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Freedom of Association on the Internet

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This is an older version of an Internet-Draft whose latest revision state is "Expired".
Authors Niels ten Oever , Gisela Perez de Acha
Last updated 2018-09-05
RFC stream Internet Research Task Force (IRTF)
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Human Rights Protocol Considerations Research Group         N. ten Oever
Internet-Draft                                   University of Amsterdam
Intended status: Informational                          G. Perez de Acha
Expires: March 9, 2019                                Derechos Digitales
                                                      September 05, 2018

                 Freedom of Association on the Internet


   This document scopes the relation between Internet protocols and the
   right to freedom of assembly and association.  Increasingly, the
   Internet mediates our lives, our relationships and our ability to
   exercise our human rights.  As a forum, the Internet provides a
   global public space even though it is built predominantly on private
   infrastructure.  Since Internet protocols play a central role in the
   management, development and use of the Internet, the relation between
   protocols and the aforementioned rights should be documented and any
   adverse impacts of this relation should be mitigated.

Status of This Memo

   This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
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   This Internet-Draft will expire on March 9, 2019.

Copyright Notice

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   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
   ( in effect on the date of
   publication of this document.  Please review these documents

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   carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect
   to this document.  Code Components extracted from this document must
   include Simplified BSD License text as described in Section 4.e of
   the Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as
   described in the Simplified BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
   2.  Vocabulary used . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   3.  Research questions  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   4.  Methodology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   5.  Literature Review . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   6.  Cases and examples  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     6.1.  Conversing  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
       6.1.1.  Mailing Lists . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
       6.1.2.  Multi-party video conferencing  . . . . . . . . . . .   8
       6.1.3.  Internet Relay Chat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     6.2.  Peer-to-peer networks and systems . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
       6.2.1.  Peer-to-peer system achitectures  . . . . . . . . . .  10
       6.2.2.  Version control . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
     6.3.  Grouping together (identities)  . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
       6.3.1.  DNS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
       6.3.2.  Autonomous Systems  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
   7.  Discussion: Protocols vs Platforms  . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
   8.  Conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
   9.  Acknowledgements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
   10. Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
   11. IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
   12. Research Group Information  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
   13. References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
     13.1.  Informative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  16
     13.2.  URIs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  22
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  22

1.  Introduction

   "We shape our tools and, thereafter, our tools shape us." 
        - John Culkin (1967)

   The Internet is constantly shaping modern information societies by
   providing a socio-technical ordering: in other words, the Internet
   infrastructure and architecture consists of social and technological
   arrangements [StarRuhleder].  Such ordering is not always apparent
   because infrastructure is often taken for granted by those using it.
   It tends to hide itself in the societal woodwork [Mosco], or with
   [Weiser]: 'The most profound technologies are those that disappear'.

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   Infrastructure therefore is mostly known by an epistemic community of
   experts [Haas] and only get recognized by the larger public when it
   fails.  With the increasing societal use of the Internet the
   importance of the Internet is growing, and the decisions made about
   its infrastructure and architecture therefore also become more
   important.  [RFC8280] established the relationship between human
   rights and Internet protocols, therefore in this document we seek to
   uncover the relation between two specific human rights and the
   Internet infrastructure and architecture.

   The rights to freedom of assembly and association protect collective
   expression, in turn, systems and protocols that enable communal
   communication between people and servers allow these rights to
   prosper.  The Internet itself was originally designed as "a medium of
   communication for machines that share resources with each other as
   equals" [NelsonHedlun], the Internet thus forms a basic
   infrastructure for the right freedom of assembly and association.

   Communication is designed and implemented in a way that impacts how
   these rights can be excercised.  For instance a decentralized and
   resilient architecture that protects anonymity and privacy, offers a
   strong protection for the exercise of such freedoms in the online
   environment.  At the same time, centralized solutions have enabled
   people to group together in recognizable places and helped the
   visbility of groups.  In other words, different architectural designs
   come with different affordances, or characteristics which should be
   taken into account at the time of design, and when designing,
   updating and maintaining other parts of the architecture and

   The current draft continues the work started in [RFC8280] by
   investigating the exact impact of Internet protocols on specific
   human rights, namely the right to freedom of assembly and association
   given their importance for the Internet, in order to mitigate
   potential negative impacts.

2.  Vocabulary used

   Architecture  The design of a structure

   Autonomous System (AS)  Autonomous Systems are the unit of routing
      policy in the modern world of exterior routing [RFC1930].

      Within the Internet, an autonomous system (AS) is a collection of
      connected Internet Protocol (IP) routing prefixes under the
      control of one or more network operators on behalf of a single
      administrative entity or domain that presents a common, clearly
      defined routing policy to the Internet [RFC1930].

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      The classic definition of an Autonomous System is a set of routers
      under a single technical administration, using an interior gateway
      protocol and common metrics to route packets within the AS, and
      using an exterior gateway protocol to route packets to other ASs

   Border Gateway Protocol (BGP)  An inter-Autonomous System routing
      protocol [RFC4271].

