Parler has gotten some bad press and been labeled as such evil as beyond redeemable in the past few weeks in light of recent events in the US. So I don’t know if using the Parler name is still good PR for Dfinity and the IC.
However, the core of the question is legitimate and I’m wondering the same thing. How can we build a censorless twitter/parler where each user owns their own content and not subject to censorship and the whims of big tech, repressive governments, and the like.
The question is not only a technological one though. It’s something I’ve been pondering for the past week or so. Say the IC can be used to build such an app, how would you ensure that it’s not being used as a communication tool and publishing house by bad actors? And therein lies the biggest difficulty: defining what “bad” is?
The topic is difficult - we live in societies and there exists rules / laws which seems to be evolved for some reasons. Societies change and we might need to adopt the rules and laws as well as it happened in the past. The question we might ask is if we should seek for some answers before we release something?
The Internet Computer and its controller, the NNS, are autonomous, and by design, I emphasize that neither I nor DFINITY can control what the NNS does — this will ultimately be a product of the tens of thousands of neurons that will exist at Genesis. However, I hope that it will enable us to better deal with special extreme cases like the one I mention above. I envisage organizations such as the EFF, Mozilla, and the newly formed Internet Computer Association, first creating and publishing voting neurons, which others may configure their own neurons to follow to decide how to vote on proposals in the #Ethics category. Then I hope they form ethics committees to whom relevant parties might confidentially submit requests for help, here allowing Interpol to ask for support for a proposal that they plan to submit to retrieve the information inside of the hypothetical human trafficking system. Now, of course, this trafficking system would be tamperproof and replicated across node machines that reveal nothing more than encrypted bytes if they are opened — however, the logic of Internet Computer nodes could be upgraded so that if the NNS adopted such a proposal, they would respond by encrypting the relevant data to the public key of the investigating agency and then making it available for export. Once this action had been taken, the ethics committees involved in supporting the adoption of the proposal would publish why they provided support in the interests of transparency.
The word “hope” is working hard here…
Censorship decisions are to be made by a quorum (51%?) of NNS tokens, it seems, or whoever they proxy their vote to. You can imagine a legal but unpopular site gets taken down because 51% of voters say so, or on the other hand illegal content is left up, depending on the self interest of token holders…
Perhaps NNS holder long-term self interest drives them to be not too censorious, but also to avoid big controversies. Which sounds a lot like AWS today…
The other really interesting bit of that section is an implication that neither Dfinity nor the operators can change the miner code without an NNS vote. Maybe some kind of trusted computing mechanism?
A proposal is just an ingress message wrapped in metadata. All proposals are sent to the governance canister, which is a canister that exists within the NNS system canister suite. If voters (neuron holders) pass a proposal, then the governance canister will submit the underlying ingress message. Hence, the corresponding caller ID of the ingress message would be the canister ID of the governance canister. Such an ingress message could be directed toward a subnet manager, instructing it to delete a specific canister. Generally, that functionality is restricted to the controller, but developers should be aware that the governance canister is also included in the access control list.
I understand your message to mean “yes”: a majority (proxy) vote of NNS holders can take-down / censor any app. Is that right? Parler, 4chan, FreeXinjiang, whatever, can stay up for exactly as long as a majority of NNS holders think it should stay up and no longer?
The human trafficking example in Dominic’s essay is interesting. For reasons of both confidentiality and response time, specific abuse incidents probably have to be handled centrally rather than by asking everyone in the world “hey what do you all think, is this child porn or not quite?”
So you end up with basically still a central censor/abuse function, but if NNS holders don’t like its decisions they can in principle delegate their vote to someone else, or not delegate their votes, or sell their tokens and leave. By contrast if they don’t like AWS’s decisions they complain to AWS, or take their business elsewhere.
Perhaps you fall into a state where there is no majority for any single ethics committee and so no actions are taken.
