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.cat Domain a Casualty in Catalonian Independence Crackdown

.cat Domain a Casualty in Catalonian Independence Crackdown

Postby smix » Sun Sep 24, 2017 1:48 am

.cat Domain a Casualty in Catalonian Independence Crackdown
Electronic Frontier Foundation

URL: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/09/c ... -crackdown
category: Politics
Published: September 21, 2017

Description: On October 1, a referendum will be held on whether Catalonia, an autonomous region of the northeast of Spain, should declare itself to be an independent country. The Spanish government has ruled the referendum illegal, and is taking action on a number of fronts to shut it down and to censor communications promoting it. One of its latest moves in this campaign was a Tuesday police raid of the offices of puntCAT, the domain registry that operates the .cat top-level domain, resulting in the seizure of computers, the arrest of its head of IT for sedition, and the deletion of domains promoting the October 1 referendum, such as refoct1.cat (that website is now available at an alternate URL). The .cat top-level domain was one of the earliest new top-level domains approved by ICANN in 2004, and is operated by a non-governmental, non-profit organization for the promotion of Catalan language and culture. Despite the seizure of computers at the puntCAT offices, because the operations of the domain registry are handled by an external provider, .cat domains not connected with the October 1 referendum (including eff.cat, EFF's little-known Catalan language website) have not been affected. We have deep concerns about the use of the domain name system to censor content in general, even when such seizures are authorized by a court, as happened here. And there are two particular factors that compound those concerns in this case. First, the content in question here is essentially political speech, which the European Court of Human Rights has ruled as deserving of a higher level of protection than some other forms of speech. Even though the speech concerns a referendum that has been ruled illegal, the speech does not in itself pose any imminent threat to life or limb. The second factor that especially concerns us here is that the seizure took place with only 10 days remaining until the scheduled referendum, making it unlikely that the legality of the domains' seizures could be judicially reviewed before the referendum is scheduled to take place. The fact that such mechanisms of legal review would not be timely accessible to the Catalan independence movement, and that the censorship of speech would therefore be de facto unreviewable, should have been another reason for the Spanish authorities to exercise restraint in this case. Whether it's allegations of sedition or any other form of unlawful or controversial speech, domain name intermediaries should not be held responsible for the content of websites that utilize their domains. If such content is unlawful, a court order directed to the publisher or host of that content is the appropriate way for authorities to deal with that illegality, rather than the blanket removal of entire domains from the Internet. The seizure of .cat domains is a worrying signal that the Spanish government places its own interests in quelling the Catalonian independence movement above the human rights of its citizens to access a free and open Internet, and we join ordinary Catalonians in condemning it.
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Domains are power

Postby smix » Tue Sep 26, 2017 7:34 pm

Domains are power
The Outline

URL: https://theoutline.com/post/2312/domains-are-power
Category: Politics
Published: September 25, 2017