   Connectivity  The extent to which a device or network is able to
      reach other devices or networks to exchange data.  The Internet is
      the tool for providing global connectivity [RFC1958].  Different
      types of connectivity are further specified in [RFC4084].  The
      combination of the end-to-end principle, interoperability,
      distributed architecture, resilience, reliability and robustness
      are the enabling factors that result in connectivity to and on the

   Decentralization  Implementation or deployment of standards,
      protocols or systems without one single point of control.

   Distributed system  A system with multiple components that have their
      behavior co-ordinated via message passing.  These components are
      usually spatially separated and communicate using a network, and
      may be managed by a single root of trust or authority.

   Infrastructure  Underlying basis or structure for a functioning
      society, organization or community.  Because infrastructure is a
      precondition for other activities it has a procedural, rather than
      static, nature due to its social and cultural embeddedness
      [PipekWulf] [Bloketal].  This means that infrastructure is always
      relational: infrastructure always develops in relation to
      something or someone [Bowker].

   Internet  The Network of networks, that consists of Autonomous
      Systems that are connected through the Internet Protocol (IP).

      A persistent socio-technical system over which services are
      delivered [Mainwaringetal],

      A techno-social assemblage of devices, users, sensors, networks,
      routers, governance, administrators, operators and protocols

      An emergent-process-driven thing that is born from the collections
      of the ASes that happen to be gathered together at any given time.
      The fact that they tend to interact at any given time means it is

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      an emergent property that happens because they use the protocols
      defined at IETF.

3.  Research questions

   1.  How does the architecture of the internet enable and/or inhibit
       the right to freedom of association and assembly?

   2.  If the Internet is used to exercise the right to freedom of
       association, what are the implications for its architecture and

4.  Methodology

   In order to answer the research questions, first a number of cases
   have been collected to analyze where Internet infrastructure and
   protocols have either enabled or inhibited groups of people to
   collaborate, cooperate or communicate.  This overview does not aim to
   cover all possible ways in which people can collectively organize or
   reach out to each other using Internet infrastructure and Internet
   protocols, but rather cover typical uses in an attempt at an an
   ethnography of infrastructure [Star].  Subsequently we analyze the
   cases with the theoretical framework provided in the literature
   review and provide recommendations based on the findings.

5.  Literature Review

   The right to freedom of assembly and association protects and enables
   collective action and expression [UDHR] [ICCPR].  These right ensures
   everyone in a society has the opportunity to express the opinions
   they hold in common with others, which in turn facilitates dialogue
   among citizens, as well as with political leaders or governments
   [OSCE].  The following is relevant because in the process of
   democratic delibration, causes and opinions are more widely heard
   when a group of people come together behind the same cause or issue

   In international law, the right to freedom of assembly and
   association protect any collective, gathered either permanently or
   temporarily for "peaceful" purposes.  It is important to underline
   the property of "freedom" because the right to freedom of association
   and assembly is voluntary and uncoerced: anyone can join or leave a
   group of choice, which in turn means one should not be forced to
   either join, stay or leave.

   The difference between freedom of assembly and freedom of association
   is merely gradual one: the former tends to have an informal and
   ephemeral nature, whereas the latter refers to established and

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   permanent bodies with specific objectives.  Nonetheless, one and the
   other are protected to the same degree.

   An assembly is an intentional and temporary gathering of a collective
   in a private or public space for a specific purpose: demonstrations,
   indoor meetings, strikes, processions, rallies or even sits-in
   [UNHRC].  Association on the other hand has a more formal and
   established nature.  It refers to a group of individuals or legal
   entities brought together in order to collectively act, express,
   pursue or defend a field of common interests [UNGA].  Within this
   category we can think about civil society organizations, clubs,
   cooperatives, NGOs, religious associations, political parties, trade
   unions or foundations.

   Even if privacy and freedom of expression are the most discussed
   human rights when it comes to the online world, the right to freedom
   of assembly and association is quintessential for the Internet.
   Online association and assembly are crucial to mobilise groups and
   people where physical gatherings have been impossible or dangerous
   [APC].  Throughout the world -from the Arab Spring to Latin American
   student movements and the #WomensMarch- the Internet has also played
   a crucial role by providing a means for the fast dissemination of
   information that was otherwise mediated by broadcast media, or even
   forbidden by the government [Pensado].  According to Hussain and
   Howard the Internet helped to "build solidarity networks and
   identification of collective identities and goals, extend the range
   of local coverage to international broadcast networks" and as
   platform for contestation for "the future of civil society and
   information infrastructure" [HussainHoward].

