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US seizure of resistance websites, internet fascism

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 13, 2017 Network cables are seen going into a server in an office building in Washington, DC. July 3, 2021. / AFP / Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS

Another unilateral move by the United States, in keeping with its imperialist agenda, once more promises to affect the lives of people around the world for the worse, this time in terms of internet freedom with an act of internet fascism.

In a predictable move on Tuesday June 22, the US Justice Department seized 36 websites with links to the Islamic Republic of Iran and its regional allies for engaging in "disinformation campaigns and malign influence operations".

The move initially raised suspicions of a hack since the disclaimer that said the website had been seized was in Arabic, a message which can still be seen when visiting www.presstv.com.

A State Department spokesperson, Matt Price, refused to comment on the matter.

The US Justice Department eventually said three of the seized domains belong to the Iraqi Kata'ib Hezbollah, while the rest, which included, Yemeni, Palestinian, and Bahraini outfits in English and Arabic, were supported by the Iranian Islamic radio and television media network.

The seized websites, obviously, belong to outlets of the Allied resistance communities, better known as the resistance axis, which Iran supports across the region to counter the influence of the West and regional rivals, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The Mother of all terrorists

The US blacklisted these domains with designations related to terrorism, the mother of all terrorism, sometimes known as the Empire, says that American companies are not allowed to provide us with.com or .net domains without special authorization from the Office of Foreign Assets Control, OFAC.

The fascist US officials can choose to label it however they wish, they will never be able to change the fact that this seizure is a clear example of a systematic effort to distort freedom of speech on a global level, and silence independent voices in media.

This gives us, and everyone included in the domain name seizures, the full right to pursue the issue through legal channels.

While the US may have given itself the ability to exert influence over vast sections of the internet, its actions will most certainly have far reaching ramifications beyond its control.

Those unilateral harassment actions will only give credence to arguments of US interference and censorship due to fear of being further exposed by domestic media in nations they continue to sanction, like Iran, occupy, like Iraq and bomb, like Yemen.

More than 30 internet domain names, linked to the axis of resistance, one of which is our very own presstv.com domain name, were blatantly seized and taken offline by US agencies last week.

The US seized sites operated inside Iran, Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon, as well as social media channels, affiliated with the Iraqi resistance, the PMU.

The seizures come as the Biden administration is in the midst of negotiations over Iran's nuclear programme and follow the election of a new Iranian president, who has been criticized by Washington for being a staunch detractor of its imperial foreign policy.

The Iranian government condemned this act of censorship as unlawful and part of an influence campaign against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Visitors of the affected websites were greeted with a banner that says that the domain name has been seized by the US government as part of "enforcement action taken by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Department of Commerce and the Bureau of Industry and Security".

Now if you were to maybe rephrase that, how would you put it?

First of all, we need to understand what happened… the Federal Bureau of Investigation has seized the DNS side of the website, not the actual site. … when a person browses for a site, he types a name, the DNS service is what tells the browser that this name belongs to this IP address.

This link is what the Federal Bureau of Investigation has seized. That's basically what happened in the first part.

Hadi Chatila, IBREATHEMEDIA

With the technicalities involved, how much time would the actual seizure have taken and what tools would be required to do so?

Since they have access to the actual DNS servers from a local company inside the US which runs these DNS addresses, they can do it easily, with one court order they can directly seize control of anything which is considered on US soil.

Hadi Chatila, IBREATHEMEDIA

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman had stated at the time that this act of internet fascism by the US was carried out because, it is under the delusion that it has the right to seize any and all .com, .net, and .org, domain names, simply because the companies that have the contracts to administer them are based on US soil.

If that were truly the case wouldn't such actions encourage people to move away from these domain names to at least try to protect their work?

