Upcoming proposal and discussion on content moderation

Hello community,

The Internet Computer is the most powerful general-purpose blockchain for building infinitely scalable Web3 dapps, that is, the only blockchain with the speed and capability of hosting content 100% on-chain. As a result, the Internet Computer blockchain is the first blockchain that needs to tackle issues related to the DMCA process for smart contracts. For other blockchains that rely on centralized cloud services to host content, content is removed by vendors, such as AWS, in compliance with takedown notices. Web3 will look to all of us to lead on this issue — and the first challenge has arrived.

DFINITY Foundation was contacted on December 6, 2021 by a node provider who received a notice of infringement of copyrighted materials from Nintendo Co., Ltd. asking to remove the Super Mario 64 emulator that was deployed to canister smart contract culg2-qyaaa-aaaai-qa7sa-cai by controller u4u53-bhmqg-vc4mk-abm2u-mo6kz-jptpk-icn6i-gpkve-5b57m-m4cn5-jqe on November 27, 2021 (details on ic.rocks here). This poses a new question for the Internet Computer community regarding copyrighted content in canisters hosted on the Internet Computer blockchain and is an opportunity to learn how situations like this can be handled by neuron holders of the Internet Computer via the NNS.

To deal with situations like this, the NNS has a proposal type “remove canister”. When a proposal of this type is adopted by the NNS, the canister specified in the proposal is removed from the Internet Computer. In the future, additional methods will be supported to suspend the canister to provide more opportunity for due process and debate.

Possible reasons for submitting such a proposal to remove a canister from the Internet Computer blockchain include the following:

  • While the Internet Computer is designed to be censorship resistant, in order for it to be adopted as the “world computer” by the mainstream, it is critical to abide by laws against terrorism, child pornography, etc., as well as regulations around copyright infringement and intellectual property laws.
  • The Internet Computer network is comprised of independent node providers, who can choose to comply with any legal notices sent to them and remove their respective node(s) from the network. While the Internet Computer has close to 400 independently operated node machines (+ approximately 600 idle node machines) and is constantly expanding, the removal of any healthy nodes should be avoided to ensure network stability and continued growth.

Going forward, we encourage the community to develop an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) for the Internet Computer blockchain. Once a draft of this policy is complete, we would then put it forth as a “motion” proposal to be voted on by the neuron holders. Once approved, community members could review content on the network and enforce the policy by putting forward NNS proposals. Updates and changes to the policy could also be made via NNS proposals.

Many developers are choosing to have Terms and Conditions for their products on the dapp level. For one-off canisters, such as culg2-qyaaa-aaaai-qa7sa-cai, and for even more complex cases, we will need community-driven, network-wide standards and processes.

As a complement to the above approach, we are encouraging the community to also discuss the following:

  • The possibility of an independent review board, made up of leading organizations outside of the Internet Computer ecosystem with expertise in topics such as content moderation and internet freedom. We envision that these organizations could be provisioned with their own neurons to vote on issues and proposals related to the AUP. We are open to your feedback and ideas of organizations you would like to see involved.
  • Implementing the full DMCA process, including counter notifications, in the form of NNS proposals.

We invite your feedback here in the thread both on this specific situation as well as the ideas we have put forth on longer-term solutions.

Please be on the lookout for a “remove canister” proposal within the next hours. The DFINITY Foundation plans to abstain from voting.

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As mentioned, in many ways ideally node operators would not have to worry about the content they host. Especially as we seek to improve security through node shuffling, secure enclaves, and other means of “obfuscation”, it seems very beneficial for security and legal simplicity on the part of node operators, to allow them some form of plausible deniability, so that they can join and leave as they please and as the network requires.

Basically I’m saying node operators shouldn’t even know what they’re running (seems ideal in many ways). Not sure if that’s the best way to go, but has many advantages.

If that’s the case, seems like the NNS may have to step up as the great moderator of the network. Many people will take great issue with this, so it is up to us to do this better than the centralized companies have, or we’ve just recreated the same situation more or less.