   The IETF itself, defined as a 'open global community' of network
   designers, operators, vendors, and researchers is also protected by
   freedom of assembly and association [RFC3233].  Discussions, comments
   and consensus around RFCs are possible because of the collective
   expression that freedom of association and assembly allow.  The very
   word "protocol" found its way into the language of computer
   networking based on the need for collective agreement among network
   users [HafnerandLyon].

   We are aware that some of these examples go beyond the use of
   Internet protocols and flow over into the applications layer or
   examples in the offline world whereas the purpose of the current
   document is to break down the relationship between Internet protocols
   and the right to freedom of assembly and association.  Nonetheless,
   given that protocols are a part of the socio-technical ordering of
   reality, we do recognize that in some cases the line between them and
   applications, implementations, policies and offline realities are
   often blurred and hard -if not impossible- to differentiate.

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6.  Cases and examples

   The Internet has become a central mediator for collective action and
   collaboration.  This means the Internet has become a strong enabler
   of the rights to freedom of association and assembly.  In the
   following section we discuss different cases to give an overview of
   how the Internet protocol and architecture facilitates the freedom of
   assembly and association.

6.1.  Conversing

   An interactive conversation between two or more people forms the
   basis for people to organize and associate.  According to Anderson
   "the relationship between political conversation and engagement in
   the democratic process is strong."  [Anderson].  By this definition,
   what defines the "political" is essentially assembly or association:
   a basis for the development of social cohesion in society.

6.1.1.  Mailing Lists

   Since the beginning of the Internet mailing lists have been a key
   site of assembly and association [RFC0155] [RFC1211].  In fact,
   mailing lists were one of the Internet's first functionalities

   In 1971, four years after the invention of email, the first mailing
   list was created to talk about the idea of using Arpanet for
   discussion.  What had initially propelled the Arpanet project forward
   as a resource sharing platform was gradually replaced by the idea of
   a network as a means of bringing people together [Abbate].  More than
   45 years after, mailing lists are pervasive and help communities to
   engage, have discussion, share information, ask questions, and build
   ties.  Even as social media and discussion forums grow, mailing lists
   continue to be widely used [AckermannKargerZhang] an are still a
   crucial tool to organise groups and individuals around themes and
   causes [APC].

   One of the reasons why mailinglist are still widely used -even within
   the IETF- is because they allow for easy association and allow people
   to subscribe (join) and unsubscribe (leave) as they please.  They
   also allow for association of specific groups on closed lists,
   protecting the intent of a private association.  Furthermore, the
   archival function of mailinglists allows for posterior accountabilty
   and analysis.  The downsides of mailinglists are similar to the ones
   generally associated with e-mail, except that end-to-end encryption
   such as OpenPGP [RFC4880] and S/MIME [RFC5751] are not possible
   because the final recipients are not known.  There have been

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   experimental solutions to address this issue such as Schleuder
   [Schleuder], but this has not been standardized or widely deployed.

6.1.2.  Multi-party video conferencing

   Multi-party video conferencing protocols like WebRTC [RFC6176]
   [RFC7118] allow for robust, bandwidth-adaptive, wideband and super-
   wideband video and audio discussions in groups.  'The WebRTC protocol
   was designed to enable responsive real-time communications over the
   Internet, and is instrumental in allowing streaming video and
   conferencing applications to run in the browser.  In order to easily
   facilitate direct connections between computers (bypassing the need
   for a central server to act as a gatekeeper), WebRTC provides
   functionality to automatically collect the local and public IP
   addresses of Internet users (ICE or STUN).  These functions do not
   require consent from the user, and can be instantiated by sites that
   a user visits without their awareness.  The potential privacy
   implications of this aspect of WebRTC are well documented, and
   certain browsers have provided options to limit its behavior.'

   Even though some multi-party video conferencing tools facilitate
   freedom of assembly and association, their own configuration might
   might pose concrete risks for those who use them.  One the one hand
   WebRTC is providing resilient channels of communications, but on the
   other hand it also exposes information about those who are using the
   tool which might lead to increased surveillance, identification and
   the consequences that might be derived from that.  This is especially
   concerning because the usage of a VPN does not protect against the
   exposure of IP addresses [Crawford].

   The risk of surveillance is also true in an offline space, but this
   is generally easy to analyze for the end-user.  Security and privacy
   expectations of the end-user could be either improved or made
   explicit to the end-user, and this in turn would result in a more
   secure and/or private excercise of the right to freedom of assembly
   or association.

6.1.3.  Internet Relay Chat

   Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is an application layer protocol that
   enables communication in the form of text through a client/server
   networking model [RFC2810].  In other words, a chat service.  IRC
   clients are computer programs that a user can install on their
   system.  These clients communicate with chat servers to transfer
   messages to other clients.

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   For order to be kept within the IRC network, special clases of users
   become "operators" and are allowed to perform general maintenance
   functions on the network: basic network tasks such as disconnecting
   (temporary or permanently) and reconnecting servers as needed
   [RFC2812].  One of the most controversial power of operators is the
   ability to remove a user from the connected network by 'force', i.e.,
   operators are able to close the connection between any client and
   server [RFC2812].