Well, basically they should understand that people should start to understand that, since there is no actual real Internet governance which is in unbiased hands, they should know that whenever they buy any of these domains, they are susceptible to being seized by the US government. Knowing that if you want to go to the legal side of it, the US should only be enforcing whatever ends with a .us, so it might be .com then .us, for example in lebanon.com.ld and whatever other country.me for example, depends on each country, so each country can have access to its own domains. If it was the unbiased way to achieve such a thing but, sadly, what's happening is that they have control over all the .com, .net and even the .org domain names. Since the companies that run these domains are on American soil and VeriSign which is the company that runs the .com and .net, is very, very closely tied to the system.

Hadi Chatila, IBREATHEMEDIA

VeriSign, a US based internet backbone company that has the contract to manage the coveted .com and other generic top level domains, the ones just mentioned, has a very cozy relationship, as described by the US media, with the federal government, with the FBI, and has long had a contract from the US government to help manage the internet route file, which is the key to having a unified internet name system.

What would now stop other international cooperation for Assigned Names and Numbers from following suit and unleashing a global government clamped down on domain names that simply do not abide by Western values or Western narratives or just simply are not liked by the US, the UK or any other Western regime?

Again, sadly, we're at the point where nothing can stop such seizures happening anywhere else in the world. Since they have, they have ultimate access to all these things.

Then, there's ICCAN, they were under American control for some time and then they released that control, they started making 13,.. multiple organizations, governing each part of the world.

They are a nongovernmental organization. They don't get paid by any government, and they are one step towards global internet governance making trying to make internet unbiased location.

But still, the US hasn't released its hold over these names so we get to a road where we are susceptible to have our domain seized at any moment, just by, by being connected to any, any ideology or any political stance, which is maybe anti US or anti West or maybe not, doesn't go well with US comprehension of things.

Hadi Chatila, IBREATHEMEDIA

Or simply put, if you're going to compete with the US we did see that happening to a lot of Chinese websites as well, they were also seized and taken down.

And now for a technical question concerning something that you mentioned about the .com.lb for example, Is that more secure.com by itself, if I'm going to go with the .com.ir instead of just .com would that be any safer than just going with a .ir domain name?

Your own country's domain, for example in the Islamic Republic of Iran there's the .ir TLD which is governed by Iranian law. It has nothing to do with the American governance over the internet so, of course, it's much safer to invest in your own domain and maybe if you want you can link a .com to it for SEO purposes, which later on might have other issues, but that's another technical path.

Hadi Chatila, IBREATHEMEDIA

So do you mean that only having a .ir might make it hard to find it using a search engine?

Yes, because the crawlers work in a different way and also the search engine itself might be biased, it might push things which aren't actually relevant.

Hadi Chatila, IBREATHEMEDIA

Many outside the United States, like China, Russia, India, obviously they distrust this US-cozy tech companies, especially with the big tech companies, the social media ones, and have been vocal about wanting to see control being shared all across the world, which is just fair, this to say it's fair.

Of the internet's naming system, they want to see it turned over to an organization such as the International Telecommunications Union, an affiliate of the United Nations.

Now look, once you say UN, I for one, as a citizen of West Asia, I start to panic, once I hear the word UN, why, because it is an international body but it's a biased body. So what are we actually doing here?

Maybe this makes it less, less susceptible to US seizure, but in the end it will be biased but since it presents itself as an unbiased organization, it gives us a range of movement, to work with such Institutes.

Hadi Chatila, IBREATHEMEDIA

So it might actually protect domain names, or might just get them on board a certain committee that would have to study if that Domain Name is acceptable.

It gets them, maybe on the side where instead of having, like for example, you sleep and then you wake up with 30 Plus websites being seized, you'll wake up with the warning, and then things will start to take a bit of meetings from here, discussions there, debates here, until ...

Hadi Chatila, IBREATHEMEDIA

But wouldn't that just threaten freedom of speech?

At the end of the day it is a form of censorship, which is exactly what's happening.

Hadi Chatila, IBREATHEMEDIA

 


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