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I think personal responsibility is very important here. I don’t want anyone to be liable for others’ choices as far as possible, and I don’t want to be restricted in my choices as far as possible. For example, instead of an acceptable use policy that we all must agree to, I would rather see a takedown policy.

Canister developers should be free to make their own choices and deploy what they will, free from the burden of agreeing to any kind of acceptable use policy. But, if what they deploy violates the takedown policy, the community MAY decide to take down the canisters.

This is much like free speech in the US. Free speech can never be suppressed. But once spoken, action can be taken against harmful or illegal speech.

We must as a community decide what that harmful or illegal speech is.

I’m not sure I explained myself well, it’s a bit nuanced. Basically as a canister developer I don’t want to agree to some terms of use, I want to be a free agent. But if what I deploy goes against the takedown policy, I should expect no recourse from the NNS taking my canisters down.

One of the main reasons I fell in love with the idea of the Internet Computer was to get away from the arbitrary rules given to me by my previous monopolistic overlords.

Let’s balance free agency with responsibility. Let people be free, stop them only if absolutely necessary.

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I’m curious if the node provider actually knew they were running the canister, or if they just received the notice and forwarded it on.

Regarding the burden on node providers; this may be an ignorant statement, but I think the legal battle is going to have to be had at some point (in each country i guess) to determine how liable node providers are for the applications they host. I agree that node shuffling, secure enclaves and other obfuscation will help their case, but this is still going to be a legal battle that has to be had.

Perhaps we could have a community funded DAO that helps cover legal costs for node providers?

Edit: wanted to add that I agree with @lastmjs regarding the AUP. I don’t believe the IC should have an AUP. Anyone should be free to deploy whatever they want. But i do agree with having a takedown policy that says “you’re free to deploy whatever you want; but the community is free to remove it at any time”. The only thing we might need is a way to penalize the principal ID in the event that it is a severe offense.

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Of course we should formulate decentralized laws, which should be written in canister and controlled by NNS

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A similar point raised in this topic as well:

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Fwiw. This topic is one of the most exciting things about governance of a true Web3 “world computer”, which did not exist until the launch of the Internet Computer. So much easier for Web2.5 chains and services… aka, defer to Uncle Jeff at AWS or remove it yourself :rofl:

In all seriousness, appreciate the discussion and all the feedback… keep it going!

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Echoing others, it would be great if in an ideal world node providers could be sheltered from this kind of heat, considering the apparent negative effect of node removal on the network. It informs my leaning if the repercussions are a node has to go offline and the network is destabilized (although maybe only a bit?)

I can imagine a scenario where succeeding in sheltering node providers from one-off cases ultimately escalates to more organized opposition to node providers. I.e. if enough people get mad at what’s running on the network do nodes just become illegal to operate in some places. I suppose any blockchain has that problem.

The Mario 64 canister feels like a tech demo in good humour that doesn’t have a significant negative effect on anyone, and I’m personally tempted to vote to hold the line just to see how things shake out. Should we treat this as a learning opportunity on defending against copyright claims, squeeze some tuition out of it and see how resilient we are / what to improve?

I can’t help but think that we’d be laughed out of the room if our blockchain caved in to the first copyright claim that came our way.

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I think the foundation should abstain from voting on issues like this. As a dev it would discourage me from building if at any point IC can just take down my ap. How is it different than uncle Jeff. This is Nintendo, not a powerful government. Imagine if a government came with a take down notice, then what? I agree with the community voting to take it down but right now I don’t think the platform is decentralized enough for that to happen. Most just follow the foundation.

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OP says Dfinity plans to abstain. Worth mentioning that afaik a proposal that the foundation’s neurons abstain from has had a hard time gaining any traction in the past.

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This case is important to define ICP as the censorship resistant Web3 infrastructure. Resistant to censorship does not mean that any ‘malicious’ activities can flourish in ICP. This is why NNS DAO is invented, either to takedown or not.
For the case of Nintendo, the solution is actually simple, rather give the node provider a notice of infringement of copyrighted materials, Nintendo should propose takedown proposal, and they can do it by their-self vote “yes”. This also show the use case & the power of ICP NNS DAO that can not be done to other blockchain.