   IRC servers may deploy different policies for the ability of users to
   create their own channels or 'rooms', and for the delegation of
   'operator'-rights in such spaces.  Some IRC servers support SSL/TLS
   connections for security purposes [RFC7194] which helps stop the use
   of packet sniffer programs to obtain the passwords of IRC users, but
   has little use beyond this scope due to the public nature of IRC
   channels.  TLS connections require both client and server support
   (that may require the user to install TLS binaries and IRC client
   specific patches or modules on their computers).  Some networks also
   use TLS for server to server connections, and provide a special
   channel flag (such as +S) to only allow TLS-connected users on the
   channel, while disallowing operator identification in clear text, to
   better utilize the advantages that TLS provides.

6.2.  Peer-to-peer networks and systems

   At the organizational level, peer production is one of the most
   relevant innovations from Internet mediated social practices.
   According to [Benkler] these networks imply 'open collaborative
   innovation and creation, performed by diverse, decentralized groups
   organized principally by neither price signals nor organizational
   hierarchy, harnessing heterogeneous motivations, and governed and
   managed based on principles other than the residual authority of
   ownership implemented through contract.'  [Benkler].

   In his book The Wealth of Networks, Benkler significantly expands on
   his definition of commons-based peer production.  In his view, what
   distinguishes commons-based production is that it doesn't rely upon
   or propagate proprietary knowledge: "The inputs and outputs of the
   process are shared, freely or conditionally, in an institutional form
   that leaves them equally available for all to use as they choose at
   their individual discretion."  [Benkler] To ensure that the knowledge
   generated is available for free use, commons-based projects are often
   shared under an open license.

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6.2.1.  Peer-to-peer system achitectures

   Peer-to-peer (P2P) is esentially a model of how people interact in
   real life because "we deal directly with one another whenever we wish
   to" [Vu].  Usually if we need something we ask our peers, who in turn
   refer us to other peers.  In this sense, the ideal definition of P2P
   is that "nodes are able to directly exchange resources and services
   between themselves without the need for centralized servers" where
   each participating node typically acts both as a server and as a
   client [Vu].  In RFC 5694 P2P has been defined as peers or nodes that
   should be able to communicate directly between themselves without
   passing intermediaries, and that the system should be self-organizing
   and have decentralized control [RFC5694].  With this in mind, the
   ultimate model of P2P is a completely decentralized system, which is
   more resistant to speech regulation, immune to single points of
   failure and have a higher performance and scalability.  Nonetheless,
   in practice some P2P systems are supported by centralized servers and
   some others have hybrid models where nodes are organized into two
   layers: the upper tier servers and the lower tier common nodes [Vu].

   Since the ARPANET project, the original idea behind the Internet was
   conceived as what we would now call a peer-to-peer system [RFC0001].
   Over time it has increasingly shifted towards a client/server model
   with "millions of consumer clients communicating with a relatively
   privileged set of servers" [NelsonHedlun].

   Whether for resource sharing or data sharing, P2P systems are
   enabling freedom of assembly and association.  Not only do they allow
   for effective dissemination of information, but they leverage
   computing resources by diminishing costs allowing for the formation
   of open collectives at the network level.  At the same time, in
   completely decentralized systems the nodes are autonomous and can
   join or leave the network as they want -a characteristic that makes
   the system unpredicable: a resource might be only sometimes
   available, and some other resources might be missing or incomplete
   [Vu].  Lack of information might in turn makes association or
   assembly more difficult.

   Additionally, when architecturally assesesing the role of P2P systems
   we could say that: "the main advantage of centralized P2P systems is
   that they are able to provide a quick and reliable resource locating.
   Their limitation, however, is that the scalability of the systems is
   affected by the use of servers.  While decentralized P2P systems are
   better than centralized P2P systems in this aspect, they require a
   longer time in resource locating.  As a result, hybrid P2P systems
   have been introduced to take advantage of both centralized and
   decentralized architectures.  Basically, to maintain the scalability,
   similar to decentralized P2P systems, there are no servers in hybrid

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   P2P systems.  However, peer nodes that are more powerful than others
   can be selected to act as servers to serve others.  These nodes are
   often called super peers.  In this way, resource locating can be done
   by both decentralized search techniques and centralized search
   techniques (asking super peers), and hence the systems benefit from
   the search techniques of centralized P2P systems."  [Vu]

6.2.2.  Version control

   Ever since developers needed to collaboratively write, maintain and
   discuss large code basis for the Internet there have been different
   approaches of doing so.  The easiest approach has been discussing
   code through mailing lists even though this has proven to be hard
   when maintaining the most recent versions, which is why version
   control systems ultimately make sense.

