD for the reason of the code is no longer listed in ISO 3166. Possibly for supporting the Ukraine government’s request?
Kuo-Wei Wu further reminded that, many countries block the Internet to a certain extent, especially China and Russia. By restricting the inbound traffic while allowing their hackers launch cyberattacks or interfere major elections to the United States and Taiwan. In the recent conflict, Russia also cyberattack Ukraine’s finance and telecommunications organizations, which can be considered as cyber war. Wu commented, “when imposing a cyber sanction, we should not only consider it might interfere Russian people’s access to the true information.”
Xin-Xiong Shen also commented that, in the case of Taiwan’s Internet is under attack and the society functions are affected, he is in favor of blocking the attackers’ network. “There are always other ways for truth dissemination,” Shen added.
China and Russia both claim their own Internet sovereignty, when cutting off Internet connection to Russia, Russia will take it as a justification to officially launch its independent national Internet: RuNet. Said Dr. Tsung Han Wu as respond to Kuo-Wei Wu’s reminder.
The panel went further to cover Taiwan’s other Internet connectivity issues, including submarine cables and communication satellites. The moderator started the discussion by referring to The Wall Street Journal’s commentary article. The article pointed out the war in Ukraine raised Taiwan’s concerns regarding the vulnerability of Internet connections.
Dr. Kenny Huang commented that, Ukraine is a land country and has no submarine cable problem. Although the communication facilities were destroyed in the early days of the war, they are immediately repaired. Moreover, SpaceX also offered Starlink low-orbit satellite services. In general, Ukraine’s Internet connection is good. “Taiwan’s submarine cable is riskier”, said Dr. Hung, “although satellite Internet is in place, it will be insufficient in capacity. As result, Taiwan should set up priorities for satellite development, such as for Internet access, for military-only purpose and so on.”
Dr. Tsung Han Wu shared the same view with Dr. Huang regarding the vulnerable submarine cable problem in Taiwan. He explained, not only because the cable repairing cost is high, but also very few suppliers globally. Not mentioning Chinese suppliers are part of the very few. “Taiwan needs to think about the countermeasures.” Dr. Wu suggested.
Xin-Xiong Shen point out the lack of interests of foreign satellite Internet service providers to Taiwan’s market and the island has an extremely high Internet penetration in the world. In addition, the national security concerns for foreign investment, requirements such as local landing and capital limitation may make our market less attractive. Taiwan may also face a problem applying for satellite orbits and frequencies from the United Nations body – ITU (International Telecommunication Union).
Ukraine uses Starlink solution in the wartime for Internet, it is like handing over the whole country’s Internet traffic to an American company. Kwo-Wei Wu suggested Taiwan’s satellite Internet regulation should seek balance between national security and communication needs.
Dr. Huang reminded that “Peacetime” and “wartime” are two different scenarios: the “normal” regulatory requirements are for the purpose of protecting the consumers; while in the “wartime”, there will be other rules applied. He further concluded that, the existing international legal system is very flexible. For example, the way countries expand the scope of economic sanctions to virtual assets is new attempt. Internet governance is even more flexible, and even if the official response of the international institutions looks rigorous, various “inclined” measures as mentioned can be taken. In addition, an Internet sanction principle was proposed, suggesting having a blacklist of domain name and IP address used by the military and propaganda agencies of the aggressor country. It is believed that many countries have already started to develop this sanction list.
“In the past, domain names and IP address were considered as public goods, in the Ukrain-Russian war, they are for the first time to be considered as economic sanction targets. It is a giant change since Internet governance debate in 1998. It also highlights the different approaches taken when facing the new Internet governance challenges.” Kwo-Wei Wu concluded the session.