Earlier this year, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google took steps to ban “domain fronting,” a practice that enables millions of people around the world to bypass censorship and access the open internet. Today, Access Now thanks Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) for writing to these companies to ask what steps they are taking in the wake of the ban to mitigate its impact on human rights activists, journalists, and others.
Access Now previously called on both Amazon and Google to work with affected communities to ensure that users are not negatively impacted now or in the future.
“Domain fronting is a valuable tool for internet freedom around the world. Services using domain fronting are not freeloaders trying to save a buck. In many cases they are serving human rights defenders trying to protect their ability to exercise their rights to free speech and free association as well as freedom from undue surveillance,” said Nathan White, Senior Legislative Manager at Access Now. “In banning domain fronting, these companies are capitulating to repressive foreign governments and prioritizing their own commercial interests over democracy, human rights, and access to independent news.”
Domain fronting is the practice of routing application traffic through a larger platform to mask its destination. This enables apps and services to circumvent some forms of repressive censorship and surveillance. Governments and internet service providers (which are often controlled by governments under authoritarian regimes) cannot shut down the targeted service without blocking access to the whole suite of popular products.
“The grip of authoritarian governments tightens each day on people trying to access the global internet,” said Peter Micek, General Counsel of Access Now. “Faith-based groups suffering repression, journalists practicing their trade, and human rights and environmental defenders are among the many who benefit from domain fronting tools. We are grateful these senators are publicly questioning Google and Amazon, and again press the companies to meet their responsibility to respect human rights and step up to protect users at risk.”
Access Now previously wrote to members of Congress, including Senator Rubio, urging them to take action and encourage these companies to reverse their decision to block domain fronting.