   A version control system is a piece of software that enables
   developers on a software team to work together and also archive a
   complete history of their work [Sink].  This allows teams to be
   working simultaneously on updated versions.  According to Sink,
   broadly speaking, the history of version control tools can be
   dividied into three generations.  In the first one, concurrent
   development meant that only one person could be working on a file at
   a time.  The second generation tools permit simultaneous
   modifications as long as users merge the current revisions into their
   work before they are allowed to commit.  The third generation tools
   allow merge and commit to be separated [Sink].

   Interestingly no version control system has ever been standardized in
   the IETF whereas the version control systems like Subversion and Git
   are widely used within the community and working groups.  There has
   been a spirited discussion on whether working groups should use
   centralized forms of the Git protocol, such as those offered by
   Gitlab or Github.  Proponents argue that this simplifies the workflow
   and allows for more transparency.  Opponents argue that the reliance
   on a centralized service which is not merely using the Git protocol
   but also uses non-standardized options like an Issue-Tracker, makes
   the process less transparent and reliant on a third party.

   The IETF has not made a decision on the use of centralized instances
   of Git, such as Github or Gitlab.  There have been two efforts to
   standardize the workflow vis a vis these third party services, but
   these haven't come to fruition: [Wugh] [GithubIETF].

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6.3.  Grouping together (identities)

   Collective identities are also protected by freedom of association
   and assembly.  Acording to Melucci these are 'shared definitions
   produced by several interacting individuals who are concerned with
   the orientation of their action as well as the field of opportunities
   and constraints in which their action takes place.'  [Melucci] In
   this sense, assemblies and associations are an important base in the
   maintenance and development of culture, as well as preservation of
   minority identities [OSCE].

6.3.1.  DNS

   Domain names allow hosts to be identified by human parsable
   information.  Whereas an IP address might not be the expression of an
   identity, a domain name can be and often is.  The grouping of certain
   identities under specific domains or even Top Level Domains are
   risky: connecting an identity to a hierarchically structured
   identifier systems creates a central attack surface which allows for
   an easier surveillance of the services running on the domain, domain
   based censorship [RFC7754], or impersonation of the domain through
   DNS cache poisoning.  The use of a centralized authority always makes
   censorship through a registry or registrar possible, as well as by
   using a fake resolver or using proposed standards such as DNS
   Response Policy Zones [RPZ].  Several technologies have been
   developed in the IETF to mitigated these risks such as DNS over TLS
   [RFC7858], DNSSEC [RFC4033], and TLS [RFC5246].  When these
   mitigations are implemented, censorship will not be made impossible
   but it will be made visible.

   The structuring of DNS as a hierarchical authority structure also
   brings about a specific characteristic, namely the possibility of
   centralized policy making vis-a-vis the management and operation of
   Top Level Domains, which is what happens partly at ICANN.  The impact
   of ICANN processes on human rights will not be discussed here.

6.3.2.  Autonomous Systems

   In order for edge-users to connect to the Internet, they need to be
   connected to an Automous System (AS) which, in turn, has peering or
   transit relations with other AS'es.  This means that in the process
   of accessing the Internet, edge-users need to accept the policies and
   practices of the intermediary that provides them access to the other
   networks.  In other words, for users to be able to join the 'network
   of networks', they always need to connect through an intermediary.

   While accessing the Internet through an intermediary, the user is
   forced to accept the policies, practices and principles of a network.

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   This could impede the rights of the edge-user, depending on the
   implemented policies and practices on the network and how (if at all)
   they are communicated to them.  For example: filtering, blocking,
   extensive logging, slowing down connection or specific services, or
   other invasive practices that are not clearly communicated to the

   In practice, the user must accept policies of ASes he has no
   relationship with, and didn't choose.  For instance, there is no way
   to direct the packets to avoid the Five Eyes, not even to know after
   the fact where the packet went.  [FiveEyes] [SchengenRouting]
   (Traceroutes give you an idea but the path may change before and
   after the traceroute.)  Given that it is not trivial for an edge-user
   to operate an AS and engage in peering relation with other ASes,
   there might not be another way for the edge-user to connect to the
   network of networks.  In this case, users are forced into accepting
   the policies of a specific network.  Such design, combined with the
   increased importance of the Internet to make use of basic services,
   forces edge-users to associate with a specific network without
   consenting -or even knowing- the policies of the network.

   Aditionally, it can be noted that there is no standard and deployed
   way for the edge-user to choose the routes her packets will go
   through.  [RFC0791] section 3.1 standardized "source routing" and
   "record route" but neither were deployed, mainly because of serious
   security issues.

7.  Discussion: Protocols vs Platforms

   The Internet is increasingly becoming a vehicle for commercial,
   propietary and non-interoperable platforms.  Even though it has
   always allowed for closed-off networks, the current trend shows the
   rise of a small number of very large non-interoperable platforms.
   Chat has moved from XMPP and IRC to Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp and
   WeChat and there has been a strong rise of social media networks with
   large numbers of users, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  A
   similar trend can be found among e-mail providers, with the
   significant difference that e-mail is interoperable.

