DNS blocking has no place in the new Gaming Act
On-line gambling remains illegal in the Netherlands. The government has for some years been working on a law that would legalise the activity, but progress has not been easy. A balance has to be struck between sufficient leniency to allow the provision of attractive services and sufficient restriction to minimise the risk of users becoming compulsive gamblers. Furthermore, a lot of established interests are at stake, such as those of charities that currently generate considerable income from legal gaming activities.
The bill that has now been brought forward would also give the Netherlands Gaming Authority (KSA) additional powers to act against illegal gambling providers. Empowering the KSA in that regard is complicated by the fact that the internet does not recognise international borders, while the KSA has authority only within the Netherlands. The KSA can take action against providers based in the Netherlands, websites hosted in the Netherlands and websites that use .nl domain names, but not against anything taking place in other countries. Against that background, the bill provides for internet traffic to be blocked, with a view to making illegal gambling sites unreachable from the Netherlands. After obtaining judicial permission, the KSA would be able to order ISPs (KPN, Ziggo, Vodafone, etc.) to prevent their clients from reaching illegal sites. That could be done by DNS blocking or by filtering users' internet traffic.SIDN opposes the principal of intervention in the working of the internet. In the position paper accompanying this article, we explain why are against the idea. Our position paper outlines the dangers and indicates why internet-related measures of the kind proposed in the bill would not be effective against illegal gambling. The paper concludes by suggesting that the bill's provisions for requiring banks to block illegal providers' payment traffic are likely to be much more effective.Over the last year, SIDN has actively communicated its views on this matter to the political community. Other voices from within the internet and telecoms industry, like DINL, have expressed disquiet at the proposals, as have the Dutch Internet Society and Bits of Freedom, for example. Furthermore, our objection to the principle of intervention is shared by the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR). In a report published last year, the WRR urged the Netherlands to take a pioneering role in protecting the public core of the internet. The new bill is fundamentally at odds with such a role.In the Dutch parliament, D66 (the liberal-democratic party) has recently proposed an amendment to the bill, removing the provisions relating to the filtering and blocking of internet traffic. It is our hope that the amendment wins general support. Parliament is expected to vote on the bill in the near future.