DotCat Registry Offices Raided by Spanish Police

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The offices of the .cat registry were raided by Spanish police this morning.

The Guardia Civil officers entered the .cat registry’s offices around 9am local time this morning and have seized all computers in the domain registry’s offices in downtown Barcelona.

The move comes a couple of days after a Spanish court ordered the domain registry to take down all .cat domain names being used by the upcoming Catalan referendum.

The .cat domain registry currently has over 100 thousand active domain names and in light of the actions taken by the Spanish government it’s unclear how the registry will continue to operate if their offices are effectively shutdown by the Spanish authorities. The seizure won’t impact live domain names or general day to day operations by registrars, as the registry backend is run by CORE and leverages global DNS infrastructure. However it is deeply worrying that the Spanish government’s actions would spill over onto an entire namespace.

The registry wrote to ICANN about the situation earlier this week:

The Catalan referendum is scheduled to take place on October 1st. Over the last few days, however, the Spanish government has been taking very aggressive action to block the vote from taking place. News outlets are reporting this morning that Guardia Civil have been involved in raids across Catalonia targeting local government offices and officials.

The .cat registry, which is based in Barcelona, was setup to provide an online space for Catalan language and culture and if you want to register a .cat domain name you need to use it for sharing Catalan language or culture.

UPDATE: Staff at the .cat registry in Barcelona are being questioned by Spanish police. Their CTO was arrested at his home early this morning about 50km north of Barcelona.

Some of the photos being shared on Twitter by .cat registry staff are quite chilling:

Apparently the police started the raids prior to having court orders so while they entered the .cat registry offices they were unable to proceed with seizing computers and other equipment until the court orders arrived.

UPDATE Thursday 21st September

The .cat registry’s IT manager who was arrested yesterday is being detained and charged with “sedition”, as reported by Kevin.

The .cat registry has issued a statement on the raid of their offices and the detention of their staff member (English version below):

The Fundació puntCAT wants to express its utmost condemnation, indignation and reprobation for the actions that it has been suffering lately with successive judicial mandates, searches and finally the arrest of our Director of Innovation and Information Systems, Pep Masoliver.

We are a private and non for profit foundation devoted to ensuring that Catalan – a persecuted and maltreated language – has its space in the digital world. We assist all our users with the greatest professionalism and we are a reference entity in Catalonia and in the world.

The show that we have experienced in our offices this morning has been shameful and degrading, unworthy of a civilized country. We feel helpless in the face of these immensely disproportionate facts.

We demand the immediate release of our colleague and friend.

We will continue to work for our foundational objectives as well as for the defense of freedom of expression on the Internet.

The Spanish authorities are denying Masoliver his rights:

The Twitter hashtag #totsambtupep “we’re with you Pep” has been getting quite a bit of attention over the last few hours.:

 

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24 Responses to DotCat Registry Offices Raided by Spanish Police

  1. John Berryhill September 20, 2017 at 6:14 pm #

    “We are being requested to censor content and suppress freedom of speech in the .cat domain names.” – That’s an odd one from a registry which is specifically chartered to be in the business of censoring content and suppressing freedom of speech in a TLD or, as you put it, “if you want to register a .cat domain name you need to use it for sharing Catalan language or culture.”

    How would the circumstances differ if Verisign refused a US court order to take down .com names?

    But, more importantly, PuntCat agreed to the following with ICANN:

    ——
    7.14 Court Orders. ICANN will respect any order from a court of competent jurisdiction, including any orders from any jurisdiction where the consent or non-objection of the government was a requirement for the delegation of the TLD.
    —–

    …and in the IANA delegation report:

    —–
    Accordingly, ICANN requested that puntCAT obtain letters from the Government of Spain and the Government of Andorra indicating whether they agreed with the designation of an sTLD for the “Catalan Linguistic and Cultural Community.”
    —–

    The only thing I could see ICANN saying here is that ICANN will respect a Spanish court order in relation to PuntCat.

    • Quim September 21, 2017 at 12:22 am #

      If you consider promoting one thing censorship of all the other things I won’t even take the time to discuss with you, John Berryhill.

      It says it crystal clear. Blocking a domain based on the content, with somewhat like a wildcard court order. Is this the duty of a Registry?

      A man has been arrested. Come on!…He is not a terrorist!

      • John Berryhill September 21, 2017 at 3:31 pm #

        “Blocking a domain based on the content, with somewhat like a wildcard court order. Is this the duty of a Registry?”

        Verisign does it in .com on a regular basis.

        http://static4.businessinsider.com/image/58cbe4a9112f7048008b4bd7/a-pharma-company-woke-up-to-find-its-domain-name-vicodincom-seized-by-ice.jpg

        The “duty of a Registry” is defined by the Registry agreement with ICANN. The one to which PuntCat agreed, requires implementation of Spanish court orders.

        PuntCat is chartered to block domain names based on content. If what you are saying is that is not possible or too vague, then how does PuntCat do this on a regular basis?

        “A man has been arrested. Come on!…He is not a terrorist!”

        I did not call anyone a terrorist. If Verisign either (a) refused to comply with a court order in the US, or (b) did not file for modification of an order which is vague or unenforceable, then, yes, someone would probably get arrested. That’s how court orders work.