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If the proposal passes without Dfinity voting, I would be ok with that.

It would be a huge step in blockchain history

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True. I myself decide to abstain for this vote. I prefer to see Nintendo vote for their own ‘voice’.

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You bring up a good point. What if the entity like Nintendo or Disney just buy ICP to create a neuron and vote for their proposals. Could they then buy enough ICP to take down any content that infringes on their IP. Would there be a case where it is not straight forward and the foundation will need to vote against them?

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I personally am voting no on this (at least at this time). If we are going to delete canisters, we first need to come up with a formal set of rules that (1) outline what cannot be on the Internet Computer, and (2) describe what the appropriate process is to get content removed. To do that, we need to have an extremely robust discussion where we outline the pros and cons of allowing token holders to determine what can and cannot be deleted. If we move too quickly–which I think we are–we may experience some negative consequences that we didn’t anticipate.

Separately, the ability for nodes to be pressured like this is a serious attack vector. Governments could potentially attack applications they don’t like by threating node operators within their jurisdiction. If that happens, we will either have to start watching nodes leave right and left, or we will have to bow to the wishes of the government(s) and remove the canisters. To the extent possible, it might make sense to obfuscate the identities of node providers to remove this attack vector (or at least diminish it).

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I voted no half an hour ago because I didn’t know when the vote was going to close. Current distribution is 5.2 million adopt against 6,200 to reject. Not sure who the 5.2M is, I haven’t seen them talking about their stance anywhere.

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I generally agree with this. There’s little point in building a censorship resistant network if there’s nothing on it that isn’t worth censoring. Large multinationals, like, maybe, Google, or, a Chinese Communist Party property company, buying big neurons and colluding to vote themselves immunity from criticism is a valid concern.

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I’m not terribly concerned about the use of the terns Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) or Takedown Policy (TP). I understand and agree with the concepts, but to me the application of these terms still requires community definition and the implementation has the same result no matter what we call it.

I also think it is appropriate for Dfinity to abstain from voting. That ensures this decision is made in a decentralized governance way. This is also a good reason why the pending motion proposal referenced here (Changes to governance proposals and voting reward weights (Proposal)) is so important. The ICA of the DFINITY Foundation should not be the arbiters of governance proposals like this one.

I will vote no on this proposal because we need more governance tooling to address this type of issue and this particular cannister isn’t really causing any harm. I’m actually curious if the cannister owner would take it down voluntarily now that this issue is know in the community. I would like to see this proposal come up again in the future after there is more time for deliberation and there are more capabilities built into the NNS to more appropriately address this type of issue.

@alexa.smith thanks for starting this discussion. You did a great job of explaining the issue, what is needed from the community, and what DF plans to make available to assist with these decisions in the future.

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I don’t think the goal of a censorship-resistant platform should be to defend against legitimate and legal claims of copyright infringement. Nintendo owns the intellectual property to the game and has not authorized this use. They are fully within their rights as far as I know, in the US.

Open source in the US is built on top of a robust legal framework that assures intellectual property rights. This must be respected, or our way of life and cooperation begins to break down.

Would we be okay with others taking our open source code and ripping out or otherwise ignoring the licenses? If not this is a double standard which is not morally or logically consistent.

Web3 shouldn’t be about anarchy and pushing whatever we want onto the internet without consequences. The rule of law is important, especially since not all law can be codified as digital code and executed by machines.

Censorship-resistance I would say is much more about protection against arbitrary interference with legitimate activities. Of course we as a community need to decide what arbitrary and legitimate mean.

Protecting the legal and legitimate copyrights of an entity is not the kind of censorship we should be concerned with.

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The point, in all it’s seriousness, has to do with whose law? Certain countries outlaw blasphemy. And in some of those countries, blasphemous speech is strictly punished.

The question is can we even draw a line in a global context?

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