Description: Catalonia’s decision to fight for .cat is in keeping with a long history of domain politics on the internet.
A few years ago, I had this clever idea involving the .cat top-level domain. Top-level domains, or TLDs, sit at the top of the domain hierarchy. In 1985, there were just seven TLDs: .com, .org, .net, .edu, .gov, .arpa, and .mil. Today, there are more than 1,000 TLDs running the gamut from .uk to .gucci. One of them is .cat. See, I was looking to get married, my fiancée’s (now wife’s) name is Cat, and we wanted a fun domain name. You can see where this is going. I went to go register ernie.cat, but found the process much more complicated than I was expecting. The .cat TLD — top-level domain, that is, like .com, .gov, .ninja, and so on — has a notable reason for existence: In 2005, with the support of the Spanish government and the approval of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names (ICANN), it became the first-ever domain name dedicated to a specific language, Catalan. (A number of other nearby regions with their own local languages, including Spain’s Basque Country and France’s Brittany province, later followed suit.) It was a big win for Catalonia, an autonomous community of Spain that includes Barcelona. And this top-level domain, in its own modest way, reflects a particular pain point for the region — identity. Identity is the very reason why this TLD has found itself in the news in recent days: Basically, Catalonia’s regional government, which is led by the pro-separatist Junts pel Sí coalition, is holding a referendum on breaking off from Spain, something that the Spanish government considers illegal but between 40 and 50 percent of the region’s population appears to support, according to local polls. In a widely-criticized move, Spanish officials raided the offices of Fundació PuntCat (DotCat Foundation), which manages registrations for .cat, arrested its head of IT for sedition, and removed pro-independence domains from the TLD. This move evokes some painful, and pretty ugly, history. During the decades-long dictatorship of Francisco Franco, Catalan identity was forcibly hidden away from the broader world, as Spain attempted to portray itself as culturally homogeneous after the Spanish Civil War ended in 1939. “The immediate consequence was that Catalonia lost many of the material resources for the production and reproduction of its culture,” noted Irene Boada, a lecturer in both Spanish and Catalan at Queen's University Belfast, wrote in The Conversation in 2015. Boada made the case that the language and culture was stronger than the ban, which helped ensure its revival after Franco’s death in 1975. “Most Catalan people went on using their language at home and the language has survived against the odds,” she added. In the years since, Catalonia’s political climate has become increasingly fraught — Spain gave the region the right to self-government as part of a 1979 law, but independence movements, such as that supported by the cultural-advocacy agency Omnium Cultural, have gained interest in the past decade, a period in which Catalonia’s economic strength has increased but efforts to grant the region more autonomy were blocked by Spain’s Constitutional Court. This year, Catalan officials successfully revived the referendum movement, but Spain’s high court suspended the vote nearly three weeks ago, backing the federal government’s stance that a sovereignty vote can only be decided at the national level. The region decided to have a vote anyway. It’s in this context that the work of PuntCat, led by Amadeu Abril i Abril, a former member of ICANN’s board of directors, a lawyer, and a native Catalan, is particularly enlightening. Part of the reason .cat was the name used was because of a quirk of the domain system. Really, PuntCat, a Catalonia-based nonprofit launched to support the TLD, wanted a two-letter domain, to reflect Catalonia’s nature as a stateless nation. Abril suggested .ct. But ICANN only allowed two-letter codes for actual countries, as the group bases country TLDs on the two-letter country codes set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 1974. So .cat was its next best choice. PuntCat won political support for its efforts from politicians like José Montilla Aguilera, a Catalan-speaking politician who served as Spain’s Minister of Industry, Tourism and Trade at the time. Abril background certainly helped PuntCat make its case to ICANN. And yes, the Catalan people knew what they were doing when they chose .cat. From PuntCat’s 2004 application to ICANN:
The final question would [certainly] be: .cat? Meow!! Yes ;-) But then .net means “clean” in Catalan, and .nu, “naked.” And this can be expanded to exhaustion. Some names are nicer in different parts of the world. That’s a fact, not a bug.