   Often these non-interoperable platforms are built on open-protocols
   but do not allow for inter-operability or data-portability.  In the
   case of large private platforms, this in turn leads to strong network
   externalities also know as a network effect; because the users are
   there, users will be there.  Even though social-media platforms have
   enabled groups to associate, they have also led to a 'tactical
   freeze' because of the inability to change the platforms [Tufekci].

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   Whereas these networks are a ready-to-hand networked public sphere,
   they do not allow their inhabitants to change or fully understand
   their workings.  In a near future, this could potentially impact
   infrastructure itself and the distributed nature of the Internet

8.  Conclusions

   The current document scopes the relation between Internet protocols
   and the right to freedom of assembly and association.  Research
   started out with two main questions.  First, how does the internet
   architecture enable and/or inhibit freedom of association and
   assembly?  And secondly: if the Internet is used to exercise the
   right to freedom of association, what are the implications for its
   architecture and infrastructure?

   Communities, collaboration and joint action lie at the heart of the
   Internet.  Even at at linguistical level, the words "networks" and
   "associations" are close synonyms.  Both interconnected groups and
   assemblies of people depend on "links" and "relationships" [Swire].
   Taking legal definitions given in international human rights law
   jurisprudence, we could assert that the right to freedom of assembly
   and association protect collective expression.  These rights protect
   any collective, gathered either permanently or temporarily for
   "peaceful" purposes.  It is voluntary and uncoerced.

   On the first question, we argued that given that the Internet itself
   was originally designed as a medium of communication for machines
   that share resources with each other as equals, the Internet is one
   of the most basic infrastructures for the right to freedom of
   assembly and association.  Since Internet protocols play a central
   role in the management, development and use of the Internet, we
   established the relation between some protocols and the right to
   freedom of assembly and association.

   Regarding the second question, after reviewing protocols that allow
   mailing lists, to multi-party video conferencing, IRC, peer-to-peer
   architectures, version control or the functioning of autonomous
   systems, we can conclude that the way in which infrastructure is
   designed and implemented impacts the exercise of freedom of assembly
   and association.  This is because different architectural designs
   come with different affordances, or characteristics.  If a
   decentralized architecture protects anonymity and privacy, both
   freedoms in the online environment will be enabled.  On the other
   hand, centralized solutions have allowed users to group together and
   visibilise groups. enabled people to group together in recognizable
   places and helped the visbility of groups.

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   Lastly, the increasing shift towards closed and non-interoperable
   platforms in chat and social media networks have a significant impact
   on the distributed and open nature of the Internet.  Often these non-
   interoperable platforms are built on open-protocols but do not allow
   for inter-operability or data-portability.  The use of social-media
   platforms has enabled groups to associate, but is has also rendered
   users unable to change platforms, therefore leading to a sort of
   "forced association" that stirs faraway from freedom.

9.  Acknowledgements

   -  Fred Baker, Jefsey, and Andrew Sullivan for work on Internet

   -  Stephane Bortzmeyer for several concrete text suggestions that
      found their way in this document (such as the AS filtering

   -  Mark Perkins for finding a lot of typos

   -  The hrpc mailinglist at large for a very constructive discussion
      on a hard topic.

10.  Security Considerations

   As this draft concerns a research document, there are no security

11.  IANA Considerations

   This document has no actions for IANA.

12.  Research Group Information

   The discussion list for the IRTF Human Rights Protocol Considerations
   Research Group is located at the e-mail address [1].
   Information on the group and information on how to subscribe to the
   list is at [2]

   Archives of the list can be found at:
   archive/web/hrpc/current/index.html [3]

13.  References

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13.1.  Informative References

   [Abbate]   Janet Abbate, ., "Inventing the Internet", Cambridge: MIT
              Press (2013): 11. , 2013,

              Ackerman, M., Karger, D., and A. Zhang, "Mailing Lists:
              Why Are They Still Here, What's Wrong With Them, and How
              Can We Fix Them?", Mit. edu (2017): 1. , 2017,

              Andersson, E., "The political voice of young citizens
              Educational conditions for political conversation - school
              and social media", Utbildning & Demokrati: Tidskrift foer
              Didaktik och Utbildningspolitik, Volume 21, Number 1,
              2012, pp. 97-119(23) , 2012,

              Anderson, C. and C. Guarnieri, "Fictitious Profiles and
              WebRTC's Privacy Leaks Used to Identify Iranian
              Activists", 2016,

   [APC]      Association for Progressive Communications and . Gayathry
              Venkiteswaran, "Freedom of assembly and association online
              in India, Malaysia and Pakistan. Trends, challenges and
              recommendations.", 2016,

   [Benkler]  Benkler, Y., "Peer Production and Cooperation", 2009,

              Blok, A., Nakazora, M., and B. Winthereik,
              "Infrastructuring Environments", Science as Culture 25:1,
              1-22. , 2016.

