@harrison has come up with what is in my opinion a brilliant potential path for dealing with the weighty censorship issues that the community has been facing since the Super Mario 64 incident. Please weigh in on this proposal. Various people have been discussing this behind the scenes but it’s time to bring it to light. Let’s see if this could work.
The idea is to move censorship to the boundary nodes. We force all canister interaction through these nodes, and we make them legally accountable for the content that they allow to be served to their clients. If a boundary node operator receives a DMCA request (or any other legal request), they have the option of blocking the offending canister according to their own internal decision making process.
To avoid consolidation of censorship power into one main tyrannical censor, anyone should be allowed to run a boundary node. Obviously all of the boundary node code should be open source. But the boundary nodes would remain separate from the IC protocols, not participating in consensus, only serving as the gateways to the Internet Computer network.
This idea may be a great compromise between those who want total censorship-resistance and those who want to make sure harmful content can be stopped. The core IC protocols would remain censorship-resistant, and anyone could spin up boundary nodes to serve content. But each boundary node would need to find a place in this world to operate. Considering each boundary node instance will not inherit the decentralization properties of the IC, it may be difficult to run a non-legally-compliant node, but may still be possible.
For example, DFINITY may continue running the small number of boundary nodes that they currently run at
ic0.app. But we may also see other boundary nodes at
ic2.app, or any other domain name. Those running the boundary nodes will need to interface with the centralized world to provide their services. If DFINITY doesn’t do a good job, then other interested parties may spin up boundary nodes. We may see multiple boundary node operators competing to offer the best gateways into the network.
Combining boundary node censors with plausible deniability for node operators, we may move the responsibility for dealing with most of the less-egregious legal issues from the node operators and the NNS to the boundary nodes. They can take the brunt force of legal complexities, and a decentralized network of boundary nodes can serve the people’s varying interests. More existential issues, such as a Silk Road 2, may require much more contentious action, such as an NNS vote. But boundary node censors may be a stop-gap solution that can help us get to the next step in figuring out what censorship-resistance on the Internet Computer means.
We need to act quickly. Super Mario 64 was just the beginning.