But while the campaign ultimately won support in ICANN circles, it dealt with some snark along the way. “Outside the ICANN Board and staff, but influential in ICANN decision–making circles, were individuals of high technical expertise in the Internet but of remarkable cultural myopia,” Peter Gerrand wrote in a 2006 piece for the academic journal First Monday. In the end, though, .cat earned its place on the internet fair and square. Strangely enough, the September 2005 approval of the .cat domain was largely ignored because it came about in the midst of a battle involving another well-known internet culture standby, pornography. At the time .cat was approved, ICANN officials were discussing what to do about .xxx, an attempt to create a red-light district for the internet that was led by a nonprofit that acts as a liaison for the adult film industry. The George W. Bush administration, among others, fought ICANN’s implementation of the .xxx TLD, and ICANN eventually shelved the idea — only to revive it a few years later, with the first domains going live in 2011. By comparison, the showdown over .cat looked easy. If it was even mentioned in the English-speaking world, it was buried in stories about the .xxx TLD. In many ways, .cat redefined digital culture more than .xxx. PuntCat put in cultural requirements for applicants. If you want a .cat domain, you have to have a legitimate cultural reason for being there. And once you buy a domain, you have to offer up significant amounts of Catalan content on your site — not just English or Spanish. That meant my attempt to win over ernie.cat was likely a lost cause. (Other folks have had better luck. NYTimes.cat, which recreated the newspaper site but replaced all the photos with cat pictures, briefly appearing in 2015 before it was shut down by a copyright claim from the Times. The popular game/meme Nyan.cat has stayed online because it added a language selector that includes Catalan.) It also means that when you go to a site on the .cat TLD, it actually reflects the local culture, something that one can’t say for many countries with attractive two-letter TLDs, such as Tuvalu (.tv), the Federated States of Micronesia (.fm), or even Colombia (.co). Startups that have used domain hacks, or URLs that use top-level domains to sound like full words, in the past have been burned by geopolitical shifts. For example, Art.sy moved its domain name because of the long-running Syrian unrest, and .ly domain hacks, once a mark of startup culture, became difficult to acquire after the Libyan civil war.) By taking a stand against domain hacks, .cat has actually succeeded at fulfilling its broader mission of giving Catalan identity a digital home. And that spirit has helped advocates for Catalan culture support broader political goals. There are more than 110,000 sites on the .cat top-level domain, some ranking among the 100,000 most popular sites globally. These sites host range from local news to Catalan sports to video games to teen culture. That doesn’t mean that Catalan-speaking people aren’t unaware of the TLD’s global status: Fat.cat features food from Barcelona, for example. But it also means that if a theater actor who mostly performs in Catalan, like Toni Albà, wants to have a domain name that reflects his regional identity, he can. The .cat domain, one of the first to offer internationalized characters like accent marks in the domain name, has been a trailblazer for the non-English world — especially for domains like .quebec, which follows a similar approach for Francophone Canada. If Catalonia had not taken steps to protect .cat from cultural appropriation, this would be a far different tale. Their bold stance helped others to follow suit, especially as the DNS system, which manages names for internet sites, expanded beyond traditional Latin characters. Yes, cats have a lot of currency on the internet. But PuntCat was working to protect something more fundamental — the rights of a linguistic culture, one that is spoken by more than 10 million people of people, to have a place in the world. If Catalonia were to gain independence, the region would be finally eligible for a two-letter top-level domain such as .ct. That’s because country level domains are assigned by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, the ICANN-operated gatekeeper of domain protocols. It bases its decisions on ISO 3166 standards, which follow the United Nations’ lead when it adds new member states. Here’s how ISO handled the creation of the last new country, South Sudan, as well as how it handled the addition of Palestine in 1999. The adoption of .ct or another two-letter domain might signal the end of .cat’s dedication to Catalan, but maybe not, since the language is also spoken in France, Italy, and Andorra. And as annoying as it has been for Catalan advocates to deal with comments about how the domain would make more sense if it were dedicated to felines, the double meaning of the word has been a boon for public awareness. Japanese, Canadian, and American pet owners attempting to register websites for their animals found out about the language, while companies discovered there was a distinct market for Catalan speakers in the same way, Abril told The Outline. All this helps the language from becoming obsolete. “The language has survived hundreds of years of persecution,” he said. “How do you guarantee survival? In the nineteenth century it was about having literature in the language. In the twentieth century it was about having access to schools.” “In the twenty-first century, it’s the internet.”



For the love of god, not everything is about cats
The Outline

URL: https://theoutline.com/post/2308/cat-do ... in-puntcat
Category: Politics
Published: September 22, 2017