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   [Bowker]   Bowker, G., "Information mythology and infrastructure",
              In: L. Bud (Ed.), Information Acumen: The Understanding
              and use of Knowledge in Modern
              Business,Routledge,London,1994,pp.231-247 , 1994.

              Crawford, D., "The WebRTC VPN "Bug" and How to Fix", 2015,

              Wikipedia, ., "Five Eyes", 2018,

              Thomson, M. and A. Atlas, "Using GitHub at the IETF",

   [Haas]     Haas, P., "Introduction: epistemic communities and
              international policy coordination", International
              Organization, special issue: Knowledge, Power, and
              International Policy Coordination, Cambridge Journals. 46
              (1): 1-35. , 1992.

              Hafnerand, K. and M. Lyon, "Where Wizards Stay Up Late.
              The Origins of the Internet", First Touchstone Edition
              (1998): 93. , 1998, <>.

              Hussain, M. and P. Howard, "What Best Explains Successful
              Protest Cascades? ICTs and the Fuzzy Causes of the Arab
              Spring", Int Stud Rev (2013) 15 (1): 48-66. , 2013,

   [ICCPR]    United Nations General Assembly, "International Covenant
              on Civil and Political Rights", 1966,

              Mainwaring, S., Chang, M., and K. Anderson,
              "Infrastructures and Their Discontents: Implications for
              Ubicomp", DBLP Conference: Conference: UbiComp 2004:
              Ubiquitous Computing: 6th International Conference,
              Nottingham, UK, September 7-10, 2004. Proceedings , 2004,

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   [Melucci]  Melucci, A., "The Process of Collective Identity", Temple
              University Press, Philadelphia , 1995.

   [Mosco]    Mosco, V., "The Digital Sublime: Myth, Power, and
              Cyberspace", 2005,

              Minar, N. and M. Hedlun, "A Network of Peers: Models
              Through the History of the Internet", Peer to Peer:
              Harnessing the Power of Disruptive Technologies, ed: Andy
              Oram , 2001, <

   [OSCE]     OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights,
              "Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly", page 24 ,
              2010, <>.

   [Pensado]  Jaime Pensado, ., "Student Activism. Utopian Dreams.",
              ReVista. Harvard Review of Latin America (2012). , 2012,

              Pipek, V. and W. Wolf, "Infrastructuring: Towards an
              Integrated Perspective on the Design and Use of
              Information Technology", Journal of the Association for
              Information Systems (10) 5, pp. 306-332 , 2009.

   [RFC0001]  Crocker, S., "Host Software", RFC 1, DOI 10.17487/RFC0001,
              April 1969, <>.

   [RFC0155]  North, J., "ARPA Network mailing lists", RFC 155,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC0155, May 1971,

   [RFC0791]  Postel, J., "Internet Protocol", STD 5, RFC 791,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC0791, September 1981,

   [RFC1211]  Westine, A. and J. Postel, "Problems with the maintenance
              of large mailing lists", RFC 1211, DOI 10.17487/RFC1211,
              March 1991, <>.

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   [RFC1287]  Clark, D., Chapin, L., Cerf, V., Braden, R., and R. Hobby,
              "Towards the Future Internet Architecture", RFC 1287,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC1287, December 1991,

   [RFC1771]  Rekhter, Y. and T. Li, "A Border Gateway Protocol 4 (BGP-
              4)", RFC 1771, DOI 10.17487/RFC1771, March 1995,

   [RFC1930]  Hawkinson, J. and T. Bates, "Guidelines for creation,
              selection, and registration of an Autonomous System (AS)",
              BCP 6, RFC 1930, DOI 10.17487/RFC1930, March 1996,

   [RFC1958]  Carpenter, B., Ed., "Architectural Principles of the
              Internet", RFC 1958, DOI 10.17487/RFC1958, June 1996,

   [RFC2810]  Kalt, C., "Internet Relay Chat: Architecture", RFC 2810,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2810, April 2000,

   [RFC2812]  Kalt, C., "Internet Relay Chat: Client Protocol",
              RFC 2812, DOI 10.17487/RFC2812, April 2000,

   [RFC3233]  Hoffman, P. and S. Bradner, "Defining the IETF", BCP 58,
              RFC 3233, DOI 10.17487/RFC3233, February 2002,

   [RFC4033]  Arends, R., Austein, R., Larson, M., Massey, D., and S.
              Rose, "DNS Security Introduction and Requirements",
              RFC 4033, DOI 10.17487/RFC4033, March 2005,

   [RFC4084]  Klensin, J., "Terminology for Describing Internet
              Connectivity", BCP 104, RFC 4084, DOI 10.17487/RFC4084,
              May 2005, <>.