But if the IC is widely adopted, perhaps most token holders will support middle-of-the-road controversy-averse governance positions and thing that are banned on AWS or Cloudflare will also be taken down on the IC?
Yes, a majority (or super-majority since the threshold would be a configurable parameter subject to change) could censor an application. It would be rational to assume that most neuron holders care more about the financial incentives of neuron ownership then voting, and would in all likelihood delegate their vote to another, such as the foundation. I cannot recall now, but that may even be the default behavior. Regardless, neuron holders are individuals or business entities subject to the jurisdiction in which they reside. I am unaware of any jurisdiction in which child pornography is permissible. Hence, neuron holders would be legally (and hopefully also morally) compelled to remove such content. If such a resolution failed to pass, then, in theory, every data-center that is a member of the subnet hosting the child pornography would be legally compelled to delete it from their servers. If even a subset of those data-centers followed suit, then the subnet would fail to reach consensus. Knowing that, I think a middle-of-the-road controversy-averse approach to governance is likely where we are headed.
Would it make sense for this project to have something akin to a “declaration of core values” or at least a minimum standard for the protection of, say, pro-democratic content. So no matter how much influence someone like Chinese coin miners have, there is no way they could push for the removal of a pro democratic Hong Kong website? Also, would the IC even be available in China with the Great Firewall and such?
One cannot simply provide compute resources to the IC because they posses the hardware. Data-center operators must first obtain a data-center identifier, which involves submitting a proposal to the governance canister. As a neuron holder myself, I will evaluate each data-center application on a case-by-case basis, and make my decision based on what I believe is in the best interest of the network and its users. I hope other neuron holders will do the same. Currently, there are no data-centers in China, but I would not exclude the possibility that there could be one in the future. If having a say in such matters is important to you, then I encourage you to participate in the voting process.
I would love to participate, but that seems to require some investment. Maybe in the future.
The issue here, from what I can gather from the blogs and videos, is the “pay to play” aspect. Without a sort of “constitution”, or baseline of ethical operation, what is to stop a bad player with deep pockets to mine its way to influence?
I’m very proud of my colleagues and extended members of the DFINITY team who I believe have an excellent moral compass. Ethics is a strong part of the DFINITY culture. I have great confidence our ability to navigate a path forward, and even if we have yet to pen a constitution.
I think you guys are on the right track and I’m totally onboard with the vision. But a truly open and free internet like the IC will antagonize certain powerful players with agendas of their own and they will push back if they feel that is in their interest. One vector of attack could be one of the before mentioned methods of “mining for influence”. I’m sure Dfinity will create counter meassures. It’s just worth having the discussion before the project goes fully live.
Hi Enzo, ok, so you’re saying you want DCs and NNS holders to only be in countries with a certain minimum level of respect for human rights. Makes sense although perhaps it’ll be hard to get consensus on where to draw the line. Some people don’t like the USG either.
I guess this means every NNS holder needs to receive and scrutinize a due diligence packet about every proposed new DC: ownership, jurisdiction, physical security, etc?
If I understand right NNS were meant to be freely tradeable?
If I have 10 NNS how do you stop me selling them to someone in China, if they offer a better price? How do I even know with certainty where the beneficial owner is? Are you going to require NNS approval and central KYC for every NNS sale?
Sounds good but we get a “code is law” problem here. Dominic said the IC will be beyond Dfinity’s control and only governed by NNS holders. I have my doubts whether that’s realistic but taking it at face value: it doesn’t matter what the declaration says, it matters how neurons vote.
So this process is fully automated? I mean, let’s say that someone wanted to close the “Free Hong Kong” page outlined above. What are the steps to make that happen? Would a Chinese NNS holder make some sort of formal request to… what/where exactly? Have these steps been highlighted anywhere in the blogs or videos or is this part of the IC governance model still being figured out?
Is the shutdown of the cannister hosting the Hong Kong site done automatically, or is there a human somewhere in this process that oversees such a shutdown?