In the last week, the Iranian Government terminated nearly 95% of all public Internet access in Iran. President Rohani has allocated much of the remaining connectivity to government-controlled websites operated on .ir country-level domain names.
In response to the most extreme censorship measures in Iranian history, VPN.com CEO Michael Gargiulo released this letter to President Trump, Treasury Secretary Mnuchian and Mr. Marby, CEO of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to warn of the growing dangers of Internet, censorship and nuclear activity in Iran.
Specific regulatory and sanction recommendations have been included. A full copy of the letter issued can be found below.
President Donald Trump
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500 USA
Secretary Steven Mnuchin
United States Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20220 USA
Mr. Göran Marby, CEO
℅ Mr. John Jeffrey, General Counsel
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
12025 Waterfront Drive, Suite 300
Los Angeles, CA 90094 USA
Dear President Trump, Secretary Mnuchin and Mr. Marby:
Thank you, Mr. President, for your review and consideration of our prior communication regarding North Korea and the .kp country code top-level domain property.
As a global leader in cybersecurity, Internet access and domain names we urge you to impose countermeasures against Iran in response to President Hassan Rouhani’s latest malign and oppressive decision to eliminate Internet access and freedom of speech for 82 million citizens.
This censorship of expression and information is a human rights violation as defined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly.
As a result, the only remaining websites with reliable Internet connectivity are controlled by the Iranian government and are operating on the .ir domain delegation, also known as the Iranian country code top-level domain (ccTLD).
In response to the U.S. Department of Treasury press release from November 22, 2019, Treasury Designates Iran’s Minister of Information and Communications Technology in View of the Regime’s Repressive Internet Censorship, there are additional pressures, targeting Iran, that can be applied to fast track diplomacy with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.
The Minister of Information and Communications controls only part of the Internet in Iran. The Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences controls all remaining access and .ir domains. The organization is controlled directly by President Rouhani but remains unsanctioned.
Furthermore, we urge the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), who delegates all country code top-level domain properties, to terminate all access to .ir domains by removing the .ir domain delegation from the DNS root zone until these sanctions are lifted.
In addition, we request new regulation and terminination of other ccTLDs operated by governments that enable human rights violations, censorship and terrorism, as demanded by the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It is unacceptable that ICANN has intellectual property dispute policies for commercial abuses but has no accountability or regulation for acts of terrorism and basic human rights violations carried out by the governments they grant ccTLD property to.
Please find an outline of our suggested diplomatic recommendations, below. We encourage the Trump Administration to evaluate these recommendations to provoke diplomacy, promote peace and freedom of expression for the people of Iran.
List the Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences, Siavash Shahshahani and Alireza Saleh on the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control Specially Designated Nationals And Blocked Persons List, Pursuant to Executive Order 13846; At President Rohani’s discretion, this organization and these individuals are assigned to operate Iran’s .ir domain name extension and are key to the country’s Internet connectivity and the government’s censorship.
a. By listing the Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences on the OFAC list you would eliminate all global Internet access and service to .ir domains.
b. The primary impact of this action would eliminate all web access and e-mail service to .ir domains. This would cause massive economic and communication disruption to Iran across more than 1,131,300 .ir domains, all of which cannot currently be accessed by Iranian citizens due to government-initiated censorship.
c. For maximum pressure you must compel ICANN and all five Regional Internet Registries to revoke the .ir domain delegation from their DNS root zone files.
i. This access could be restored at any time, upon sanction relief.
Demand ICANN and Regional Internet Registries Revoke Domain Delegations Operated by State Sponsors of Terrorism; Iran, in efforts to protect their growing nuclear program, has consolidated their Internet to the .ir domain delegation and is engaging in bad-faith censorship on an alarming scale. These .ir domains now provide Iran maximum oppressive control over their Internet and enhances their terror abilities.
a. ICANN must develop regulation that revokes access to country-code top level domain delegations for repeated human rights violations, terrorist activity and censorship by the ccTLD operating government.
i. As demanded by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2462 (2019), “all [member] States shall — in a manner consistent with their obligations under international law — ensure that their laws and regulations make it possible to prosecute and penalize, as serious criminal offences, the provision or collection of funds, resources and services intended to be used for the benefit of terrorist organizations or individual terrorists.”
b. It is the duty and obligation of the ICANN and Regional Internet Registries to eliminate the possibilities of self-contained darkwebs, like the .ir extension, that support terrorism, hate crimes, and human rights violations.
i. As demanded by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report: The use of the Internet for terrorist purposes, page 141, section G, “Private sector cooperation; While the responsibility for countering the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes ultimately lies with Member States [of the United Nations], the cooperation of key private sector stakeholders is crucial to effective execution. Proactive engagement with private sector stakeholders such as service providers, websites hosting user-generated content and Internet search engines will continue to play an important role in controlling the availability of terrorism-related content disseminated via the Internet.”
c. Furthermore, by granting possession of ccTLD property to countries like Iran, ICANN and the .ir domain delegation are openly harboring the action and international communication of globally recognized sponsors of terrorism.
d. ICANN has regulation for intellectual property disputes and Domain Abuse Activity Reporting (DAAR) Project but not acts of terrorism, acts of war, human rights violations or associated internationally recognized crimes. There must be regulatory protections and responsibilities for these crimes from ICANN.
e. Regardless of prior ICANN denials, the organization, in conjunction with Regional Internet Registries, has the sole access to disable ccTLD property; as seen with their termination of the .YU domain delegation from Yugoslavia.
f. ICANN has confusingly not published ccTLD agreements with Iran, Syria or North Korea; all of which are designated State Sponsors of Terrorism.
g. ICANN, organized under the California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation Law, is headquartered in Los Angeles, California and has a legal obligation to unilaterally comply with United States sanctions and United Nations Security Council resolutions.
If a free and open Internet cannot be accessed by all citizens of Iran, the luxury and freedom of speech granted by the .ir domains should not be afforded to the Iranian government.
As recently noted by the U.S. Envoy and Special Representative for Iran, Mr. Brian Hook, the United States is actively working to restore Internet access to Iranians with anti-censorship tools like Virtual Private Networks but even this approach has found limited success against the oppression from the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
In conclusion Mr. President, I bring this information to your attention as we strive for a globally recognized diplomatic solution with Iran for denuclearization, freedom of speech, and civilian access to a free and open Internet.
As President Herbert Hoover said, “It is a paradox that every dictator has climbed to power on the ladder of free speech. Immediately on attaining power each dictator has suppressed all free speech except his own.”
A decision to sanction the Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences would send a clear message to Iran and ICANN that the United States is committed to combat state sponsored criminal activity, terrorism and the censorship no matter where it exists in the world or Internet.
CEO at VPN.com