   [RFC4271]  Rekhter, Y., Ed., Li, T., Ed., and S. Hares, Ed., "A
              Border Gateway Protocol 4 (BGP-4)", RFC 4271,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC4271, January 2006,

   [RFC4880]  Callas, J., Donnerhacke, L., Finney, H., Shaw, D., and R.
              Thayer, "OpenPGP Message Format", RFC 4880,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC4880, November 2007,

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   [RFC5246]  Dierks, T. and E. Rescorla, "The Transport Layer Security
              (TLS) Protocol Version 1.2", RFC 5246,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC5246, August 2008,

   [RFC5694]  Camarillo, G., Ed. and IAB, "Peer-to-Peer (P2P)
              Architecture: Definition, Taxonomies, Examples, and
              Applicability", RFC 5694, DOI 10.17487/RFC5694, November
              2009, <>.

   [RFC5751]  Ramsdell, B. and S. Turner, "Secure/Multipurpose Internet
              Mail Extensions (S/MIME) Version 3.2 Message
              Specification", RFC 5751, DOI 10.17487/RFC5751, January
              2010, <>.

   [RFC6176]  Turner, S. and T. Polk, "Prohibiting Secure Sockets Layer
              (SSL) Version 2.0", RFC 6176, DOI 10.17487/RFC6176, March
              2011, <>.

   [RFC7118]  Baz Castillo, I., Millan Villegas, J., and V. Pascual,
              "The WebSocket Protocol as a Transport for the Session
              Initiation Protocol (SIP)", RFC 7118,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC7118, January 2014,

   [RFC7194]  Hartmann, R., "Default Port for Internet Relay Chat (IRC)
              via TLS/SSL", RFC 7194, DOI 10.17487/RFC7194, August 2014,

   [RFC7754]  Barnes, R., Cooper, A., Kolkman, O., Thaler, D., and E.
              Nordmark, "Technical Considerations for Internet Service
              Blocking and Filtering", RFC 7754, DOI 10.17487/RFC7754,
              March 2016, <>.

   [RFC7858]  Hu, Z., Zhu, L., Heidemann, J., Mankin, A., Wessels, D.,
              and P. Hoffman, "Specification for DNS over Transport
              Layer Security (TLS)", RFC 7858, DOI 10.17487/RFC7858, May
              2016, <>.

   [RFC8280]  ten Oever, N. and C. Cath, "Research into Human Rights
              Protocol Considerations", RFC 8280, DOI 10.17487/RFC8280,
              October 2017, <>.

   [RPZ]      Vixie, P. and V. Schyver, "DNS Response Policy Zones
              (RPZ)", 2017,

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              Wikipedia, ., "Schengen Routing", 2018,

              Nadir, "Schleuder - A gpg-enabled mailinglist with
              remailing-capabilities.", 2017,

   [Sink]     Sink, E., "Version Control by Example", 2011,

   [Star]     Star, S., "The Ethnography of Infrastructure", American
              Behavioral Scientist, Volume 43 (3), 377-391. , 1999,

              Star, S. and K. Ruhleder, "Steps toward an ecology of
              infrastructure: Design and access for large information
              spaces", Information Systems Research 7 (1) (1996)
              111-134. , 1996.

   [Swire]    Peter Swire, ., "Social Networks, Privacy, and Freedom of
              Association: Data Empowerment vs. Data Protection", North
              Carolina Law Review (2012) 90 (1): 104. , 2012,
              < or

              de Tocqueville, A., "Democracy in America", 1840, <http://
              democracy_in_america_vol_2.pdf p. 304>.

              Troncoso, C., Isaakdis, M., Danezis, G., and H. Halpin,
              "Systematizing Decentralization and Privacy: Lessons from
              15 Years of Research and Deployments", Proceedings on
              Privacy Enhancing Technologies ; 2017 (4):307-329 , 2017,

   [Tufekci]  Tufekci, Z., "Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and
              Fragility of Networked Protest", 2017,

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   [UDHR]     United Nations General Assembly, "The Universal
              Declaration of Human Rights", 1948,

   [UNGA]     Hina Jilani, ., "Human rights defenders", A/59/401 , 2004,
              view_doc.asp?symbol=A/59/401 para. 46>.

   [UNHRC]    Maina Kiai, ., "Report of the Special Rapporteur on the
              rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of
              association", A/HRC/20/27 , 2012,

   [Vu]       Vu, Quang Hieu, ., Lupu, Mihai, ., and . Ooi, Beng Chin,
              "Peer-to-Peer Computing: Principles and Applications",
              2010, <>.

   [Weiser]   Weiser, L., "The Computer for the 21st Century",
              Scientific American Ubicomp Paper after Sci Am editing ,
              1991, <

   [Wugh]     Nottingham, M., "Using Third Party Services for IETF
              Work", 2017, <

13.2.  URIs




Authors' Addresses

   Niels ten Oever
   University of Amsterdam


   Gisela Perez de Acha
   Derechos Digitales


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