Description: The foundation that administers the .cat domain for Catalonians just got raided by the Spanish police, but all the media wants to talk about is cats.
Earlier this week, the Spanish government raided the Barcelona office of the PuntCat Foundation, the company that administers the .cat domain, and arrested one of its senior executives. PuntCat means “dot cat” in Catalan, the language spoken in the Catalonian region of Spain as well as places in France, Andorra, and Italy. The office was raided because Catalonia hopes to hold a referendum on October 1 to decide if it should secede from Spain, and in an effort to quash the referendum, the government of Spain ordered puntCat to “block all .cat domain names that may contain any kind of information about the forthcoming independence referendum,” according to a press release from the foundation. This is an astonishing attempt at censorship by a member of the E.U. but, unfortunately, that aspect is going largely uncovered because the media is idiotically obsessed with cats. For example, The New York Times ran a story about the .cat domain under a picture of a cat. “An arrest. Cats. The internet. Naturally, we were curious,” the Times piece says, before diving into the “storied history” of cats on the internet. “Given the web’s rich cat history, you’d think that domain names ending in .cat would be another online feline gold mine.” But the .cat domain has nothing to do with your pet. There are only something like 113,000 websites that end in the domain .cat. It’s an exclusive club: Only websites about the language, culture, and history of Catalonia are allowed to use it. That’s because Amadeu Abril i Abril, a lawyer who was influential in the formation of internet infrastructure in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, was Catalonian. In 2005, Abril was about to convince ICANN, the international U.S.-dominated organization that assigns TLDs, or top level domain names, to reserve .cat for the benefit of the Catalonian diaspora, which he estimated at the time to be around 10 million Catalan speakers. It was a goal for Abril because Catalonia has at times throughout history pushed for autonomy from Spain. Abril called it “a matter of identity” for a minority group that feared having its language and culture subsumed. “A TLD puts you in the top league,” Abril said at the time. “You are not then just a regional team. Prestige and glamour are important for sustaining a living language. You don’t like being in the second league. It is important to demonstrate that Catalan, with its ten million speakers, is a top–division language. A TLD is important for the self–esteem of people feeling that they are Catalan.” Most people are probably familiar with the joke that 15 percent of the internet is devoted to cats, a meme started by Friskies. Yes, people, and especially people on the internet, like cats. But cats aren’t really a big part of the internet, and most internet users wouldn’t even call the furry gremlins who poop in a box “cats.” A not-insignificant number of internet users call them 猫, for example.
“Don’t Catalonians know that cats rule the internet?” — USA Today in 2015
Cats have long been an internet “thing,” with help from sites like the Something Awful forum, which gave rise to the cat-themed site I Can Haz Cheezburger in 2007. The cat joke spread to other fora, like Facebook and BuzzFeed and Instagram, where it picked up a more representative fan base. Of course, there were always people who love cats and love pictures of them organically, but research has found that there are just as many pictures of dogs online. Still: LOL, cats. “If cats rule the Internet — which they do, obviously — .cat puts .com, .net and .org to shame. And yet, you almost never see it,” the Chicago Tribune ruminated. “From a cat lover's perspective, the audacity of being usurped by Catalonia is a catastrophe. Don’t Catalonians know that cats rule the Internet?” asked USA Today in August of 2015 when the .dog domain came into existence, prompting a wave of stories about the lack of felines on .cat. The same story quotes a representative from the Cat Fanciers' Association, who called it “unfortunate” that the domain hadn’t been reserved for cats. Pretty much from the beginning, Abril had to deal with people assuming that the .cat domain would be for cats. “Probably a bad joke,” wrote Paul Huffman, another internet pioneer, on his blog at the time. “Anyone who believes that the folks sponsoring ‘.cat’ really only intend it for Catalonian probably don’t know ICANN’s history or think that the sponsoring agency have never heard of cat-lovers.” Ten years later, the .cat domain has remained true in its dedication to Catalan. The web has always been biased toward English, even as more non-native speakers got online. It wasn’t until 2010 that any domain names were written in non-Latin characters, when Egypt got .مصر , Saudi Arabia got .السعودية, and the United Arab Emirates got .امارات. “In 1996, more than 80 percent of internet users were native English speakers. By 2010, that percentage had dropped to 27.3 percent,” wrote Quartz. Jokes implying that the .cat domain ought to be full of cats should be viewed in that context. Besides, a country that is supposed to be part of the free world just censored part of the internet by force. I can haz accurate coverage of government suppression in the media? Apparently not, if cats are involved.
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