Censorship and IP Liability Expectations

After reading this tread on the topic: Parler on the IC? - #28 by dogcomplex

My understanding is that voting neurons will be subject to the jurisdictions their data center owners reside in, and thus may be held liable for content on the overall network by governments. However, making the case for that liability and enforcing censorship might be an arduous process, so there will likely still be some censorship resistance. Voters will probably nonetheless want to avoid encouraging the most glaring content so as not to push it though, and I’m wondering where we expect that will result in for Dfinity in the short and long terms.

To illustrate, I’ve come up with a rough “scale” here, in ascending censorship likelihood…

  1. free speech, including controversial opinions, without inciting hate crime/action/violence.
  2. non-commercial copyrighted content subject to legal Free Use parody/remix interpretation (Mickey Mouse fan art)
  • <<< Facebook/Youtube are barely here
  1. otherwise above-board utilities designed for easy obscuring and re-publishing of censored content (e.g. Pirate-Bay-style automated re-hosting tumblers)
  2. pornography, with consent of content creators
  3. sites assisting user-data-supplied links to direct copyright violations (links to off-chain pirated movies)
  4. free speech inciting violence or organized illegal action (but with pro-democratic content, e.g. Hong Kong rioting)
  • <<< Reddit’s about here
  1. free speech inciting violence but debatably anti-democratic, or otherwise unpopular (Parler…)
  2. sites actively maintaining/hosting services which hold copyright violation links directly in code/community rules
  • <<< Most private comms Discord etc about here
  1. direct hosting copyrighted content (pirated movies, books, images), non commercial
  2. same but pornographic content, without consent of content creators
  • <<< Pirate Bay Torrents are about here
  1. sales and profiting off copyrighted content (resale of pirated content, remixes, integrated use. e.g. sale of game with copyrighted music)
  2. same but profiting off pornographic content, without consent of content creators
  • <<< More obscure private Discords and most public Tor stuff around here
  1. IP violation on a wide scale - structure (e.g. direct working integrated copy of entire look and feel of all major centralized internet sites… Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google etc)
  2. IP violation on a wide scale - data (e.g. use of data mined from said sites to fill out backwards-compatibility and easily transition network effects, perhaps hidden until permission is provided from users to port over)
  • <<< *** Somewhat-missing link, expected to be filled by some end-to-end encrypted crypto network soon enough. China-web is mostly here in regards to IP violation though.
  1. shared private user data whose unauthorized distribution is illegal or could be used for violence (medical data, personal addresses, schedules, etc)
  2. child pornography, or other such highly-illegal digital content
  3. illegal criminal action (e.g. drug sales)
  • <<< Routine Dark Web / 4chan stuff
  1. illegal violent criminal action (e.g. hitmen)
  2. illegal violent sexual criminal action (e.g. trafficking rings)
  • <<< Specialty Dark Web

Probably missing some other useful distinctions in there, and the ordering could probably be switched around depending on perspectives.

I’m interested regardless of where Dfinity winds up on that scale, but I’m most interested in knowing whether we expect the network - or some designated more hands-off segment of it - might get away with fulfilling the crypto prophecy and just cloning most of the existing web’s centralized services with backwards compatibility. Obviously those services will get one-off (legally) cloned anyways on Dfinity, but it’s forseeable that a good crypto service will be able to just blatantly do it too, and create an ongoing web economy that doesn’t care about IP at all. If enough Dfinity voting nodes are in China or other countries that care little about IP, that’s maybe even in the cards. (Though China would specifically become a problem for some earlier levels on that list e.g. free speech inciting protests)

Any thoughts/predictions/corrections?

(posted this in a new topic in addition to a reply on above thread, in case it’s better split off)


This is an interesting scale. I would expect the IC to function down to about #10. This is the realm of acceptable behaviour across developed society globally. Below this exist robust solutions like TOR, Telegram, etc. The governance system is going to eventually choose how it wants to make IC profitable and these don’t seem like high value or desirable markets.

Sorry, I missed this. It isn’t accurate: voting neurons live on the internet computer, they don’t reside anywhere - they are like individual bitcoins. Censorship will depend on the moral and marketing demands of Neuron holders.


Ah - important distinction, yes - I guess I should say the jurisdiction of the neuron holder, not the datacenter? (Sidenote: are datacenters blind to the contents of canisters?) From that other thread, it sounded like takedown requests could be issued to neuron holders within their jurisdiction, which they’ll know due to KYN legislation, and could conceivably be prosecuted individually otherwise. Therefore the neuron holders might be expected to vote according to what’s least likely to cause controversy to the network, and they’d have to issue on-chain takedown requests to canisters hosting the censored content. If that content has never sat on a datacenter in their jurisdiction though - do they even have a case? (hmm)

Ohhhh, I would disagree there - certainly for the short-to-medium term. Recreating all of the existing IP out there or pulling it into a new network… it’s not that hard, technologically. And if legality is less of a concern, that’s a whole lot of value that could suddenly be charged for (on “stolen” IP, but still). Eventually long-term market forces push that down to barebones operation costs, but in the short term its value is a bit less than the total value of all other IP on the planet. Higher, even, because this IP is remixable - imagine iOS software that actually worked with other systems instead of intentional walled gardens! Netflix for all media ever. This is a new gold rush, to the first network that can plausibly host it at scale without getting torn apart by the legal onslaught. If Dfinity is vulnerable to legal prosecution, then it’s unlikely to be that network - but it might push the goalpost a lot closer.

(Edit: though I should say regardless of my tone above that this isn’t necessarily a good thing to happen to the world… nor is it necessarily a bad thing. It’s certainly a possible thing though… and we might see it happen soon, possibly with this network or an offshoot using similar technology, now that the cat’s out of the bag.)