    • Rainundo Beca September 24, 2017 at 3:37 am #

      I don’t agree with your assertion that ICANN requested punt CAT to obtain letters from the goverments of Spain and Andorra, stating uniquivocally that the consent or non-objection of the government was a requirement for the delegation of this TLD. By the way, ICANN couldn’t add such a requirement, given that it was not specified in the RFP of the sTLD Round, lounched by ICANN in 2003. In fact, ICANN was more cautelous later with .asia, asking it only to encourage it to obtain letters of support from the appropriate Ministers or Heads of Agencies of the governments in the Asian region. Incidentally, .asia didn’t present any letter of support of government officialls and was delegated anyway.

      Even more, in the ICANN Registry Agreement of .cat presented for public comments, this Article 7.14 was not included. Apparently, it has been included in later versions of this Agreement, transcribing the current wording of Article 7.14. However, to the extent that this transcription applies only if the consent or non-objection of the government was a requirement for the delegation of the TLD, this inclusion is not material at all.

  2. GuyGreg September 20, 2017 at 9:37 pm #

    Reserving a TLD for a specific language community is not censorship in any sense of the word. They are not telling you what you can say, only what language you should use to say it. Virtual real estate is unlimited–anyone can register as many .es or .com addresses as they want, so restricting content on .cat domains to Catalan language harms no one.

    • John Berryhill September 21, 2017 at 4:01 pm #

      Perhaps I did not make myself clear.

      The objection to the order stated in the letter is the “burden of blocking domain names based on content”. Presumably, PuntCat has a mechanism for doing that, since they are chartered to “block domain names based on content”.

      I did not say that restricting content based on language “harms” anyone. But if the objection to the order is that it is too vague to be enforceable, then objecting on the basis of “we can’t police content” is not a good argument, since it is clear that PuntCat does police content.

      (As an aside it is commonly accepted that one’s choice of language is indeed included in the general concept of “freedom of speech”.)

      So the point is not that they were ordered to “block domain names based on content” – they do that on a regular basis.

      “anyone can register as many .es or .com addresses as they want”

      Indeed. Presumably, that’s why TerraLliure.com is in .com, which is outside the jurisdiction of Spanish courts (although TerraLliure.cat is registered under privacy).

      • Michele Neylon September 21, 2017 at 4:03 pm #

        John

        .Cat request the “purpose” for the domain during registration and can suspend / delete domains for breaching the policies. However to my knowledge that process is manual.

        Michele

  3. John Berryhill September 21, 2017 at 6:06 pm #

    Rule #82 of blog comments – Try not to forget which blog you are on mid-comment. Just learned that one today!

  4. Iberian September 22, 2017 at 8:36 am #

    […] “the Spanish government has been taking very aggressive action to block the vote from taking place”

    The Catalan regional government is the one being very aggresive – they are actually acting like a dictatorship – breaking the Law (for example, the Spanish Constitution which was voted by all Spaniards, including Catalans) and forcing a referendum without any guarantees 🙁
    The measures being taken by the Spanish government are proportionate (so far); enforcing the law – the base of democracy.

    The beauty of Spain is that each region (Andalucia, Catalonia, Castile, the Basque Country, Galicia…) has its own unique personality and yet all of them are part of a common project.
    Instead of breaking up this common project, why not foster an Iberian union (Spain + Portugal)? 🙂

    • Captain Chlamydia September 22, 2017 at 5:22 pm #

      Democracy? Anyone still believing that the European countries are democracies is an idiot.

      This fascist move by the Spanish EU followers in Madrid will only strengthen the breaking up of Spain and Catalonia.

      We need smaller government, on a local scale, that is responsible for its actions, not some unelected bureaucrats in Brussels.

      The Spanish government admitted it took €8.5 billion from Catalonia, to sponsor the rest of Spain. How long can one steel from a succesfull region to support economically bad regions?

      The same goes for the entire EU region. The EU is a fascist conglomerate of politicians and big industry, along with the MIC.

      This EUSSR will be Hunger Games movie like in 20 years, we can only pray for V (for Vendetta) to counter this.

  5. David Barnett, Ph.D. September 25, 2017 at 1:49 pm #

    I have not read the Spanish constitution, but my understanding is that it is silent on the matter of the referendum. If that is true, then Madrid is applying the backwards logic that “what is not explicitly permitted is forbidden”. I suppose the logic is that certain powers are ceded to Catalonian autonomy.

    The reality is that any constitutional arrangement is only as strong as the consent underlying it. Spain has always been an empire rather than a single country, so it behoves Madrid to look carefully at itself. What benefit does Madrid provide to Catalonia that Catalonia should cede authority to Madrid?

    The fine print of the Spanish constitution is really moot, when mounting centrifugal forces must be managed. Playing the heavy is doomed to failure in the long run, and may well avalanche in directions Madrid (and all of Spain) will regret.

    It is too late now, but the wise thing to have done would be to ignore the referendum machinations of Barcelona politicians, and then dismiss the results as of no constitutional significance. That would not have made the centrifugal problem go away, but it would have bought a little time.

    It should be clear that political devolution by creating regional autonomous governments is not the solution to centrifugal forces. These governments are merely clones of the central government, populated by the same kinds of patronage-wielding politicians. Unless there is a compelling reason for allegiance to the centre (and these are diminishing year by year) fragmentation is accelerated.

    The only solution is devolution of almost all powers down to the level of the citizen, and to recognise that a state is, at core, a self-defence alliance of its citizens.

    I do not expect Madrid politicians to be so wise, but they could benefit from asking how it was that the Roman Republic/ Empire regenerated itself again and again for 800 years following revolts and invasions that could have killed it? And why, after 800 years of resilience, had insufficient pull to recover in the 5th century?

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