Re: If Muslims are blocked by the U.S., should the IETF respond?

Emily Shepherd <> Mon, 30 January 2017 20:41 UTC

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Date: Mon, 30 Jan 2017 20:39:52 +0000
From: Emily Shepherd <>
To: Phillip Hallam-Baker <>
Subject: Re: If Muslims are blocked by the U.S., should the IETF respond?
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On Mon, Jan 30, 2017 at 01:05:37PM -0500, Phillip Hallam-Baker wrote:
>​To make such a statement is to overlook the fact that the 
>development of
>communications technology is inevitably a political activity.

Of course it is, but just because communications technology can and is 
sometimes political doesn't give us a licence to comment on all 
political things.

We are a technological organisation (or non-organisation, whatever the 
consensus on that may be) and we should focus on technical matters.  
Sometimes those matters will have political side effects yes, but the 
focus of our work should be technological in my humble opinion.

>No matter how any of us may feel about any US policy it would be wildly
>> inappropriate to confuse the IETF's mission with such discussions. If you
>> want to object to them, that is fine but it should be done outside of the
>> IETF. In fact, every single IETF contributor could protest, or indeed
>> support, any political policy in unison if they wanted, as long as they
>> don't do it in the IETF's name.
>​Take a look at the IETF mission statement and you will find that it is
>entirely circular in form. The IETF built the Internet and the Internet is
>what the IETF builds.

Yes the mission statement is vague but it's clearly about the Internet, 
not international travel policy.

>The reason that the meeting venue list isn't the appropriate venue is that
>we may well get into the part of the story where it is no longer possible
>to do business the old way.

Fine, that may happen and if it does that *will* indeed require a 
discussion on how to mitigate that, but there's a massive difference 
between a problem arising, be it political in nature or otherwise, and 
it being addressed, and "making a formal statement" for no reason other 
than to make it.

I understand that many people are upset about what seems like an extreme 
stance but foreign policy is a complex subject, one that deserves more 
than just blanket statements from unrelated organisations. If any of us 
truly care about this issue why not take it to a forum that can actually 
do some good?

Keep in mind that as far as many politicians are concerned, the IETF is 
the same as the IAB is the same as ICANN who supposedly stole the 
Internet from the US Department of Commerce last October.  Politics 
doesn't know about the IETF and the IETF doesn't know about politics, 
the two simply don't go well. Any overtly political statement from us 
won't help any political cause whatsoever, all it will do is harm our 
credibility as an objective technological body.

Look at it this way: when you want to make a new law you go to the 
Parliament of your country, when you want to want to uphold the law you 
go to the courts of your country. If you go to Parliament to report a 
crime, you won't get a result, if you go to the courts to try to make 
new legislation, you won't get a result. The same logic applies here: if 
you want to make a political change, go to a political organisation, 
don't turn to the IETF.

Many Thanks,


Emily Shepherd
Computer Science Graduate, MEng (Hons)
M: +44(0)7575 721 231